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Fresh Ground Beef Burgers

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Picture of Fresh Ground Beef Burgers
This is a bit of a purist approach to making burgers. We use the meat grinder attachment to a KitchenAid mixer, and fresh chuck roast, for super clean, tasty and juicy flavor.

If you love burgers, consider reading the book "Fast Food Nation." That's when we decided to start grinding our own beef. It's really very simple to do, and the flavor and freshness can't be beat! Just use meat with a decent proportion of fat (otherwise, burgers won't be juicy). Cheap, tough cuts work very well.

One advantage to preparing burgers from freshly ground meat is that, with proper care, concerns about bacteria / other pathogens from pre-ground meat are essentially eliminated. This is especially comforting for people who like their burgers rare.

We use minimal (usually just salt and pepper and sometimes a touch of dried basil) or no seasoning in the meat.
 
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Step 1: Grinding beef

Picture of Grinding beef
Start with 3 to 4 pounds (I usually grind more than I will use in making the burgers, and freeze the rest for use in other dishes, as mentioned in Step 3; grind less if you like) of very cold (chill in coldest part of your refrigerator) chuck roast - about 10-20 percent fat content. Don't use lean cuts of meat, or the burgers will be too dry after cooking; going for juicy grilled flavor here.

Cut meat to fit the grinder. Here, it's cut into 3/4" - 1" by 1/2" thick strips. Note the amount of fat present; purchase cuts of meat with a similar appearance.

Step 2: Grind meat - first pass

Picture of Grind meat - first pass
Grind all of the meat that was cut into strips in Step 1. Use the coarsest setting or grinding attachment (if your grinder comes with more than one).

It helps to have two large bowls, one to hold the meat from the first grinding step, and a second bowl to catch the meat for the second pass.

The meat is always ground in two passes; one pass produces too coarse of a grind (but this can be useful for certain pasta meat sauces); two passes is just right.

Step 3: Second grinding pass

Picture of Second grinding pass
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Here is shown the result of feeding the meat from Step 2 through the grinder's hopper a second time.

From now on, you want to handle the meat gently, otherwise it can become less tender when molded into burgers.

I mentioned having a second bowl ready for this step. An alternative method (once you have a lot of practice with your grinder) is to catch the meat directly into small containers like the ones from supermarket "olive" bars, for freezing (see photo). A medium size container will hold almost exactly one pound, gently packed without air voids. Then the meat can be preserved for later use in sauces or other dishes that call for ground meat (except only use freshly-ground meat for burgers). (To thaw, just place in a covered saucepan over very low heat with 1/4 cup water; turn every 10 minutes, scraping the thawed part from the frozen part, until all has thawed.)

Step 4: Form the burgers

Picture of Form the burgers
Form burger patties using the ground meat from Step 3. Season as desired; however, plain without any seasoning at all is just fine.

Handle the meat very gently when forming the patties, and don't press too much, or the burger will have a dense, less appetizing texture after cooking.

Place the patties to rest in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes, up to a few hours. This step will help the patties stay together better on the grill.

When forming the burger patties, a restaurant trick is to press your thumb in the center of the patty, to form a concave depression (on both sides), as shown. Then, when cooking, it will plump up, and flatten out. Otherwise, the burger will have a convex shape after cooking, and not sit very well on the bun.

Step 5: Sidebar: Prepare the fire for grilling

Picture of Sidebar: Prepare the fire for grilling
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Here's the way I like to prepare the grilling fire. I think charcoal provides the best flavor for grilling burgers and other things (chicken, scallops, fish, steaks, etc.)

Some folks prefer the convenience of a gas-fired grill. The heat can be regulated very easily, which is an advantage, and is safer, from the standpoint of not handling hot coals (if using a chimney starter). Charcoal or gas, use whatever works the best for you.

I use a chimney starter, avoiding starter fluids; I find the odor unpleasant, and the residual vapors can taint the flavor of the food. For fuel, you can use pre-formed charcoal briquets; for a more intense (but shorter-lived) fire, hardwood charcoal. If you use the briquets with a chimney starter, avoid the "match light" type, because these have extra additives that aren't necessary if using a chimney starter.

There are instructables for making chimney starters (search for charcoal or chimney). I use a $15 Weber starter, has a sturdy molded handle and lasts for about 3 years of use (2-3 times a week over the summer). I've noticed some home center stores sell chimney starters that are smaller and cheaper (less than half the cost of the Weber). This is probably fine if you're using briquets, but because hardwood charcoal burns faster, you need more of it, so a bigger starter is better.

