The Case of the Collapsing Turkey Burger

It was a cold and rainy Monday morning at Katie’s Plates. The produce delivery was running behind as usual and the kitchen team was finishing up ingredient shopping for the week. A look at the week’s menu showed an extremely tasty array of dishes, which gave the team plenty to look forward to. Lunch preparation went smoothly and dinner production was started ahead of schedule, a presumably good sign. That evening’s Sweet & Spicy BBQ Bacon Hawaiian Turkey Burgers was a meal the team hadn’t seen come through in a while, but it promised to be a crowd-pleaser given the ingredients of the recipe.

As the burgers were sent into the oven, plating of the other dinner items was begun and the team of drivers arrived to help with the finishing touches. Thirty minutes later, the oven doors were opened to expose the much anticipated star of the meal. Much to the team’s surprise, the burgers had undergone a true transformation within the heated vessel. Once a patty, now the burgers revealed craggy lines resembling that of a canyon-scape. The burgers were confirmed to have reached appropriate temperature and a taste test was undergone. Juicy pieces of pineapple, smoky BBQ flavor, and savory bits of bacon danced across the palate. While indisputably delicious, there was something not quite right: the typical “burger” texture was missing.

Immediately fingers were pointed and a lineup was determined. The primary suspects were as follows: bacon, BBQ sauce, pineapple, almond flour, and egg whites. Almond flour was an early front runner. Was there not enough? A quick review of food science led to the conclusion that almond flour, due to its high fat content, tends to yield a cakey-er end product, usually requiring more liquid to be added. The burgers were certainly moist enough, so with this information, almond flour was released from the imaginary holding cell. Up next for questioning was egg whites. Though represented well in the recipe given the intended servings, consideration was given to its amount and its missing partner in crime: the yolk. Eggs provide both structure and moisture to a recipe. Using only the white eliminates the fat typically provided by the yolk portion and it also contributes binding properties given its protein content. It’s possible that not enough whites were used, but somehow this conclusion wasn’t satisfying.

Moving onto bacon was easy- the liquid fat had been drained prior to its addition to the burger mixture, and the tiny pieces hardly contributed to the overall consistency. The suspect was released. BBQ sauce was next. A generous amount had been used in the recipe, which certainly would add additional moisture that would offset the consistency of the end product. In raw form, it wasn’t apparent that the BBQ sauce exerted any effect, however. Last up was fresh chopped pineapple. Somehow it was hard to consider that this angelic looking fruit could possibly cause any harm. Juicy, yes, but it was in solid chunks in the recipe. Now down to 3 final suspects, the team put their heads together and reviewed the evidence again.


Digging through old files, Lieutenant Camp brought up an unsolved case from the previous month. Pineapple chicken kabobs with a similar mouth feel to the evening’s burgers. This meal, too, had been extremely appetizing though the chicken had a unique texture.  Given the title of the meals, it became immediately evident what the common denominator was. Registered Dietitian/Recipe Detective Greek reviewed her background in food science to put an end to the investigation.

While it was possible that the egg whites and BBQ sauce had been accessories to the crime, the true culprit was the pineapple. Using its high concentration of the proteolytic enzyme (in simple terms, an enzyme that breaks down proteins) bromelain, it was able to tenderize the meat during production and throughout the cooking process. Already a lean protein, the ground turkey never stood a chance against this silent killer. Case files from across the country revealed that other victims have been called “chalky” or “gummy”. Bromelain doesn’t discriminate against choices of meat and can strike in any recipe that uses pineapple. To prevent attacks like this in the future, the Katie’s Plates Department of Recipe Defense has instated a rule of using canned pineapple or thoroughly cooked pineapple before adding to a meat product, as high heat in canning or thorough cooking can lessen the enzymatic properties of bromelain. While pineapple may have gotten away with its attack this time, it has been apprehended and will bother the Katie’s Plates Family no more!

Another case closed by the RDRD- Registered Dietitian/Recipe Detective.



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