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Turkey Smash Burgers

Turkey smash burgers sear in a skillet or griddle over high heat to create a perfect sear and crispy exterior. Serve them on a toasted bun and finish them with your favorite condiments and toppings.

A close up of a double decker turkey smash burgers.

What Makes a Burger a Smash Burger?

Smash burger is exactly what it sounds like. Take a loosely packed ball of ground meat (turkey, chicken, beef) and place it onto a hot pan or grill. Then, press it firmly into a thin patty with a press, spatula, or heavy heat-safe item. I use a Pyrex bowl!

Smash burgers and regular burgers differ in terms of cooking methods. Flattening or smashing a burger while cooking creates a crisp outer crust and a juicy interior (think Shake Shack, Freddy’s, or Smashburger). Traditional burgers do not undergo the smashing process and aren’t typically known for their crispy exterior.

Why Use Turkey Instead of Beef?

There are several reasons to prioritize turkey over beef for turkey smash burgers. First and foremost, turkey is generally lower in fat and calories than beef, making it a leaner protein option. Using turkey accommodates individuals with specific dietary restrictions or preferences, such as those who avoid red meat or follow a poultry-based diet.

What You Need to Make This Recipe

The ingredients for turkey smash burgers.
  • Ground Turkey: Select a dark-meat ground turkey that is 80-90% lean, so you have more fat to caramelize and flavor the burgers
  • Butter: Ground turkey burgers are known for being dry and bland, attributed to a lack of fat. Add butter to the pan before cooking the burgers to increase the flavor and moisture. However, in pressing the burgers, I find the caramelized sear adds flavor with or without butter.
  • Spices: Season the patties with salt and pepper to draw out the natural flavor of the ground turkey.
  • Cheese: There is something about melty, gooey American cheese that makes a smash burger a smash burger!
  • Buns: Spread butter onto a sesame seed, brioche, or potato bun and lightly toast it on a pan for the best results.

How to Make a Turkey Smash Burger

The full recipe with measurements is in the recipe card below.

Step 1: Use a food scale to portion 4-5 ounces of ground turkey and loosely form them into balls. Then, prepare 2-3 small pieces of parchment paper.

Ground turkey formed into balls.

Step 2: Warm one tablespoon of butter in a skillet or griddle over medium-high heat.

Add one of the turkey balls to the skillet, place the parchment over the top and use a burger press or something heat-safe to press down on the burger until it’s ¼ inch thick.

Leave it there and let the patty cook for 3-5 minutes, until the edges of the patty change color.

Turkey pressed down with parchment paper and a pyrex bowl.

Step 3: Remove the press and parchment paper. Flip and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

A flipped turkey smash burger sprinkled with salt and pepper.

Step 4: Add the cheese slice and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Set the burger aside, add another tablespoon of butter and repeat with the remaining ingredients.

Cheese added to the turkey smash burger on the pan.

Expert Tips

  • Loosely form the ground turkey into balls; there is no need to knead or roll them into perfect balls. Doing so prevents them from releasing all their juices and forming the crispy bits that make turkey smash burgers delicious.
  • Ensure the cooking surface (pan or griddle) is hot before adding the turkey.
  • Lay down a small piece of parchment paper before adding the press and smashing the ground turkey; this will keep the patty from sticking and maintain its juiciness as it cooks.
  • Use a burger press, spatula, or heat-safe press to smash the burgers.
  • Flip the burger when you see the edges change color, and the top of the burger begins releasing juices.
  • Turkey is lean and prone to drying out. For this reason, be sure you don’t overcook the patties. The best way to know the burgers cook all the way through is to use a food thermometer. The safe cooking temperature for turkey is 165°F (73°C).

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A double decker turkey smash burger without a top bun.

What to Put on a Turkey Smash Burger

While toppings elevate the burger experience, don’t forget about the side dishes.

Serving Suggestions

What to do With the Leftovers

  • Refrigerate  Store leftovers in an airtight container for 1-2 days.
  • Freeze  Wrap and store uncooked turkey patties for three months. Cooked turkey smash burgers will keep for 3-4 months. Prevent freezer burn by covering the burger patties with plastic wrap before securing them in an airtight container.
  • Thaw – Defrost the leftover turkey patties in the refrigerator overnight.
  • Reheat  Warm leftover burgers in the microwave, and enjoy!
  • Repurpose – My favorite way to use leftover burgers is to make a cheeseburger salad and finish it with homemade Big Mac sauce.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are turkey smash burgers healthy?

