It was such a small thing, this little victory but I’ll take it. I’ll take it and make a big deal out of it because in the end, the best way to cope with life is to appreciate the subtle accomplishments.
It started with an invitation and a polite offer. I had been invited to a Man-Shower (this new trend in giving the future father some attention for his part in the pending birth). I politely offered to bring burgers because…well, because a good party in good weather with a bunch of guys needs a good barbeque. A good barbeque should include burgers. I’m not talking about the little frozen patties you buy, staked like CDs. I had in mind seasoned ground meat, patties formed by my own two hands. There was one condition: the father-to-be preferred turkey burgers. Have you ever looked at the fat content of ground turkey? Ground turkey is pretty lean compared to beef. Guess what usually keeps the patty together? Fat content.
There are a few approaches you can take when trying to hold together a hand-crafted burger patty: bread crumbs, onions, egg, or coconut flakes (I imagine). I even tried ground almond once (don’t do it). If you can, spare your meet the distraction of the aforementioned bonding agents. But if you must, panko flakes are my preferred adhesive; their impact is minimal.
Here’s how it works: a pound of ground turkey, season to taste. For my turkey burgers, I added some powdered ranch, a little bit of garlic and salt, and panko flakes. I’m going to say half cup. I just eyeball it. Mix until the ingredients are blended. Scoop up some meat and form into a patty (try not to make it too thick, a mistake I constantly make). Put the formed patties in the fridge or freezer. This helps the shape settle and is one step in preventing fall-apart.
Even though I had made these dozens of times, a voice of doubt plagued me as I formed my patties for the party. This was a very good friend and so I wanted to provide flawless burgers. I kept seeing, in my mind’s eye…or whatever, patties crumbling into the fire, burgers lost. It scared me.
I had done as much research as I could to understand techniques that would provide success. Here’s what I learned:
1) Make sure the temperature gauge reads at least 500◦. You want the grill hot enough to sear the meat.
2) Don’t flip the burger until the meat pulls away. If you slide your spatula under the patty and you have to fight to flip, it hasn’t pulled away and the patty will be torn apart.
3) After both sides are seared, move the patty to a separate part of the grill where the heat is lower. This will allow it to cook through without turning into a hockey puck.
4) Avoid flipping the burger too much and especially avoid pressing the meat against the grill with the spatula…just FYI.
The day came. A challenge pops up, you pop up to meet it right? There I was, grill aflame. The temperature was approaching appropriate. My patties, fresh out of the freezer, were on hand. I flipped back the top, a blast of hot air hit my face, and I swiped up the first patty. It hit the grill. It sizzled. A good sign, but that was the easy part. More patties went on. More sizzling. I closed the lid.
Minutes later I returned. My spatula shook in my nervous hand. It was time for the first flip, the true test. I set my spatula at the nearest patty. Slowly, I slid it. The meat gently rose. It seemed to be working. Still moving slowly, the spatula continued. The patty pulled away. Flip!
My face became a grinning riot. I suppressed the wild victory dance. It was a victory though. It was small and insignificant in the face of a wild world, but to me it was pretty amazing.
Simple accomplishments, I call them victories, are like fuel. Have enough of them and it’s possible to travel far along in life without completely breaking down. If you can keep a turkey burger together on the grill then you’re probably capable of keeping your life together when the heat is on.