I’m not a butcher … but I did work in a meat packing plant in Detroit years ago. Though I worked mainly in the cooler and freezer, moving around quarters and sides of beef etc and filling orders, I did also spend time in the cutting and grinding rooms. Yup, all kinds of trimmings went into the auger/grinder for the ground beef along with a predetermined amount of fat.
However, I’m going to guess that it is not fat content that made those great burgers.
The difference may have been what the steer ate … or more accurately, *where* the steer ate; that gave the meat it’s flavor.
So, you might try to find *not* just "organic" hamburger, but actually beef that is said to be "free range" … that is, the steers were out in the field eating grass for the vast majority of their diets, not pellets in a trough.
Other than that, maybe the breed makes some difference … try for a good Angus beef (?), but I’m going to bet that what made the difference was actually what the steer ate.
I have found it to be true also that when I make the burger up from a piece of hamburger it is better than when you get them pre-made and they are both from the same meat market using the same meat. And I know that the meat is a good quality meat.
Bruce… I never eat pressed burgers. I am with you. ONLY HAND MADE BURGERS are tasty and juicy. You need those nooks and crannies for flavor and juice.
My restaurant currently uses 85/15 burger for everything. Our specialty burgers use machine pressed[currently a triple patty with american cheese, lettuce, and tomato and house sauce with french fries for five dollars] and our menu burgers use hand pressed patties and the difference is hard to believe. They cook up different and have a much better taste and texture than the machine pressed patties. This leads me to think that handling may make more difference than the time gone by or the amount of grease.
Thanks everyone for your responses. I will give them a try. I will get fresh meat and have it ground with fat added. I’ll let you know how it turns out.
I tried American Kobe Beef burgers for the first time yesterday. My wife was shocked by the gush of juices when she took her first bite. Probably like those burgers of 37 years ago.
Excellence has a price, $7+ per pound. I justified the purchase by comparing the cost of the burgers to the cost of a lousy restaurant burger. I’ll do it again.
One thing to remember is that much commercially prepared ground beef is scraps and odd pieces from the rest of the meat cutting operation. It may not be the same scraps and pieces going in each time. Meat and fat are balanced to make the ratio of whatever is being prepared — 80:20, 93:7, whatever. It’s more likely closer to the real thing if it’s specifically labled by cut, like ground sirloin or ground chuck.
Also to remember that a lot of commercially prepared ground beef comes from worn out dairy cows, not prime beef cattle. And not to forget that many commercially prepared beef patties include fillers and binders.
An approach if you’re cooking at home is to pick a whole piece of meat, like a chuck roast, and ask the butcher to grind it on the spot. At least you know exactly what you are getting.
Another approach is to grind it yourself, in a grinder or a food processor. Again, you know what you got. Or you could mince it a la steak tartare — a knife or chopper in each hand and chop the meat down in to hamburger. This approach gives a nice consistency to the cooked burger.
I too like a juicy burger. I buy the meat in the 25 to 27% fat range and either fry or grill starting at a sear heat then dropping the flame to medium after the flip. Remove the patties medium rare.
My first restaurant job at age 16… I was doing the above mentioned sin when I first started.. Owner came running and smacked my hands with the spatula.. Told me to cook it to order, flip it once, and if I tried to ‘flatten’ it again I was out of a job…
But this health craze nowdays comes at a cost.. Taste that is..
The magic word is fat. Beef is leaner today than it used to be, just as is pork. The key to flavor and juiciness is fat. When you buy ground beef be sure to get nothing less than 20 percent fat, if your aim is a tasty, juicy hamburger. And whatever you do when cooking a burger, keep the spatula as far away from the meat as possible, using it to turn the patties over, only. By the way, that’s often one of the big problems when getting a burger in a restaurant. For some reason, a lot of grill cooks believe it’s important to squeeze all the grease out of the meat, so they take their spatulas and press down as hard as they can.
Oh, I’m not a butcher, but I was reared working in my father’s wholesale meat business.
If there is a old butcher out there reading this post, I hope you can resolve a ground beef issue for me. It has been driving me nuts for 37 years.
When I was young and lived in NJ, every burger I bought at any restaurant or cooked it fresh myself at home was VERY TASTY, SWEET AND FULL OF GREASE. As I ate the burger, the sweet grease would come out and the meat itself tasted awesome. Hamburgers were great in those days.
For over 30 years now my husband and I can’t find a decent burger anywhere. They are all dry (even when cooked med/rare. No matter which restaurant we go to and no matter which cut of meat we buy… ground beef, chuck, sirloin, etc. the meat has NO FLAVOR and has no tasty grease at all.
Can you tell me why ground meat today taste and looks nothing like it used to years ago? All the meat today is tasteless and dry. Not a bit of grease comes out during cooking or eating.
There is nothing like a greasy burger.
I am hoping a butcher can tell me why this is. Could it be all the antibiotics they are giving the cows?
Thanks. I am eager to get a response. This has been boggling my mind for dozens of years. I don’t buy or make hamburgers anymore and they used to be my favorite meal. They are just plain tasteless today!
A Question For A Butcher
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