Place two large, and tightly-wadded (important) sheets of newspaper in the bottom, fill to the brim with hardwood charcoal, and ignite the newspaper. (Loosely crumpled paper isn't as effective, as I have learned the hard way, discovering that the charcoal didn't ignite, when I went back to check the fire later.)

For igniting, the starter can be placed inside the grill on the charcoal grate; otherwise, on a heat-proof surface (as shown). If placed in the grill, I find that there's less maneuvering room to grip the chimney starter handle (to empty the coals) while avoiding the heat and flame, but, overall, this is probably the preferred way to ignite the coals (safety considerations). (It should go without saying, but proper footwear is a must; stepping on a hot coal, even a small chip, while barefoot, is not pleasant.)

In about 15 - 20 minutes, the coals will be ready, as judged by flame coming from the top of the starter, and the coals on top partially ignited. The second photo shows the chimney just before flames are emitted. Note that the amount of charcoal will decrease, as it ignites. Monitor the ignition progress; don't allow it to burn too long, or the coals will be consumed before you can use them. The main (flaming chimney) photo illustrates the limit, for obtaining the hottest coals.

When ready, empty the coals into the grill (photo) and replace the grilling grate. Wait a few minutes for the grill to get hot, then clean the grill with a long-handled wire brush.

(This Sidebar step was added after first publication.)

Step 6: Grill the burgers

Picture of Grill the burgers
Grill over intense heat using hardwood charcoal (see Sidebar, step 5), with some mesquite chips thrown on just before grilling, if you like. Test for doneness by pressing on burger. The meat will become firmer the more that it's cooked.

Here, the burgers are accompanied - with shrimps (skewered) on the barbie, of course; surf 'n turf...

Step 7: Serve

Picture of Serve
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After grilling, allow meat to rest on platter (or toasted bun) for several minutes, to allow the meat to decontract and absorb some of the juices.

Top with cheese and arugula (as shown) and serve on a nice, toasted Kaiser roll.

