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Grinding Your Own Beef
If I asked you what your favorite burger joint is, you’d have an answer. We all do. But, what if I told you the answer could be your own kitchen?! With the help of a meat grinder (or your butcher’s), you can be on your way to the perfect homemade burger. When you’re grinding your own beef, you’re getting a patty that requires merely a little salt and pepper to make it shine.
Most of what makes a good burger comes down to meat choice and fat percentage. We all have different preferences (and different favorite burger joints), but this post will help guide you toward that ideal grind.
One of the most upfront advantages to grinding your own beef is that you can save money. Packaged ground beef from the supermarket has an upcharge. Grinding beef is one of those “skills” where getting closer to your source (the cow) saves you money. Cutting out a middleman or two can save you some serious dollars in a year.
You are more in control of the quality when grinding your own beef. You can choose the freshest meat from your butcher and turn it into prime meals. Source meat whose origin you know and trust as opposed to the packaged variety.
Choosing your favorite cuts and the size of grinding plates gets you the best flavor and texture….for your specific preferences! It makes it easier to pre-season batches as well if that interests you.
We’re talking fat ratio and flavor when it comes to making the perfect ground beef. The accepted ideal fat ratio for burgers is 80/20 (80% meat to 20% fat), but you might like it leaner for things like meatballs, stews, chilis, meatloaves, and bakes. Some people prefer 70/30 for burgers and others find 90/10 to be to their liking. This is where experimentation and thoughtful choice come into play. In my opinion, 80/20 hits the sweet spot.
Some of these choices will also depend on what cuts you can reliably or cheaply find in your area.
Chuck– This is the classic cut for burgers. It comes from the anterior section of the cow. If you’re just starting out and want to stick with a single cut, this is a great choice. It has a fat ratio of around 80/20 and is well-marbled for a buttery, juicy flavor.
Sirloin– This describes several different cuts in the posterior of the cow, and for the purpose of grinding burger meat, the top sirloin is the best cut. It has a fat ratio of around 90/10, so it makes for a leaner burger. The flavor is often described as beefy and a bit grassy.
Brisket– On its own, brisket is a tough cut with inter-connective tissue. But, when combined with other more delicate cuts, it lends a beautifully buttery flavor from its high-fat content. It’s also a great choice for when you’re grinding beef coarser for things besides burgers.
Shortrib– This cut tends to be a bit pricier, but it has great fat content and flavor. While using solely shortribs might make for a pricey burger, combining it with cheaper grinds is a great option for adding richness to your burger.
Hanger– Known for its gamey, steak-like flavor, the Hanger cut comes from the diaphragm area of the cow. It has a moderate fat content for those looking for a slightly leaner burger.
Round– This comes from the posterior of the cow and is thus a bit tough. It is also a leaner cut at a fat ratio of about 90/10. But, it is often a fairly affordable cut, and in combination with fattier meat can be delicious.
Bacon– Some people swear by adding bacon to their burger meat, and it can be a great way to up the fat content when used in combination with some of these leaner cuts. If you like a smoky flavor to your burger it could be an excellent addition.
Our favorite blend of cuts right now is 2 parts chuck, 2 parts brisket, and 1 part short ribs.
If you’re in the market for a grinder, we can highly recommend this one from LEM. There is a KitchenAid attachment for grinding meat, but if you’re getting into grinding many of your own meats I would recommend upgrading. It just makes the job more efficient. If you’re processing a ton of meat, you’ll probably want to invest in a stronger grinder, but for our little homestead, the small countertop grinder is perfect.
Freeze Meat– Freezing your meat for 30 minutes before cutting it into smaller pieces will ease the cutting process.
Freeze Attachments– Place your grinder attachments (auger, blade, & dies) in the freezer for 1 hour before you begin your grind.
Prepare & Freeze Meat– Remove your meat from the freezer and cut it into ½-inch – 1-inch cubes. You need it to be able to fit easily down the entrance tube of your grinder. Combine the cubed cuts on a foil-lined tray, cover the tray with another piece of foil, and place the tray in the freezer for 30 minutes. Cold meat is easier to grind and will help prevent the smearing of fat.
First Grind– Take the tray of beef and grinding attachments out of the freezer in preparation for your first, coarser grind. Place a medium-large bowl below your grinder to catch the meat. Guide the meat through the feed tube and into the grinder. Watch the magic happen.
