Grilled chicken burgers are healthier than fried chicken burgers but they sometimes can be bland and dry – not these. Juicy, crispy, tasty, thanks to two secret ingredients: Parmesan and a little pork mince.
Chicken burger is not what I’d normally select in a restaurant. Booooring. Dry. Fake burger. Better to have less of the real thing (beef) than pretend that healthier substitutes are just as good. That’s what I’d usually proclaim loud and clear.
My love of beef burgers is boundless: I consider myself a bit of an expert on them, immediately able to tell a good article (juicy, cooked medium, well pressed and without onions or other redundant additions) from mediocre (dried out, crumbly, over seasoned, no gherkin). The cooking method is important too: fried by preference, possibly griddled on ribbed or flat hot plate. Cast iron. Flipped often.
But of course, there are all kinds of considerations that make us reach for beef less often: health, climate, sustainability, expense. And although I’ll not advocate giving up delicious red meat altogether, less of a good thing is a good thing as I find myself saying more and more often.
So chicken, here we come. But there’s the rub: it needs some oomph to convert it into a pleasurable burger experience. I once had the misfortune of tasting a patty made from chicken breast – I don’t want to ever repeat that experience even if that patty were the last morsel of meat I could have. Dry and bland doesn’t even start to describe it and the less said about texture, the better. No – if you burger a chicken, thigh meat is your man. That’s where the oomph part one lies.
The oomph part two is standard for me, perhaps unusual for you: grated Parmesan. It has magical gelling qualities if added to mince and really does not overpower it excessively with smell or taste. I’m not quite sure about using a different cheese, as I trust limitlessly in Parmesan magic but sure it needn’t be pricey Gran Padano – a cheap, ready grated option will do.
And the last part of oomph was serendipitous. I had a bit of minced pork knocking about the freezer one time whilst making chicken burgers and frugally threw it into the mix. Revelation: it makes the patties so much juicier, firmer, more BURGERY, that I’ve decisively installed it as a permanent fixture on the recipe.
These do not need to be coated in breadcrumbs, which in my view negates the BURGERNESS of them; they will crust and char up nicely under the hot grill – because what would be the point of aiming healthy with chicken mince and then obliterate the goodness by frying them in lots of fat (which incidentally you’d have to do if you breadcrumbed them)? So it’s a good and virtuous result all round - but if you want to sneak a naughty slice of cheese onto the patties for the last minute of grilling, I won’t blame you.