The simple lessons in this book never cease to amaze me.
I'll be honest - I avoided completing this chapter because grinding meat at home for burgers sounded cumbersome. I now stand corrected. Is it more work than buying pre-ground meat? Well.. yeah. But is it pretty darn easy and oh so worth it? Also yeah.
Top Lessons on Grinding Meat at Home
Grinding at home enables control over the size of the grind, which in turn gives you control of the texture. I gather from this chapter that store bought ground meat is some combination of too finely ground and/or too old allowing too much time for proteins to stick together, producing a tougher burger.
Grinding meat at home gives you control of the cuts of meat you use. This gives you much more control of the flavor. Store bought ground beef choices are limited to fat%, but grinding your meat at home allows your to really play with the cuts of meat in your burger.
Grinding meat at home is safer. While store bought ground meat isn't generally unsafe, it comes from processing plants where mass quantities of meats become infected (in the instances when this happens). By grinding meat at home you are ensuring that your meat only came from one animal (or two if using two cuts of meat), rather than a mass batch. [AJI thoughts: I'll be honest, I feel less compelled by this one only because we've bought SO much ground meat in the past and I feel like I don’t often hear about ground meat recalls.. But I'm sure it happens..]
Understanding the cuts of Beef
I've read about where different cuts of meat come from a number of times, but I'm hoping by reviewing and writing it down, this time I'll actually remember..,
Near where you'd expect the shoulder to be. Fatty and flavorful. I knew that chuck roast was a common roast used in slow cookers, because thank you Chapter One, it is a collagen-high meat that needs slow cooking to turn that collagen into gelatin. I'm guessing that it is a good burger meat because the grinding breaks up the muscle fibers instead of slow cooking breaking up the collagen?
Near where you'd expect the ribs to be. As in Prime Rib and Rib Eye. "Excellent beefy flavor and are quite tender." Nothing else noted here, so not more insight here.
Behind the ribs. Tenderloin, I'm familiar with. We make pork tenderloin on the grill and in the slow cooker all the time. Mild flavor but highly tender. It says "can be sold whole or sliced crosswise into steaks called Filet Mignon". Ok, I have a serious question here... I feel like buying beef tenderloin is not as expensive as buying the equivalent weight of filet mignon. I'll have to check next time I'm at the store...
Side note that the cut of meat I didn't like from Chapter 12 was called "Strip Loin". Is that the same as Short loin? There are too many interchangeable names in beef cuts. Why. If someone knows, please share.
The cut of meat in front of the butt/round. This is one of those cuts of meat that I always forget the details of, but I also think it sounds mid-grade fancy. Turns out it is "relatively inexpensive" that is "lean and tough". This is the base of the burger I cooked and really loved it.
The butt. Lean and tough. The opposite of how Sir Mix a Lot likes it.
Brisket/Shank, Plate, and Flank.
It sort of seems like they ran out of room on the page and so they put all the underside meats in one text box.. Brisket has a lot of connective tissues and is best for long slow cooking (but does this mean you can also use it like chuck in burgers?? I've never heard of brisket burgers though, ha.)
Prime, Choice, and Select.
Prime is the best and worth the splurge.
Choice is pretty good too.
Don't eat Select.
For this chapter, I chose "Old Fashioned Burgers" with "Classic Burger Sauce".
As I mentioned in my opener, this was actually much easier than I anticipated. I bought 10 oz of steak tips and 6 oz of short ribs, cut them into cubes and sat them in the freezer for 20 minutes.
A quick 10-15 pulses in the food processor and we were ready to roll!
I wanted to REALLY take their advice to heart and barely. touch. the. burgers.
I mean, seriously. I dumped the ground meat from the processor to the pan without using my hands (like they told me not to), I used a spatula to roughly separate into 4 equal parts, and then I very delicately formed the meat into blobs semi-resembling burger patties.
This was a trust fall, I tell you. Even as I transferred the meat into the pan I was thinking 'There is no way these things are holding together'. But sure enough, they did! They needed to be handled carefully, but over the course of cooking, they pulled together.
The resulting burger had dramatic ridges and valleys, that I learned were ideal for sauce to tuck into.
Speaking of the sauce…
I made “Pub Style Burger Sauce”, which was a tangy thousand-island tasting dressing. Again, in strict following to their recommendation, I used only this sauce and a few thin slices of raw onion to dress the burger.
If I said it was the best burger I’ve maybe ever had, would you believe me? I’m officially a grind-your-own-meat convert.
A few weeks after this first experience, I went to make burgers this way again (because like I said, I’m a convert). I made one crucial mistake.. I over-ground the meat. It doesn't take much, people. Let yourself feel slightly uncomfortable with how little the meat is ground. What ensued as a result was a tightly bound tough burger, lacking in juiciness and those succulent sauce-filled craters. A sad day indeed, but a mistake I will not make again.