Burgers: Tips, Recipes fo a Lean, Luscious Burger (cont.)

Here are more tips for tasty results:

  • Handle the ground meat as little as possible. Shape into flat burgers a bit larger than the buns.
  • Chill burgers at least 30 minutes after shaping to help them keep their shape during cooking.
  • Season your burgers with coarse salt, fresh-ground pepper, or seasoning blends or rubs.
  • Coat your grill or pan with cooking spray to prevent sticking.
  • Heat your grill, griddle, or pan before putting the burgers on.
  • Use a flat spatula to flip burgers. Forks pierce the meat and let juices escape.
  • Allow burgers to adequately cook on one side before turning, then flip only once.
  • To keep burgers juicy, resist the urge to press down on them while cooking.
  • For maximum juiciness, cook burgers right before you plan to eat them.

Keeping It Safe

Ground beef should be cooked to at least medium, or 160°F, to minimize the potential for food-borne illness.

"Handling and grinding the ground meat exposes it to potential contamination, which is why it requires a higher cooking temperature." says Chamberlain.

You can put yourself in control of the quality and safety of your meat by grinding it yourself in a food processor, or investing in a basic iron meat grinder. Or, get the butcher to save you beef tenderloin scraps for the ultimate burger that tastes like a filet mignon (at a fraction of the price).

To keep burgers safe during the cooking process, don't cross-contaminate. Line the burger platter with foil or plastic wrap. Discard it after putting burgers on the grill so you won't contaminate the cooked burgers with juices from the raw meat.

Flavorful Add-Ons

To increase the juiciness quotient of a burger made with lean meat, you need to add moisture with sauces, toppings, or add-ins.

"We used 95% lean in our basic burger recipe for The Healthy Beef Cookbook and found the addition of an egg white and some soft bread crumbs made up for the lower fat content and kept the burger tasting moist and delicious," says Chamberlain.

And as for the toppings? "Make your burger healthier with a thin coat of catsup, mustard and/or low fat mayonnaise. Pile on the fresh veggies; and add a slice of low-fat or fat free cheese," suggests Kris-Etherton.

You might even try making a "smothered and covered" burger, using just half a bun and replacing the top with a tower of healthy toppers.

Think of your burger as an opportunity to pile on good-for-you ingredients, the experts suggest.

"Forget about high-fat ingredients such as bacon," says Young. "Instead, load your burger with lots of vegetables and low-calorie sauces."

Low-Cal Options

You can add moisture, flavor, and nutrition with the following ingredients, either inside or on top of the burger:
  • Onions
  • Tomatoes
  • Peppers
  • Lettuce or dark leafy greens
  • Mushrooms
  • Salsas
  • Fruit or vegetable relishes
  • Barbeque or steak sauce
  • Pickles
  • Fruit
  • Guacamole.

To add a completely different character to your All-American burger, try some flavorful ethnic add-ons. Try a cucumber yogurt sauce or hummus for a Mediterranean-style burger; arugula and Parmigiano Reggiano cheese for an Italian version; or teriyaki sauce and a grilled pineapple slice for an Asian burger.

Putting a "surprise" inside the burger before you cook it is another great way to add moisture, flavor and fun. Try a scoop of cheese, a grape tomato, or some sauteed onions.

Just remember that when it comes to flavor, fresh ingredients make all the difference.

"Use the freshest, bright cherry-red meat; find the plumpest, juiciest tomatoes; select flavorful lettuce and a hearty whole-grain bun for the best burgers," says Chamberlain.

Watch Your Sides

Whether you're ordering a burger at a restaurant or cooking your own, skip the French fries and other high-fat side dishes, appetizers and desserts. Complement your lean burger with fresh fruit, green salad, beans, or veggies for a nutritious meal.

"Also, watch what you drink along with your healthy burger," says Kris-Etherton. "Don't drink a super-size cola beverage."

Stay hydrated with calorie-free beverages such as sparkling water, plain water, or drinks sweetened with artificial sweeteners.

Better Burger Recipes

Read to get grilling? Here are two lean burger recipes from The Healthy Beef Cookbook.

Basic Lean Beef Burgers

WebMD Weight Loss Clinic members: Journal one burger as "1 serving lean meat with 1 teaspoon fat" + 1 egg

1 pound extra-lean ground beef (also called 95/5 or 5%)
1/4 cup soft bread crumbs
1 egg white
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
4 whole wheat hamburger buns, split
Toppings: lettuce leaves, tomato slices (optional)

  • Combine ground beef, bread crumbs, egg white, salt, and pepper in large bowl, mixing lightly but thoroughly. Lightly shape into four 1/2-inch thick patties.
  • Place patties on grid over medium, ash-covered coals. Grill, uncovered, 11 to 13 minutes to medium (160°F) doneness (until no longer pink in center and juices show no pink color), turning occasionally.
  • Line bottom of each bun with lettuce and tomato, if desired; top with burger. Close sandwiches.

Yield: 4 servings.

Per serving: 272 calories; 8 g fat (3 g saturated fat; 3 g monounsaturated fat); 65 mg cholesterol; 439 mg sodium; 24 g carbohydrate; 3.6 g fiber; 27 g protein; 6.8 mg niacin; 0.4 mg vitamin B-6; 2.1 mcg vitamin B-12; 3.6 mg iron; 41.9 mcg selenium; 6.4 mg zinc.

Asian Burgers with Ginger-Lemon Mayonnaise

WebMD Weight Loss Clinic members: Journal one burger as "1 serving lean meat with teaspoon fat" + 1 egg + 1 teaspoon butter or margarine + 1 serving side salad without fat

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