The best meat for burgers ultimate burger series (1/5)
Everybody loves hamburgers! The ideal BBQ comfort food has everything you seek in a hearty bite so yes, they are loved and for understandable reasons. At least, when they are made with the proper preparations and attention to details. So, how do you ensure your burger doesn’t suck and gets rave reviews instead? In this series I am going to show you how to make the best hamburgers in 5 easy steps. And a ton of not so simple sub steps… Hey, you really thought that grilling nothing but the best would come that easy? Think again. If you want hamburger perfection you have to roll up your sleeves and get to work. In this article we begin with step 1: selecting the best meat for your burgers.
“How to make the best hamburgers in 5 simple steps”
Part 1 of 5 in the Ultimate Burger Series
Step 1. Make the best burger patty
At the base of every damn tasty burger lies a quality beef patty that’s made of 100% quality beef, beef and nothing but beef. Don’t go adding all sorts of funky stuff like eggs, breadcrumbs or seasonings, if you want to do that make meatloaf instead. Making a beef patty that will ultimately result in the best hamburger evolves around quite a few important elements. First rule of
thumb is that if garbage goes in, garbage comes out.So, to get a good end product you have to start with quality meat. For a burger this does not mean you have to smash your piggy bank and run to a wagyu selling butcher but do skip the premade ground beef from your local supermarket. Instead, go to your butcher for your supply of meaty needs to build a better burger.
The ideal burger result
When it comes to selecting beef for a burger patty there are a few things you need to take into consideration. Let’s start with the most important one: the ideal result. The best burger patty you can have is a rich, decadent disc of beef that is both dripping of juiciness and flavor. The structure should be loose, not to dense. The meat juicy from flavorful fat and rich with that unmistakable deep beefy taste. This result is obtained by selecting the right cuts of beef from the right type of cow that gives you a mixture of 75% lean meat and 25% fat. This golden ratio is the base for a good burger that stays moist during grilling and shrinks very little.
“This golden ratio is the base for a good burger”
Would you go lower on fat content, your burger will dry out. If you go higher in fat, it will render out during the cooking process leaving you with a patty shrunken so badly it puts you to BBQ shame. This ratio is golden for burgers cooked anywhere between medium-rare to medium-well done. You should never cook a fresh ground burger beyond medium-well because it will dry out making it a waste of your efforts. The only exception here is when you are making smash burgers which we will cover later on in this series. If you prefer to eat your hamburger rare I advice to lower the fat content to a max of 15%. This because the meat will stay cold in the center and the fatty parts won’t melt and render out leaving you with raw fat gristles giving your tastebuds a grainy sensation.
Selecting the best meat for burgers
To get to the golden 80% lean, 20% fat ratio there are many ways. First and easiest way is to go for meat from a fattier cow such as Black Angus or Hereford or select meat from cattle that is finished with a grain or corn diet. This ensures a higher fat content no matter the cut of beef you select. There is one downside to this route: you are going to pay for it. Grain fed quality breeds (often imported from overseas for us Europeans) are more expensive than your local grass fed alternative. And since we are going to put all cuts into a grinder
anyways, I have a more budget friendly option for you. By understanding the characteristics of the different cuts that come from a cow you can build the perfect mixture that has the right amount of fat content and boosts the beef flavor in your burger. Adding hard working muscles that contain a lot of myoglobin will lower the cost of your end product while enhancing that flavor. A good basic mixture would be to use 50% chuck (the cheap and lean), 25% rib plate (the fatty parts) and 25% brisket (the fatty and beef flavor). Alternative cuts that make a damn good burger without emptying your wallet are round (lean) and navel (the fatty beef belly).
Making creative burger mixtures
Ok, hopefully I convinced you that you don’t have to go all out on wagyu to make a delicious burger patty but that by selecting the right cuts you can get even tastier hamburgers. A simple balance between muscles bold in flavor and those with a higher fat content will do the basic trick. But for those burger lovers that are looking for some variation to jazz up their burger offerings here are some meaty variations that give your hamburger a delicious uppercut without losing the pure beef experience:
Bacon: adding some cured and smoked bacon to your mixture will add flavorful fat with a slightly sweet note and a distinct smokey flavor.
Bone marrow: the ultimate trick for a gourmet burger experience is to add bone marrow to your burger blend. The bone marrow has an ultra-rich flavor with deep beef notes and as a bonus does soften while grilling but does not render out leaving you with a plump burger patty oozing with juiciness. In our Black Smoke Restaurants our Suicide beef burger patties are made this way and gets rave reviews.
Use dry aged beef: By dry aging beef you evaporate water and concentrate the umami beef flavor in the meat. Dry aged beef has hints of toasted hazelnuts and mushrooms in its flavor profile as a result from the enzymatic process occurring when meat ripens in a controlled environment.
Go for a prime selection: Feel like splurging yourself with some decadency on a bun? Then push some prime muscles such as rib-eye or picanha (rump cap) through your meat grinder. Yes, this will make an expensive burger but you will cover the perfect fat to flavorful muscle in one go and the end result will not disappoint.