This is what we think a Burger should be!
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MustangGuy1 year ago
I just got REALLY hungry. Thanks rsub8 for this great instructable it was perfect. No need to change anything. You could edit your instructable 100 times and there will always be someone who disagrees with you.
It is delicious.
wgregoryw4 years ago
That is a cool Olympia Beer plate/tray. Where did you find it?
maicrodrop7 years ago
Good Instructable X) Two suggestions though, that make the whole process a bit easier. 1 - For seasoning, mix your seasonings into the meat in a large bowl 2 - For making the patties, take out all your meat, place it on a cutting board or some other easily cleaned surface, and roll it into, basically, a log. Then cut slices off as thick as you want the patties to be - it makes the forming process a bit quicker and easier Anyway, again, great Instructable - it's good to get people making their own burgers, avoiding that fast "food."
there is a school of thought that says the very last thing you should do is season your burger, even to the extreme of seasoning in the pan or on the grill, the reason being that salt alters the protein structure of the mince, this makes the burger very dense and spongey.
rsub8 (author)  maicrodrop7 years ago
Glad you agree that it's best to avoid the fast food, is what's most important. I'll comment on your comments: 1. We don't normally use seasonings in the meat (as mentioned above). However, they could be incorporated into the meat at the first grinding step (as though making sausage), or folded in after the second pass, in the bowl. If extra-cautious about the food-safety aspects of grinding, sprinkle the meat in the first pass with a bit of vinegar (how about balsamic vinegar, or, alternatively, soy sauce, to impart saltiness), which will be incorporated into the second grind. Bacteria don't care much for acidity (reason your stomach contains hydrochloric acid). You can salt the meat after the first grinding step, but any undissolved salt will be hard on the blades of the meat grinder. Anyway, we just go with unseasoned fresh ground meat in our burgers... 2. I prefer forming the patties individually, because this minimizes the handling (rolling into a log is an extra handling step) of the meat, which can make the cooked burgers denser and less appetizing (as mentioned above). Happy burger making (and eating)!
good
ReCreate6 years ago
Ooohhhh,Looks Sooooo Good... Mmmmmm,I am Really in the Mood for something like this!
i'll second that
Haha,Yeah.
Forth.
Actually 3'rd
In that case, 3rd and forth.
Haha XD
Lets all just agree to hunt these people down and turn up for lunch.  I am willing to bring beer.
I'll bring the soda!
lol
Combo BREAK!!! haha lol...
Remag12345 years ago
Quote "One advantage to preparing burgers from freshly ground meat is that, with proper care, concerns about bacteria / other pathogens from pre-ground meat are essentially eliminated. This is especially comforting for people who like their burgers rare." Unquote. The above statement is FALSE. eColi is present ON ALL beef. When you grind beef the outside becomes part of the inside. Eating rare burgers is dangerous. I agree that fresh ground beef is delicious but sadly must be eaten well done.
Quote: "The above statement is FALSE. eColi is present ON ALL beef. When you grind beef the outside becomes part of the inside. Eating rare burgers is dangerous. I agree that fresh ground beef is delicious but sadly must be eaten well done." First, your argument is kind of moot as Ecoli is practically everywhere in the world and it usually isin't even noticed. In fact, the watertreatment industry calls them 'indicator forms' because they are so prevelant and everywhere that if they DON'T find them somewhere, they know that something is cleaned or that something is wrong and they redo the test. So while you are TECHNICALLY correct, it is kind of misleading. It would have been better to say, "Beef can have higher concentrations of eCoil, due to improper handling/processing." Also, it is only present on the CUT portions of the meat and not deep into the muscle tissue. Also, since you are buying whole cuts those are typically done first when the equipment has been cleaned recently. You have almost no chance of getting sick from the meat. That... Or you can boil the outside of the meat for 10min which will kill the bacteria and just cut off the portion of meat that is cooked. Or you can put it in a Cobalt Radiation exposure source... Or you can deep freeze it with liquid nitrogen, but the meat gets all mushy once it thaws. Trust me, I did an experiment once.
Thanks for the Scientific reply. The bottom line is -rare ground beef should be not be eaten- But to each his own. Boiling, exposure to Cobalt Radiation or using Nitrogen for freezing is overkill to say the least.
No, that isn't the bottom line. Just because you MIGHT get into a car accident doesn't mean you shouldn't drive. It means you should be careful, and know the risks involved and if you feel they are below your threshold of danger then you do it. I do agree with the "To each his own" statement, but please don't confuse your conjecture as what science has to say. You have an OPINION on what you think is the right course of action on raw meat, but it is NOT a fact. The fact is, that unless you are keeping meat at a temperature that will allow the small amount of bacteria (of which, eCoil is the LEAST of your worries on meat) that is present in all living things to multiply to a dangerous level you have a statistically insignificant chance of having anything happen to you.
HAHA PWNage is a dish best served with these medium rare burgers!
try this method with venison and add a little bacon grease into the grinding. TO DIE FOR
Grind. Your. Own. You will never go back.
I'm drooling
stouchet5 years ago
If using leaner cut of meat, I like to add bacon grease after grinding. Use grease from about 1/2 a pack of bacon for 2 lbs of meat.
stouchet5 years ago
When you press on the burger, do it gently with your finger. Some who read this might think you mean press on the burger with your spatula. Most of us know better than that, but many don't.
stouchet5 years ago
Alton Brown suggests spritzing the newspaper with vegetable oil before crumpling it up. This allows the paper to burn longer and slower to more effectively ignite the charcoal. I've done it twice now and it seems to work fine for me with no discernible downside.
XBoyle5 years ago
I am a chef/owner of a restaurant. The best burgers are made with a ratio of 80% meat to 20% fat. We season them with just freshly ground black pepper & sea salt.
LivingDread7 years ago
great fresh ground beef, though i do not think the thawing method you suggest does justice to the quality of home ground beef.
rsub8 (author)  LivingDread7 years ago
I tend to err on the side of caution when it comes to food safety, and thawing over low heat in a saucepan (as explained above) goes from frozen to cooked in the shortest time (I don't like having frozen - then - thawed meat around very long, even in the refrigerator). It's very convenient, besides (don't need to plan in advance: go directly from freezer to pan); sometimes the thawing phase also can be combined with other cooking steps, depending on the dish. Yes, freezing does affect the nice texture of the ground beef, but this is usually masked by other ingredients, and I find that it doesn't have a significant impact on the flavor; not to say that using freshly ground beef isn't preferable; but one doesn't always have fresh chuck roast on hand for grinding, either. I'd be happy to hear a suggestion for an alternative way of thawing that doesn't allow the meat to be above freezing temperature very long, and without disproportionately cooking the outside, while the inside remains frozen (which can happen if microwaved). Thanks for your comment...
hogey74 rsub85 years ago
I worked for a few fast food chain stores who were scared of getting sued and they taught you to thaw in the Fridge.  You would have to chuck stuff out if you did not use it promptly when thawed but they thought it was the best plan.  Chicken I am always suspicious of.  For mince I tend to nuke it, take off the soft bits, nuke a bit more, take more soft bits off etc.
The following is copied directly from my instructable on stuffed burgers, i hope this copy paste is not outside of the rules, i did write this myself, so i don't think it is plagiarism (i think you would like option 2, fast and effective)

