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Rose McAvoy |
Published: Friday, September 20, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Bulk-up lean burgers with zucchini

  • Rose McAvoy

  • Rose McAvoy

Burger night is a rare treat in our house. When it does come around, burgers are a great opportunity to put the recipe lightening techniques I shared earlier this week into action.

Let's apply those tips to the burger recipe below:

Ingredient Swap

To get a really moist juicy burger, most sources agree you need to use fat. In fact I was flipping through a back issue of Cook's Illustrated (May and June 2011) and read their take on the ultimate juicy pub-style burger. To achieve maximum juiciness they recommend first freezing and then coating two pounds of raw ground beef with melted butter. Yikes! This method is not going to work for my family, and I am hoping it won't work for yours either. In my "skinny" burgers I use one pound of grass-fed beef which is naturally very lean.

Bulk It Up

If I were to just take the lean beef and form it into patties the result would likely be a sad dry lump of grilled meat. Lean meat does need help to cook up nice and juicy, but the help doesn't have to arrive in the form of melted butter. In this case the savory juices come from several sources -- grated onion, grated zucchini, low-fat shredded cheese and Worcestershire sauce. Once all the burger's components are mashed together they come out moist, juicy and full of meaty flavor.

These are not veggie burgers! Adding zucchini boosts both the moisture and nutrient content of each patty without detracting from the meaty flavor. The other additions also play a role in keeping the patty from drying out but rather than blending in, their flavors mix and mingle and turn things into a real party.

Last, but certainly not least, these burgers are a little easier on the wallet. Mixing the extra ingredients into the ground beef is cost effective. The addition stretches the meat enabling us to get six quarter-pound burgers for the price of one pound of meat and some staple ingredients.

Skinny Quarter Pounders

Prep time: 20 minutes plus 20 minutes to chill. Cook time: 10 minutes. Yield: 6 burgers, approximately 4.5 ounces before cooking.


1 pound very lean ground beef (10 percent fat or less)
1 cup grated zucchini
1/2 cup grated red, white, or sweet onion (approximately 1/2 a large)
1/2 cup low-fat shredded cheese (2 percent Mexican blend recommended)
1-2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper


Use your hands (or a fork) to mash all of the ingredients together. Once the vegetables and cheese have been fully mixed with the beef, portion the mixture into six equal balls (a scale is very helpful to ensure even portions).

Pat the balls into patties 1/3 to 1/2 inch thick. Arrange in a single layer on a lined sheet pan or stack the patties with a sheet or waxed or parchment paper between each to keep them from sticking together. It is helpful to chill the patties for at least 20 minutes before cooking.

Cook the chilled patties over medium high heat on the stove top or on a grill. Patties need about 3 to 4 minutes per side to be well done.

Approximate nutrition per burger: 170 calories, 9 g fat, 3 g carbohydrates, .7 g fiber, 17 g protein, PP= 4

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