Freeze– If you are dealing with a small amount of meat, have an efficient grinder, and your meat is still cold, you might be able to skip this freeze. But, I like to play it safe and place the ground beef back on the tray in the freezer for 20 minutes.
Second Grind– This is going to be your finer grind. Repeat the steps of the first grind but with a finer grinding plate. Run a piece of bread through at the end of this grind to help clear the equipment of lingering meat.
Prepare Patties– I like to portion out the ground beef by weight to vacuum seal. I usually vacuum seal it in 1 lb portions to place in the freezer. If you would like to store them as patties form the patties, place them in the freezer on a piece of parchment paper for an hour, and then transfer them to an airtight container in the freezer or vacuum seal them.
If you plan to eat the patties soon form them into patties, place parchment paper between them, and set them in an airtight container in the fridge until you are ready to cook. You’ll only want to leave them like this for 1-2 days.
- Keeping the meat cold during the various stages of the grinding process is the best way to ensure the fat doesn’t smear and to make the process as clean as possible. Keeping the meat cold when forming your patties for burgers will also allow them to hold their shape better.
- Grind your meat twice for the perfect consistency. You can choose the size of your plates, but start with a coarser (larger hole) grind and finish with a finer (smaller hole) grind. Our grinder came with 8mm and 4.5 mm plates, so those are the sizes we use right now.
- A perk of grinding your own beef is that you can pre-season it! You can even split it up into batches with varied seasonings for certain purposes in the kitchen. Feel free to experiment with adding seasoning prior to grinding your beef, but keep it light on the salt for burgers. You’ll want to season the patties again with salt before cooking.
- Handle your meat gently. Over-handling can lead to crumbly patties or smeared fat.
- If your patties aren’t holding together well, you might need to adjust the fat ratio to a higher percentage. Fat acts as a binder for burgers. Avoid adding any extra liquid (like marinades or sauces) to your patties. This can also lead to them being loose as opposed to more firm.
Freezing your home ground beef is the most efficient method that allows you to make larger batches at once for future use. I use a vacuum sealer to prevent freezer burn and freeze them in easy-to-defrost portions.
If you don’t have a vacuum sealer, you can use aluminum foil, heavy-duty plastic wrap, or a large plastic freezer bag. I suggest flash-freezing the patties in a single layer on a piece of parchment paper and then transferring them to a plastic bag with parchment paper layered between them. You’ll want to eliminate as much air as possible from your packaging.
For defrosting, just place the pack (or the individual burgers) in the fridge overnight. If further defrosting is needed, place the package (or burgers in a bag) in a bowl of cool water in the fridge.
If frozen, it is recommended that you use your beef within 4 months for the best quality and flavor. But, it will technically last much longer! Be sure to date your frozen portions for reference.
- meat grinder or attachment
- coarse grinding plate & fine grinding plate
- large bowl
- baking tray
- 2 lb boneless chuck roast
- 2 lb beef brisket
- 1 lb boneless short ribs
- Freeze your chunks of meat for 30 minutes before cutting them into smaller pieces.
- Place your grinder attachments (auger, blade, & dies) in the freezer for 1 hour before you begin your grind.
- Remove your meat from the freezer and cut it into ½-inch – 1-inch cubes. You need it to be able to fit easily down the entrance tube of your grinder. If you are adding seasoning, you can do so here and gently toss the beef cubes in it. Combine the cubed cuts on a foil-lined tray, cover the tray with another piece of foil, and place the tray in the freezer for 30 minutes.
- Take the tray of beef and grinding attachments out of the freezer in preparation for your first, coarser grind with the coarse grinding plate in place. Place a medium-large bowl below your grinder to catch the meat. Guide the meat through the feed tube and into the grinder.
- Place the ground beef back on the tray in the freezer for 20 minutes.
- Repeat the steps of the first grind but with a finer grinding plate. Run a piece of bread through at the end of this grind to help clear the equipment of lingering meat.
- Form the meat into patties to freeze or vacuum seal 1lb bags of the ground beef for the freezer. If you plan to use your ground beef soon, you can form the patties, layer them between parchment paper, and place them in an airtight container for use within 1-2 days.