"Fresh ground beef is the best but a lot of us have to buy in bulk and freeze. If you can get some nice fresh beef that would be nice, but if you are working with frozen beef you are going to want to treat it correctly to ensure the best quality.

To Freeze: Seal your beef in a water tight container with as little air as possible. Either sealable freezer bags or a plastic container with a tight lid would work well. If you use a container, try to fill it as much as possible so there will be no air. Bags of course should be easy to seal with very little air.

Never use a warm method to thaw meat. Warm/Hot water = BAD. Microwave = BAD. On the counter overnight = Poor.

Option 1: Thaw over night in the refrigerator. This is a slow process but is the best way to thaw... anything that needs to be thawed, not just ground beef.

Option 2: Place a sealed bag/container of meat in a bowl of COLD water and put the bowl in your sink with a slow trickle of COLD water dripping into the bowl so it overflows into your sink. This will thaw a pound of beef in under 15 minutes, and has results about the same as Option 1. I think this works because of convection: currents of water at different temperatures circulating in the bowl thaw the meat without having to risk a change in texture or quality."
rsub8 (author)  LivingDread7 years ago
Can one plagiarize oneself? In this context? Your instructable has much useful info. I've done something similar to Option 2 when thawing several pounds of frozen chicken thighs or breasts for the grill. I'll try it with ground beef. If you don’t mind, I’ll post the results (with photos) in your instructable? :) No problem with Option 1, but it does take some advance planning, and if one's plans change, and can't use it the next day, then I'd be reluctant to use frozen - thawed ground beef (anyone that's done this knows that frozen - then - thawed - in the refrigerator ground beef can be unappetizing, exuding all that “red juice” as it does.) I think, though, that commenting "never" thaw with warmth is saying that my suggestion to thaw in a saucepan is not a good one. I would disagree with that. I've been thawing frozen ground beef this way for, let's say, decades. It works very well for me... However, if you explain what you mean by BAD, then others can judge whether it's viable / advisable or not (and I think the clarification is best done in your instructable - step 1 where that subject is found, not reposted here; I think folks would be happy to visit your instructable to find the info). Cheers -
i apologize for my casual use of the word never, i agree that your method is safe and effective, and i also agree that it is a gentle way to thaw without great risk of harming the quality. it requires a little more babysitting than i care for and if i were to get distracted i could end up with a dry burger, and that is why i wrote my instructable the way i did. if one is careful in following the method you suggest it should work fine
rsub8 (author)  LivingDread7 years ago
Just to reiterate, where I'm coming from is that my instructable is about using freshly ground beef for making burgers. I don't advocate using thawed ground beef (or pre-ground beef from the supermarket, etc., for that matter) for burgers. That is my opinion, and is the main point of my instructable. I suppose that if one used thawed ground beef for burgers, thawing with heat would produce an unacceptable result, and your methods would be preferable. In my instructable, however, the freezing / thawing business only comes in when dealing with the leftover freshly ground beef, which can be frozen and later thawed to use in other dishes where it's cooked and disperses, such as a meat sauce for pasta, chili, a casserole, etc. Cheers -
redscorpio7 years ago
Nothing beats fresh ground beef!! If the meat is too lean, we grind up some bacon up into it to add fat. Awesome!! also, we grind a little fresh rosemary into the meat. I read it counteracts the carcenogenic affects of BBQing beef.
Yes, according to the "be nice" policy these are "nice", and indeed do look tasty. Howbout a contest for the next level of us? Maybe something that involves more steps like sausagemaking, curing and canning, or one of the oldest food preserving techniques of all SMOKING? I'd stack my smoked food against ANYONE.
rsub8 (author)  dirjushunting7 years ago
Love to see it... we all can learn from each other. How about posting an instructable on those topics? I, for one, would love to see it. And as far as stacking it, how about on a SANDWICH? (with photos, of course) ;)
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