Meat Tips: A Beef for Burgers
Burgers are so simple, yet took me so many years to figure out. A food that is such a staple in our American diet should be something we should all be able to master, but you're not going to get anywhere without the right piece of beef. So I bring you another addition of Meat Tips in order to aid in making good meat decisions to set us all on the road to burger success.
Choosing Beef for Burgers
Chuck knows what's up. After trying different combinations of beef, I've found myself back at chuck to make the best burgers. Not only does chuck provide that beefy flavor I'm looking for, but it also has the important prerequisite of fat. If there's any trick to making good burgers, it's getting a piece of meat that contains at least 20% fat; anything less will certainly dry out over the high dry heat of the grill.
Pre-ground? Forgetaboutit! You know that pre-ground chuck or worse yet, pre-made patties, you might be thinking of? I'll let you in on a secret, that path leads down a one-way road headed for a large cliff. If there's one thing I implore you to do more than anything else, it's go to your local butcher and pick out the piece of beef you'll want ground. Besides this obviously being the fresher choice, it's also the only way to ensure your beef will have the right meat-to-fat ratio.
Get the roast. Chuck comes in many shapes and sizes, so picking the right cut is the next piece of the puzzle. I particularly like the chuck blade roasts because they come with a lot of their fat in tack and are cut into about 2-3 lbs servings. This good because it allows me to buy as little or as much beef as I need, while other chuck roasts tend to be larger and are sometimes more than I require. If your butcher doesn't have blade roasts, just ask for another piece of chuck that has enough fat. Remember, it's a combination of your eyes and your butcher that will determine the fate of your burgers.
Time for the grind. If you read this blog at all, you'll know what I'm going to say here...grind your meat at home. I like grinding my chuck as close to the time I'm going to use it as possible, avoiding any possible loss of juice or freshness. For burgers, I like to grind the meat once through the large die, then send it through again using the small die. Grinding the meat two or three times makes sure all that fat you carefully picked out gets evenly distributed throughout the meat. Having your butcher grind the meat is perfectly fine, just make sure he sends it through a couple times (any good butcher will already do this without asking).
Final Formation. With your meat ground, it's time to form patties. This should be quick and simple, making sure not to over work the meat, which will degrade the texture a cause some toughness when cooked. As a general rule of thumb, if I find myself thinking about the shape too much while forming, I know I'm working the patty too long. It's best just to take about 1/3 lb of meat, squash it into non-perfect circle, place a little dimple in the bottom (this helps to keep it from shrinking while cooking) and then move on.
All that's left now is a little seasoning with salt and pepper and it's off to the grill. Armed with these Meat Tips, you'll be sure that once those burgers are cooked, you'll be chomping down on some of the juiciest and beefiest around. So take these to heart, because there's no excuse for a bad burgers.
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Chris Great tips! Great photos! Great blog! All in all....simply Great! Just thought I'd drop you a comment, I am really happy I have discovered your blog, it has rocketed into my top 3 already after a short time! Keep up the good work, I look forward to a summers happy grilling/reading!
josh! @Chris: Thanks! I'll be keeping up with yours too ;)
Chris @Josh: its in the process of a redesign at the moment, I may require your none grilling services!
Mike I have been putting off grinding my own meat for sometime...thanks, I think your post has finally pushed me in the other direction. Time to get on Amazon...
Wade Its December in MI and I am ready to grindup some burger to grill- Great Blog
scott I like that you talked about making sure you get enough fat on the meat to balance out when it's ground. I have been wanting to start making my own hamburgers. I can see how it would be good to make sure there is enough fat on the meat so I don't miss any flavor.