Build a Better Burger

Ground duck or goose patties offer a fresh take on an American classic

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By Scott Leysath

Trendy foods may come and go, but burgers will always be in style. I can't think of a good reason why anyone would decline an invitation to enjoy a summertime backyard burger. What many home cooks don't realize is that burgers can be made from just about any game meat, including ducks and geese. A meat grinder works best, but you can get good results from simply pulsing chopped breast fillets in a food processor or mincing them with a sharp chef's knife.

Great burgers are usually described as 'juicy,' a term not often associated with ducks or geese because the birds lack the fat of ground beef. Adding ground pork or fatty ground beef will transform an otherwise dense, dry duck burger into something more fitting for a good restaurant. And, of course, there's bacon. You can buy cheap bacon ends and pieces at the market and grind them along with your trimmed and brined fillets. About four parts duck or goose to one part bacon or ground pork is ideal.

How you add flavor to your burger is your business. If the meat has been brined, it will require less seasoning with salt.  To help bind the burger together for cooking, add a little flour to your seasoning mixture. Invite your family and guests to build their own burgers by assembling a variety of stuffing ingredients such as shredded cheese, sautéed mushrooms, onions, peppers, and so on. Be sure not to skimp on toppings like sliced tomatoes, avocado, and, of course, crispy bacon.

Preparation Time: 10-15 minutes   
Cooking Time: 5-9 minutes
Makes: 4 burgers

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 cups ground duck or goose breast fillets
  • 1/2 cup ground pork, bacon, or fatty beef
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheese (any variety)
  • 1/4 cup minced onion
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • Olive oil
  • Buns and toppings

Directions

Step 1
Combine the flour, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Sprinkle the mixture evenly over the ground meat and mix well. Add the cheese, onion, garlic, and egg. Mix well again. 

Step 2
Form into 4 balls and pack tightly. Press into 3/4-inch-thick patties. Lightly coat with olive oil.

Step 3
Pan sear or grill to desired temperature. Place on buns with desired toppings and condiments.


Brine before Grinding Before turning your bluebills into blue cheese burgers, it's best to remove excess blood by first brining the birds in a mild saltwater solution for several hours. Combine 1/2 gallon of water with 1/2 cup of coarse salt. To do this, heat a cup or two of the water in a saucepan, add the salt, and stir until dissolved. Add the mixture to the remaining water and cool completely before soaking the duck or goose breast fillets. Soak the meat for at least 6 hours, thoroughly pat dry, and grind. The grinding process will work much better if both the grinder parts and the meat are first chilled in the refrigerator.

Balsamic Mushrooms Everyday button mushrooms release a fair amount of water once cooked. For more flavor, sauté them first with a little butter in a medium-hot skillet. Add a splash of balsamic vinegar and a pinch each of salt and pepper. Allow the mushrooms to drain, then add them to the ground meat or use them as a topping.