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The best meat for burgers

I know this has been discussed before but I couldn't find anything recent...
Had dinner on Friday and since burgers were on the menu, I did some research beforehand on what would constitute the best burger meat. General concensus seemed to be freshly ground chuck. I went to a local butcher, he steered me toward a chuck shoulder, which he promptly ground for me.
I grilled it over a gas flame (sorry, charcoal purists, but I live in the city and propane's just easier), cooked abt 3 minutes on each side...the burger was good, very juicy, perfectly cooked, but NOT overly flavorful. So...what was missing? I'm wondering if perhaps I needed to mix it with a bit of sirloin? Would that have added a bit more flavor? Fat content seemed to be good, because, as I said, the burger was definitely juicy and certainly one of the better ones I've made...but still..I'm looking for just a little more flavor. I know if I cooked it over charcoal that might help a little...but does anyone else have any thoughts, or favorite meat mixes they uses when making burgers? TIA.

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  1. For a basic burger, fresh ground chuck or chuck shoulder is fine. Charcoal would certainly help, but not a deal breaker.
    I've noticed some flavor loss when the meat is firmly formed into a patty rather than losely formed.

    1. I actually put a little steak rub on mine - people are always asking how I make them. I prefer ground chuck/angus.

      1. I believe that Cooks Illustrated recently did something about this. I usually add a bit of steak sauce, minced onions, salt and pepper.

          1. re: Pei

            I just made buffalo burgers for the first time this weekend tailgating at a football game. I thought they came out excellent, but I had about 5 beers in me before I ate them. Will have to try them again when I'm sober.

            1. re: Infomaniac

              What should I say? A kindred spirit? I can relate? Best reply?

            2. re: Pei

              I absolutely LOVE buffalo burgers! I am hoping the prices will come down eventually as it is pretty costly for using frequently.

              I make burgers at home with lofat ground beef and ground turkey; I mince a pepper, onion and mushrooms and add to the meat along with seasoned bread crumbs, some milk and lots of other spices. They are always very flavorful. I will often sprinkle them with mesquite seasoning as they go on the grill.

            3. One of my brothers-in-law likes to mix in some beef short rib with his chuck for tasty bugers. He grinds his own and uses about 25% boneless beef short ribs (from Costco) and 75% Beef Chuck.

                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                  FYI, while I was doing all my burger research last week, a few different sources advised salting the burger just before throwing on the grill. I thought it might be a good idea to get the salt on there earlier so the meat could really absorb the flavor, but the dominant opinion was that salting the burger early would dry out the burger and yes, draw out moisture. Doing it just before cooking doesn't allow it as much time to dry out, which is why it's preferable.

                  1. re: twentyoystahs

                    Salt does draw out moisture over the course of a few hours, but once you let it sit long enough the meat actually reabsorbs the moisture, carrying the salt with it into the heart of the meat. This is Judy Rogers's technique at Zuni in San Francisco.

                    I would think salting it 24 hours ahead would allow the salt to get into even the tiniest pieces of ground meat.

                    1. re: Pei

                      Rodgers goes into detail about her salting practices in the Zuni cookbook. I've found that it produces superior flavor for pretty much all meat.

                      1. re: Pei

                        Cooks Illustrated also says this method works well. I think they used it on chickens though?

                  2. Thanks, all. The mix in of beef short rib is an interesting idea. I saw a few other recipes that called for ground briscuit too, which I believe is from a similar area on the cow as the short rib. Anyway.
                    I did see that Cooks Illustrated article but it was really about how to cook a burger well done and have it still be juicy. I'm a medium rare girl, thanks.
                    Steak rub is an interesting idea too. I'm sort of a minimalist when it comes to burgers though. I think if you've got a good flavored meat, that should be what you taste....maybe I just need to try a different butcher next time.

                    1. I definitely think you should salt and pepper your burgers before cooking. A little salt does wonders for bringing out beefy flavor.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: debit

                        Salting the patties just before cooking is bad. That draws out moisture. If you mix it into the meat the day before, the salt ends up distributed evenly, and the meat is dry.

                        I think pepper's better ground fresh onto the meat after it comes off the grill. Burnt pepper's not as nice a flavor.

                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                          If you salt right before, it has no time to draw out the moisture. I would never let my meat sit around in the fridge for a day before cooking. Even without the salt, it is starting to dry out.

                          I always buy and cook the same day.

                      2. Oh, we are adherents to the belief that no all beef burger is quite as good as a half lamb, half beef burger. You get that lovely lambie gaminess, but not too much. Toss in a few shakes of green tabasco and pickapeppa sauce if you want, but they're great just with salt and pepper. Grilled, thanks!

                        1. good quality ground sirloin, cooked in a cast iron pan w/ olive oil. sear one side w/ a lid, then turn down the heat. comes out very juicy.

                          1. I am going to go against the grain here, and say that more fat in the meat = better tasting burgers. If we are going to grill burgers, we look for the highest fat content we can find.

