Grinding the perfect burger ultimate burger series (2/5)
“How to make the best hamburgers in 5 simple steps”
Part 2 of 5 in the Ultimate Burger Series
Grinding the perfect burger evolves more than just jamming your meat cubes through a grinder. Just like in the first step ‘selecting the best meat for burgers’ this second step demands attention to the details. In other words, grinding perfection requires a bit of thought, preparation and proper execution. In this second part of the ultimate burger series, I am going to take you through this process of proper grinding your carefully selected meaty morsels for the best hamburger results. Read along, improve your burger making skills and enjoy the good life.
Step 2. Grinding the perfect burger
There are many reasons as to why you should grind your own burger patties. Two of them are it gives you absolute control over what goes in your burger and having full control over the texture of your meaty treat. Both factors that raise the quality and flavor of the end product immensely. But besides the bump in quality control there is another valid reason as to why grinding your own prevails over store-bought burgers anytime: you get to eat them rare or medium-rare! Food safety might not be the sexiest subject, but neither is food poisoning. So, hang in there and read on.
“Food safety might not be the sexiest subject, but neither is food poisoning”
Because microorganisms, such as ill making bacteria, strive on processed meat that has undergone cutting and mixing premade burger patties should be cooked well done to eliminate any contamination. This due to the fact that after the cutting and mixing process bacteria that first only grew on the outside of the meat is now mixed throughout and has been given plenty time to multiply to amounts above a sick making threshold. If you grind your own meat just before preparing and enjoying your burgers the bacteria are given insufficient time to reproduce and therefor you can safely enjoy your juice dripping perfectly cooked medium-rare burger without a worry.
Equipment required to grind the perfect burger
Having the right equipment makes grinding the perfect burger an easy and fun to perform task. In essence all you need is a good meat grinder. Sure, those old school hand operated vintage meat grinders look great on your Instagram feed or on a BBQ blog but don’t be fooled. We only use electric meat grinders when it comes to grinding our own burgers. It frees up both hands allowing you to control the process properly. You can go for either an attachment to your Kitchenaid you already have, go for a special meat grinder from the household store or spend some extra cash and go for a foodservice grade quality machine. What you will find is
that the more expensive models have a stronger engine that grind with less effort resulting in lower heat production which as you will read further on is a good thing. Besides the machine make sure you have several disks with various opening sizes allowing you the option of going for a fine or coarser grind. A must have is a plunger that pushes the meat down the grinder (never, ever use your fingers) and a really great option is to have a spout attachment so you can also make your own sausages.
A patty shaper is a nice option for those who strive for perfect burgers with identical shapes and that perfect straight side. Those who don’t care to much about the looks and rather go for speed can just as easily use their hands for shaping burger patties.
Proper preparations before grinding
So, you bought the right meat, plugged in your meat grinder and are ready to grind your own burger meat, what’s next? First thing to do next is cleaning and cutting your meat. With cleaning I mean removing any silver skin or hard tendons that could just jam your meat grinder or worse, get stuck between your teeth. Next you will cut your meat into ½ inch wide cubes. Bigger cubes will be harder to grab by the spiral of your meat grinder making it work harder than needed resulting in more friction and heat and you want to stay clear of both. Place the meat cubes and the attachment of your meat grinder in the freezer for about 20-30 minutes. Reason for this is that you want the meat and fat chilled so that it stiffens and remains as cold as possible during the grinding process. By chilling the meat you ensure that the grinder actually ‘cuts’ through the stiffened meat cubes without smearing it. If the meat is room temperature or the grinder heats up due to too much friction the fat in the meat will start to smear and loose its solid structure. This will make your burgers very sticky and difficult to shape, the fat will ooze out during the cooking and the overall structure of your burger will be much denser. None of which are a good thing. Second reason to keep things as cold as can be has to do with food safety so you can enjoy your burger cooked anyway you like.
Grinding your burger meat to perfection
Once your cubes are chilled and ready to go it is time to grind your meat. Now you have some choices to make depending on the type of burger you are planning to make. Are you going for a thick, juicy patty to make a gourmet restaurant style burger and are you going to grill it, use a cast iron skillet or plancha to cook the meat on? Or are you planning on a whole different route and is it a smash burger in the making. These factors determine the ideal grind. For smashs burgers and thick gourmet burgers cooked on cast iron skillets or griddles a coarser grind is ideal. For thick gourmet burgers that are going to hit a flame fired grill, grinding your burger meat to a finer grind is the better option. Reason is that the coarser your grind remains the easier your burger patty will fall apart when
“The finer the grind the more compact your meat patty will become“
handled during cooking but the more ‘steak like’ bite your burger will have. The finer the grind the more compact your meat patty will become. Making it a bit of a tougher chew between the bun but with less to no chance of the patty falling apart during the cooking process. To make a finer grind you can best take a two-step approach. First use the disk with bigger holes and run the meat through once. Then switch to a finer disc and run the ground meat through a second time. If you were to use the small disk in the first round your meat grinder is going to face a whole lot more resistance with smearing and friction heat luring around the corner. When it comes to grinding meat for burgers it is good practice to work fast, clean and as cold as possible. Do not add any seasoning to your ground meat yet. Adding salt at this step will draw out moisture from you meat toughening it’s texture.
Shaping burger patties
Once your meat leaves the meat grinder it is important to not overwork your meat. Try to handle it as little as possible and during the shaping try to avoid compressing it together to heavily. Overworking and compressing will damage the cell structure of the meat making it a dense, compact mass of meat that will lean towards a rubbery texture after cooking. And does that sound appetizing? Don’t think so. First step is portioning your burgers. Going for a good restaurant style gourmet burger? Then a minimum of 170 grams (or 7 ounces) per burger patty is a must. Anything under will result in a thin, overcooked burger before you get that golden brown exterior with those nice grill marks you are after. If you are planning to make smash burgers form balls of at least 90 grams (or 3 ounces).
“that golden brown exterior with those nice grill marks you are after.”
Now use either your hands or a burger press and shape your patty. Important is that the diameter of your patty exceeds that of your burger bun. After cooking your burger will have shrunk a bit due to the fat rendering out. Ideally your burger has a UFO look with the meat sticking out of the sides of your bun so that your first bite is loaded with meat. If your burger patty is too small your burger will look like an hourglass and makes your guests wander where the beef is. One neat trick to avoid excessive shrinkage of your burger patty is to form a small dimple in the middle of your patty with your thumb. This prevents the meat from bulging up during the cooking. After all burger patties are shaped to your liking store them in the fridge until you are ready to hit them on the grill.