Shaw Girl

Grinding Your Own Meat for Burgers

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Has anyone ever used a meat grinder to grind their own meat for hamburgers? I ran across an article in the New York Times this morning touting how to make the best burger at home. One of the tips was to grind your own meat, using brisket. I was wondering if others have done this, was it worth the extra effort and most importantly, which cut of beef did you use? I plan to try this over the long 4th of July weekend!

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Shaw Girl-

I always grind my own meat for burgers. It is absolutely worth the extra effort. The article you referenced (the link is escaping me right now) does a pretty good job explaining why doing it yourself is better. You know what goes into it. Would you order something off a menu that just says "soup"? Probably not. So why make your burgers with something that just says "beef"?

I use a mixture of five parts sirloin flap (or flank steak) and three parts short rib (bone out).

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This brings out the iconoclast in me. As to beef, it seems to me most of the flavor differences in different cuts have to do with the inherent tenderness (more a texture matter than flavor per se) and especially the marbling proportion than to any inherent difference in the "taste" (chemical makeup??) of strictly the lean portion of the tissue in that particular cut. Once the meat is ground, most of those differences are no longer in play--the most important thing left is the proportion of fat, which seems to be best at about 20-25% for burgers, and the coarseness of the grind. Therefore, is it really true that the cut you start with before grinding really matters all that much? Can one really, objectively, taste a difference in the burger if the meat came from the loin, the rump, the brisket, or anywhere else in a particular animal provided the fat content and the grind are the same? And if so, what makes one cut better than another?

Just asking.

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This brings out the iconoclast in me. As to beef, it seems to me most of the flavor differences in different cuts have to do with the inherent tenderness (more a texture matter than flavor per se) and especially the marbling proportion than to any inherent difference in the "taste" (chemical makeup??) of strictly the lean portion of the tissue in that particular cut. Once the meat is ground, most of those differences are no longer in play--the most important thing left is the proportion of fat, which seems to be best at about 20-25% for burgers, and the coarseness of the grind. Therefore, is it really true that the cut you start with before grinding really matters all that much? Can one really, objectively, taste a difference in the burger if the meat came from the loin, the rump, the brisket, or anywhere else in a particular animal provided the fat content and the grind are the same? And if so, what makes one cut better than another?

Just asking.

Take a bite of hangar steak and then a bite of sirloin and tell me if you taste a difference.

Yes, different parts of the cow (or any animal, especially the pig) taste different. This is a matter of the proteins that make up the muscle, the amount of intramuscular fat, the quantity and type of connective tissue therein, and the proximity of the muscle to this or that organ (hangar for example tastes a bit of kidney), among other things.

Now, if you're like me and have extremely insensitive tastebuds and poor flavor memory, it might be hard for you to pick out the more subtle differences, but they're definitely there and will be reflected in the final product.

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Take a bite of hangar steak and then a bite of sirloin and tell me if you taste a difference.

Yes, different parts of the cow (or any animal, especially the pig) taste different. This is a matter of the proteins that make up the muscle, the amount of intramuscular fat, the quantity and type of connective tissue therein, and the proximity of the muscle to this or that organ (hangar for example tastes a bit of kidney), among other things.

Now, if you're like me and have extremely insensitive tastebuds and poor flavor memory, it might be hard for you to pick out the more subtle differences, but they're definitely there and will be reflected in the final product.

You may be right about hanger steak--I'll have to try that one again someday soon. But that's a far out example; there isn't but one tiny little hanger per carcass; most of the carcass is the other similar cuts such as chuck, rump, etc. Most of the reasons you cite for differences (fat, connective tissue probably) would fall into that category I mentioned, about being obliterated when the meat is ground). I'm still not convinced that, in the larger picture, the choice of cut really makes a difference in flavor in most instances. Maybe I'll have to do some experimentation.

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You may be right about hanger steak--I'll have to try that one again someday soon. But that's a far out example; there isn't but one tiny little hanger per carcass; most of the carcass is the other similar cuts such as chuck, rump, etc. Most of the reasons you cite for differences (fat, connective tissue probably) would fall into that category I mentioned, about being obliterated when the meat is ground). I'm still not convinced that, in the larger picture, the choice of cut really makes a difference in flavor in most instances. Maybe I'll have to do some experimentation.

I had some flap meat steaks--similar in look and texture to hanger steak-- in the freezer and ground them with some fresh brisket, which made really tasty burgers on the grill last night. I did go through the meat and pulled out some stringy connective tissue to make sure that the coarse ground texture of the burgers would be pleasing. The flavor was exceptionally beefy and good. And hewhocanoccasionallybeafussbudget was pleased.

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I had some flap meat steaks--similar in look and texture to hanger steak-- in the freezer and ground them with some fresh brisket, which made really tasty burgers on the grill last night. I did go through the meat and pulled out some stringy connective tissue to make sure that the coarse ground texture of the burgers would be pleasing. The flavor was exceptionally beefy and good. And hewhocanoccasionallybeafussbudget was pleased.

Well, OK, it seems I need to try this. Of course, finding flap meat, or anything not mainstream, in the store where I live presents challenges.

BTW, Zora, do you grind in a grinder or a processor? I don't have a grinder, and when I've tried the processor the results have been less than satisfactory, specifically because it tends to leave a lot of stringy sinew in the mix. I have a decent-sized Kitchenaid, one of the last of the made-in-France models.