                            1 Reply
                            1. That isn't going against the grain, that's exactly what I believe, and it's what many cooks recommend as well. That's why I went with chuck, which typically is 80/20 --20% fat.

                              Also, I thought I posted this last night, but I also read that you should only salt the burger right before putting it on the grill. If you do it in advance it just has more time to pull the moisture out of the meat, making for a drier burger.

                              Maybe I needed a bit more salt, that's certainly possible.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: twentyoystahs

                                The whole salting thing is false. Some moisture might come to the top of the burger before you begin cooking it which might affect the browning but that can be easily remedied by blotting your burger dry before cooking it. I've read the ideal way is to salt chunks of beef the day before and then grind the presalted chunks and make burgers the following day. I haven't tried this yet as I don't own a grinder or food processor (NYC apartment living).

                                For the best combo of beef for burgers, you need two things. Appropriate fat ratio and beefy flavor. The chuck can be used for the fat but you should add another cut of beef for the flavor. The easiest would be to add sirloin, but you can also go hanger steak, brisket, skirt, flank to the chuck to balance the fat/flavor to your specifications. I wouldn't do less than 50% chuck though.

                              2. I throw in a little lamb shoulder for kicks. I'm one of the odd people that steers closer to 85 percent. The 70 percent of the generic pre-ground hamburger meat in the store disturbs me.

                                1. I grew up on the equal parts chuck/lamb/pork medley for making meatballs and hamburgers. Always worked well. Does anyone grind their own ?

                                  1. Mixing 50/50 beef and pork is what Ive settled on. Sadly, I have a "lamb hater" in the family, and lamb fat is distinctive.

                                    Here's something I posted on another forum, before I found Chowhound, in answer to the Q's:

                                    1) grind coarse or fine?
                                    2) is brisket best?

                                    Mix the grinds of fine and coarse. And, don't forget PORK. The "Best burger I ever had!" comments have always come after a 50/50 grind of beef and pork, at a 50/50 coarse/fine grind.

                                    Also, the pork fat proves tastier than the beef tallow, so I trim the fat from the beef to allow fuller inclusion of pork fat. Total fat content to 20%, equals "80% lean ground meat".

                                    Brisket is a marvellous cut to grind. In the porks: butt (shoulder) is the best for texture and taste, because its the highest used muscle area in the pig. This pork cut is also sold, sliced, as "pork steak." Look for the cross section of clavicle bone.

                                    The unknown sleeper on the beef cuts for most flavor is "chuck arm shoulder" or "arm roast" or "shoulder roast". When doing just a small grind (4 lbs, enough for a family night plus a small stash of frozen patties), I use 2 lbs beef arm shoulder and 2 lbs pork butt, which you can just grab in 2 lb trays at the grocery. On larger grinds, I include brisket. "Trimmed brisket" in 2 lb trays usually costs twice as much as pork steak or beef arm roast.

                                    "Packer timmed brisket" is a 10 pound cut (the pectoral area) that has two distinct sections separated by a huge log of fat.

                                    If you have a Kitchen Aid mixer, then the grinder attachment is a marvellous tool for meat and much more. The hand grinder can become tiresome, while the K.A. makes a 10 lb grind a breeze. Place a flap of Saran wrap at the exit port, secured by a rubber band from broccoli stems, to eliminate any horizontal splashing onto your belly. Partial freezing of cubed meats is best.

                                    The K.A. with a grinder attachment allows you to control the content and texture of your own burgers, sausage (higher fat), ground pork for MaPoDofu (low fat), and lots more, including that Southern Favorite Comfort Food: Pimento cheese.

                                    Pre-ground beef made at the local store can unscrupulously include random "market trim" and yesterdays expired cuts, and teeth-cracking pieces of bone. Pre-ground beef from factories is regularly recalled for E. coli and Listera.

                                    As to salt: yes, day ahead. Also pepper, onion powder, and A1 sauce with some liquid smoke.

                                    Re-Cap of Burger cuts: brisket yes, but arm is easier from "butchering the cut" standpoint. And be sure to try the 50% pork butt. Don't tell the guests; just watch them slurp and slobber and roll their eyes.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: FoodFuser

                                      I'm intruiged by the mixture of grinds. I've always used my food processor, so I might end up with different grinds naturally. Nevertheless, next time i will definitely do it intentionally.

                                    2. Black Angus 80/20 ground chuck is very flavorful. A 50/50pork and beef combo is delicious as well.

                                      1. Addendum.

                                        Here's some pics of the cuts.


                                        This Hormel site parent has some good pics for meat cuts and their highly variable synonyms.

                                        Next time I'm going to try the "7 bone roast", which is cut thru the clavicle, as is the "pork steak".

                                        ? Was is Wimpy who sighed "I will gladly pay you Tuesday for finding the ultimate burger blend today"? :)