No. 214: Fiendishly Tasty Bacon Turkey Burgers

I'm a big fan of ground turkey as a healthy sub for ground beef. It doesn't have all the fat or flavor though, so you need to be prepared to season it properly.

This Food52 recipe does just that with a pound of bacon and the leftover drippings. It sounded too good not to try for a leisurely Friday evening.


Makes 4 burgers
1 pound thickly sliced peppered bacon
1 extra-large yellow or sweet onion
Salt and pepper to taste
1 pound ground turkey
4 hamburger buns
4 thick slices swiss or cheddar cheese
4 bun-sized butter lettuce leaves
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons finely minced pickled peppers*
1 1/2 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

*We skipped the pickled peppers but I'm sure they would be amazing in this sauce

To make

Preheat oven to 400 degrees, with a rack in the lower middle position. Lay slices of bacon onto a rimmed half-sheet pan without any overlap. Bake the bacon 15 minutes, so it is cooked but still a little pliable.

Remove the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate and try not to eat more than one slice! Pour the bacon fat into a jar and put to the side.

Crumbled bacon and fat

While the bacon is cooking, prep the onion. Cut the onion in half lengthwise (from cut end to cut end). Cut each half into thin, lengthwise slices.

Transfer 2 tablespoons of bacon fat into a large sauté pan and heat over medium-low. Add the onions, and stir to coat. Cook over medium-low, stirring occasionally, until golden brown and lightly caramelized.

Onions halfway

(About halfway through the process)

It will take about 45 minutes and let it take that long. Lightly season with salt.

Combine the burger spread ingredients (mayo through cumin) in a small bowl. Mix until homogenous and store in the fridge until ready to use.

When ready to assemble the burgers, coarsely chop or crumble the bacon, and transfer to a food processor. Pulse until finely chopped. Combine the chopped bacon, ground turkey, and 1 tablespoon bacon fat in a medium bowl. Mix, using your hands, until bacon is well-distributed through the meat. Divide the mixture into 4 equal portions.


Season the burgers with salt just before cooking them. Heat the grill pan or grill surface to medium-high and grill the burgers over direct heat, for 3 to 4 minutes per side until cooked through.

Grill pan

(Mr. McCormick covered the grill pan with our cast iron pan for a 'grill' effect on the stovetop.)

Watch closely and remove the burgers to indirect heat briefly as needed if more than minor “flare-ups” occur.

Spread a bit of bacon fat on the inside of the buns and grill the buns over indirect heat, until lightly toasted, about 3 minutes.

Cooked burgers

To assemble the burgers, spread the burger spread on both sides of each bun. Place the patties on the bottom buns. Divide the caramelized onions between the burgers. Cap with the butter lettuce leaves concave side down. Place top buns on. Dig in!

The results

You really can't go wrong with a pound of bacon and bacon fat as a way to season ground turkey.

Final burger

Our final burgers were juicy and rich tasting, especially when topped by the cheese, remoulade and sweet caramelized onions. While we didn't toast the buns with bacon fat, I can only imagine how ridiculously delicious that would have been as well.

For timing, I would start with the onions. Good caramelization does take time, and you don't want to rush them. Get them in the pan and then get on to the bacon and burgers.

Was the final product fiendishly good? Nah. But they were fun to experiment with and the final product was quite yummy for a Friday evening in.

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Amelia McCormick

Kansas girl transplanted to Asheville, North Carolina. Smiler, lover of great food and wine, facilitator, runner, storyteller, wife, optimist, and mother of sweet twins:)

Asheville, North Carolina