Turkey smash burgers is a relatively healthy option compared to traditional beef burgers. Turkey is generally lower in fat and calories than beef, making it a leaner protein choice.

How do you make a smash burger without a press?

Form four to five ounces of ground turkey into a loose ball and place it on the preheated skillet, then smash it down with a spatula or heat-safe item. Then, cook without moving the patty until a deep brown crust develops.

Why do smash burgers taste different?

Turkey smash burgers have a distinct taste compared to regular burgers because of the cooking method. When preparing a smash burger, the patty is pressed firmly onto a hot griddle or skillet, causing it to flatten and sear quickly.

This intense contact with heat creates a quick caramelization, resulting in a crispy and flavorful crust. The fast cooking time enhances the Maillard reaction, a chemical process that delicious flavors.

Do you have to flip turkey smash burgers?

Yes. Flipping the burgers allows even cooking on both sides, ensuring they cook thoroughly and reach a safe internal temperature of 165°F (73°C).

What keeps turkey burgers from falling apart?

Turkey burgers often require fillers to bind them, which is how we prepare our air fryer turkey burgers. However, the high heat and fast cooking time prevent the turkey burgers from falling apart without adding anything extra.

And unlike pie crust, it’s okay if the ends of the burger break apart some- that’s what leads to the crispy and tasty flavor you crave when eating a smash burger.

More Turkey Recipes:

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A close up of a double decker turkey smash burgers.

Turkey Smash Burgers

Tressa Jamil
Make light, flavorful turkey smash burgers by searing turkey on a scorching skillet to create a crispy crust and top it with melted American cheese.
5 from 2 votes
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes
Course Dinner, Lunch, Main Course
Cuisine American
Servings 6 Burgers
Calories 464 kcal
Ingredients
  
  • pounds ground turkey, 80-90%, dark meat
  • 1-2 tablespoons butter
  • kosher salt, to taste
  • black pepper, coarse ground, to taste
  • 6 slices American cheese
  • 6 buns, toasted
Instructions
 
  • Use a food scale to portion 4-5 ounces of ground turkey and loosely form them into balls. Then, prepare 2-3 small pieces of parchment paper.
  • Warm one tablespoon of butter in a skillet or griddle over medium-high heat. Add one of the turkey balls to the skillet, place the parchment over the top and use a burger press or something heat-safe to press down on the burger until it's ¼ inch thick.
    Leave it there and let the patty cook for 3-5 minutes, until the edges of the patty change color.
  • Remove the press and parchment paper. Flip and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add the cheese slice and cook for another 2-3 minutes. 
    Set the burger aside, add another tablespoon of butter and repeat with the remaining ingredients.
Notes
Expert Tips: 
  • Loosely form the ground turkey into balls; there is no need to knead or roll them into perfect balls. Doing so, prevents them from releasing all their juices and forming the crispy bits that make turkey smash burgers so delicious.
  • Ensure the cooking surface (pan or griddle) is hot before adding the turkey.
  • Lay down a small piece of parchment paper before adding the press and smashing the ground turkey; this will keep the patty from sticking and maintain its juiciness as it cooks.
  • Use a burger press, spatula, or heat-safe press to smash the burgers.
  • Flip the burger when you see the edges change color, and the top of the burger begins releasing juices.
  • Turkey is lean and prone to drying out. For this reason, be sure you don’t overcook the patties. The best way to know the burgers cook all the way through is to use a food thermometer. The safe cooking temperature for turkey is 165°F (73°C).
Nutrition Disclosure:
  • The nutritional information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for professional advice.
Nutrition
Serving: 1 Turkey Burger | Calories: 464 kcal | Carbohydrates: 22 g | Protein: 39 g | Fat: 23 g | Saturated Fat: 9 g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 9 g | Monounsaturated Fat: 6 g | Cholesterol: 134 mg | Sodium: 1332 mg | Potassium: 372 mg | Fiber: 1 g | Sugar: 3 g | Vitamin A: 22 IU | Vitamin C: -35 mg | Calcium: 34 mg | Iron: 17 mg
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