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Brisket seems like such an odd cut to make hamburger out of.

Was at the Harris Teeter yesterday and the meat all looked to lean to grind for burgers, and so I copped out with the pre-ground Chuck (at least I know what it is).

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Brisket seems like such an odd cut to make hamburger out of.

Not at all. Its very good stuff and the fat has a nice beefyness. The deckle half makes for reaggy good burgers on its own, if you use the entire brisket, some other stuff in there will round out the blend.

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What about types of grinders. I've got the kitchen aid attachment. And a POS hand me down that sticks to the counter with suction. Both suck. They get clogged with connective tissue and I'm constantly cleaning out the plate, disk or whatever you call it. What are you guys using to grind your meat. I think it's time for an upgrade.

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What about types of grinders. I've got the kitchen aid attachment. And a POS hand me down that sticks to the counter with suction. Both suck. They get clogged with connective tissue and I'm constantly cleaning out the plate, disk or whatever you call it. What are you guys using to grind your meat. I think it's time for an upgrade.

I've never had any problems with the Kitchen Aid attachment. Then again, I'm never doing more than five pounds at a time.

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What about types of grinders. I've got the kitchen aid attachment. And a POS hand me down that sticks to the counter with suction. Both suck. They get clogged with connective tissue and I'm constantly cleaning out the plate, disk or whatever you call it. What are you guys using to grind your meat. I think it's time for an upgrade.

You might need to do a better job of trimming your meat of connective tissue before putting into the grinder.

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What about types of grinders. I've got the kitchen aid attachment. And a POS hand me down that sticks to the counter with suction. Both suck. They get clogged with connective tissue and I'm constantly cleaning out the plate, disk or whatever you call it. What are you guys using to grind your meat. I think it's time for an upgrade.

Globe #12 sized model from Restaurant Depot. Pound for pound its got more horse power then my Mazda!

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You might need to do a better job of trimming your meat of connective tissue before putting into the grinder.

Yea, I use the KitchenAid and this is how I get around the disk getting clogged. It takes longer on the carving/trimming side, but saves you time on the grinding side (when heat can be an issue) and you end up with a less gristly product. Or at least that's how I justify it.

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So we need to do something with some of this meat that has defrosted from our freezer during the storm. We have a lot of chicken breasts and It has been kept cold so it's fine, but has anyone tried grinding their own chicken burgers? Suggestions welcome...thanks!

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So we need to do something with some of this meat that has defrosted from our freezer during the storm. We have a lot of chicken breasts and It has been kept cold so it's fine, but has anyone tried grinding their own chicken burgers? Suggestions welcome...thanks!

If the breasts are skinless, the burgers will be quite dry when cooked, unless you add some fat while you are grinding or else add a panade to the meat before you form the patties. Panade is equal parts: 1) dry bread, breadcrumbs or cracker meal and 2) milk.

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So we need to do something with some of this meat that has defrosted from our freezer during the storm. We have a lot of chicken breasts and It has been kept cold so it's fine, but has anyone tried grinding their own chicken burgers? Suggestions welcome...thanks!

We ground chicken for patty sausage just the other week, and it turned out fantastic. As Zora noted, you will need to add more fat, or the meat will be too dry. We rendered the fat from the skin and went with that, incorporating it with spices post-grinding. Previous batches we had used the skin without rendering and found it too chewy; and some parts of the grind remained bone dry. Rendering the fat remedied all of that.

As always (well, as always works for us, anyway), before you grind, cut the meat into cubes and slightly freeze it.

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Thanks-we will make sure to do both. When Mr. S made turkey burgers, he made them with a panade and they were incredibly juicy. Those were from store bought ground turkey however, which I'm sure included dark and white meat. No skin on these chix breast, so hopefully the panade will be enough.

We definitely will cube and freeze before grinding--we saw that tip on ATK as well.

KMango, I would love to get your recipe for the sausage. Sounds like it would be a great future project!

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I've added Greek yogurt to ground chicken when making kofta, and they've turned out nice and moist. You could use an egg too.

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before you grind, cut the meat into cubes and slightly freeze it.

Cube whole butter and freeze it as well to use as the fat for your burgers. Use a ratio of 5 parts breast meat to 1 part butter when grinding into a bowl over ice. Set the ground mixture in the freezer for 20 minutes right after grinding. Form into patties and cook away.

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Cube whole butter and freeze it as well to use as the fat for your burgers. Use a ratio of 5 parts breast meat to 1 part butter when grinding into a bowl over ice. Set the ground mixture in the freezer for 20 minutes right after grinding. Form into patties and cook away.

That sounds great, but doesn't adding butter kind of defeat the purpose of eating chicken? :P If I'm going the fat-laden route, give me some real beef!

Mr. S cubed and froze the chicken, mixed it with a panade and ground it with very little waste. First time using our grinding attachment for the Kitchen Aid and it was a huge success. The burgers were incredibly juicy, cooked on the stove in a cast iron skillet.

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I am playing with my new grinder, and made burgers the last two nights. Yesterday, i grinded once on coarse. The patties did not stick together that well. Today, I did two passes thru the grinder and the results were much better. Am still willing to tinker to optimal grind.

Any thoughts on the ideal grind/texture of a burger, and how to get there?

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