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How to Make Low Fat Burgers

Where's the Beef?

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Hamburger with salsa
Brian MacDonald/Photodisc/Getty Images
I happen to like veggie burgers and turkey burgers, but sometimes I yearn for a juicy, beefy hamburger. The trouble is, a burger made from 4 ounces of regular ground beef (70 percent lean, or 30 percent fat, depending which way you look at it) can contain as much as 34 grams of fat, which is more than half the daily value of fat and almost two-thirds the daily value of saturated fat. And that's before adding cheese, bacon, mayo or other fat-laden toppings. True, some of the fat from the burger drips away in the cooking process, but it's still a high base from which to start.

You could stick with veggie burgers or lean turkey burgers—I stress "lean" because ground turkey isn't necessarily much lower in fat than ground beef, unless you opt for ground white-meat turkey. But if you want a burger with a beefy taste, consider using lean or extra-lean ground beef, which are 90 percent and 95 percent lean, respectively.

Do Low Fat Burgers Make Dry Burgers?

The main complaint with low fat burgers made with lean ground beef is that they tend to be dry and crumbly, but that needn't be the case. All ground beef, no matter what its fat content, must be cooked to a safe 160 degrees, but low fat burgers take a little less time than regular burgers to reach that temperature, so be sure use a thermometer to check for doneness a minute or two ahead of time.

How Else Can We Ensure Moist, Flavorful Low Fat Burgers?

  • Do consider adding moistening ingredients to the mix such as tomato sauce, bbq sauce, sautéed mushrooms and onions, shredded carrots or zucchini, and mashed beans. More unusually, some people like to mix in blueberries or cherries, which would certainly boost our intake of antioxidants. Adding sauces, fruits or vegetables to the patties is also a good way of using less meat in the first place, thus saving even more saturated-fat calories.
  • Do add some hot sauce, cumin or some Cajun seasoning to the mix for a great boost of flavor. Mince some garlic and either jalapeno or serrano chile peppers for some added heat.
  • Don't over-mix the ingredients.
  • Don't press out the juices when cooking.

Topping Your Low Fat Burgers

Use flavorful low fat toppings instead of the usual bacon and cheese: try chutney, salsa, slices of tomato and other veggies, and low-fat versions of mayo or sour cream. Brush some honey mustard dressing on top the burgers. Or go Hawaiian and add grilled pineapple rings. These are just a few possibilities.

If you still hanker after a traditional bacon and cheese topping, consider using Canadian bacon, or turkey bacon, and a single slice of strong-flavored reduced-fat cheese. Finally, as you're trying to make a healthier burger, why not boost your intake of fiber at the same time and serve your low fat burgers on toasted whole grain buns.

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