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May 23, 2007 04:44 PM

Making burgers from grass-fed beef

I have about a pound of grass-fed ground beef from Highland Hills Farm sitting in my freezer right now. (


I'm thinking the best way to appreciate this excellent meat would be to make burgers. Here's my question:

It is my understanding that grass-fed beef is generally quite lean, and the appearance of this beef would suggest that this is the case. I'm used to making burgers from fattier beef, so how do I turn this stuff into a good burger? Add fat of some sort to the burger? Cook it extremely rare?

Any tips would be greatly appreciated!

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  1. I only buy grass fed ground beef and I add nothing to it for hamburgers. The flavor is rich and I don't miss the drippy, greasy mess that is supermarket ground chuck. We also eat ground buffalo so perhaps we are used to a leaner, gamier hamburger. Of course I embellish my burger once it comes off the grill but I am a purist when it comes to the meat.

    1. I'm with greenstate - I add nothing. I do cook them on the rare side, and they've always seemed adequately moist. Then I enjoy that super-beefiness.

      1. Y'know, I've recently been intrigued by this topic. Like me, most urban Americans growing up in the last 40-50 years have been conditioned to grain-fed beef as the standard. I love a good steak as much as the next guy. Well, I noticed in the last year or so that Trader Joe's sometimes had fresh grass-fed beef -- generally either top sirloin steaks or 80-20 ground beef. IIRC, the package may warned that the meat would cook much faster than grain-fed beef. Why, I don't know, although I vaguely remember surfing online and reading about the fat in grass-fed animals having a lower melting point ... whatever ...

        My results: I've done the steaks three times, on my Weber over charcoal, and dammit it's true, they grill VERY fast, even with little to no visible fat or marbling. The first time was unfortunate -- nine minutes total grilling time, 4+ minutes per side, grey steaks, still tasty. I went to school on that and did better with shorter cooking time, but still more done than expected. Burgers, same ... 6-8 minutes for half-pound burgers, almost all color gone but still JUICY and DELICIOUS!!! How to describe the flavor? Hmm ... full, clean, beefy to the Nth degree ... anything but tough or gristly, far from it ... if anything, my reservations stem from the fat content, since I try to eat lean except for occasional plurges, but then is much of it running off, melting away?

        So, there may be something to this lower melting point thing, but I'll leave it to others to figure it out, or whether other cuts from other purveyors would not match my experience. Me? After 5-6 experiences, it has been unequivocally yummy

        2 Replies
        1. re: misohungrychewlow

          The fat in grass-fed beef contains higher proportions of CLA, which fights cancer, among other good things. It also has a better proportion of omega-6 to omega-3 fats than grain-fed beef. Basically, the fats in grass fed beef are the ones that are good for you.

          I just finished The Omnivore's Dilemma. Between that and Nina Planck's Real Food, I'm feeling a bit over-informed.

          1. re: JGrey

            God, I have to read that already! Don't feel self-conscious being the beef ├╝ber-geek... sincerely, I lapped that information up. That's what this board is *for*!

        2. Grass fed beef is an acquired taste and cooking it is an acquired skill. Personally I think grass fed bison is tastier in burgers. You might consider adding a little finely chopped pancetta to the burgers.

          1. I def would *not* add fat ... doesn't that defeat the purpose? ;) I buy only ground bison, and sometimes I spray the pan I'm cooking it in if it seems especially lean. I have always bought the leanest beef I could find, and organic whenever possible, so I don't find it *that* much different from what I've been doing ...

            5 Replies
            1. re: foiegras

              ... leanest beef I could find...

              This will, I'm afraid, lead to the burgers having the least juiciness and least ability to carry flavor. I mean that in the nicest way. Many many food scientists have studied this, and there is no denying the fact that fat molecules are what carry flavors to our tastebuds. In fact some researchers have even gone so far as to physically separate the beef fat from the meat and then reintroduce a similar quantity of more heart healthy plant fat/oil. The result is that the even expert tasters have found the taste very hard to distinguish.

              1. re: renov8r

                While I really enjoy eating the 80/20 grass-fed beef described above, I usually seek out leaner alternatives, including 5 to 7% ground beef, 3% or less ground turkey, and ground bison and ostrich. First, I love the taste of most meat. As a kid I refused any condiments and only embraced some of them as an adult. Second, I am committed to healthy eating as part of a healthy lifestyle.

                Third, I'm an incorrigible chound! How does one balance all of this? We all know fat tastes great! There's a concurrent thread raving about the virtues of pure pork lard as a divine pizza topping at LA's trendiest pizza emporium. ... Even so, I find ways ... one is to pick my spots -- lunch yesterday was a sandwich of pure, fresh milky mozzarela, prosciutto, and fresh basil on bread just out of the oven at Pane Bianco ... dinner was Spanish lentils and brown rice.

                I love my burgers. When grilling ultra-lean turkey, I season it with fresh ground pepper, a little garlic, a few drops of soy sauce, perhaps some curry powder or chimichurri sauce, I handle the meat lightly, and I rub EV olive oil on both sides before grilling over a hot fire, 3-4 minutes a side ... delicious!!! Buffalo/bison, or extra-lean beef? Even easier ... a dollop of red wine, a rub of crushed garlic, fresh ground pepper, a tiny hint of salt, a few drops of Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce -- one or two of these can be omitted, no big deal -- handle the meat very lightly, grill over hot coals, and, true for ALL grilling, the best results are yielded by PAYING ATTENTION! Delicious! Finished with tomato, onion, romaine, baby spinach, Grey Poupon country dijon, horseradish, gruyere, appenzeller, manchego, jarlsberg, whatever your hungry heart desires ... on good bread, of course.

                I love the grass-fed stuff -- I have some in the freezer and want to get more. I don't know what others are buying, but what I buy, the 80/20 stuff, is plenty fat and juicy -- I wouldn't mind if it were leaner, but it's sooo good -- maybe the fat is all melting off before it cooks ... ;-o) ...

                1. re: renov8r

                  And yet bison and other grass-fed meats are known for being flavorful ... perhaps the fat in the corn-fed beef is a crutch for its lack of natural flavor ;) I eat much less fat than I used to, and don't feel I've sacrificed anything in terms of the pleasure of eating ...

                  Additionally, I believe fat is not the only flavor carrier ... alcohol is another, for example ...

                2. re: foiegras

                  Defeat the purpose? No. In my opinion the purpose of grass fed beef is a healthier planet and a healthier cow. It is superior for those reasons alone. I don't think it is superior in flavor because it hasn't been with any of the many, many variations I have yet to try. And I keep trying it because I understand the arguments in favor of it. I still prefer beef raised slowly on grass but finished on corn. Another really complicating factor is most grass fed beef is not aged in any significant manner which would probably greatly enhance its flavor.

                  For healthier burger I much prefer bison from our local farmer. The mineral quality of the meat makes it taste more like well aged beef than most grass fed beef. We also use it in brasies, etc. Although oddly enough, the bison I've purchased from Whole Foods has been very dissapointing.

                  We eat animal products frequently but in small quantities. For instance, we will always share a (prime, well aged) new york strip steak, etc.

                  1. re: JudiAU

                    I certainly am in favor of a healthier planet and cow, but I am personally responsible for a healthier me, and I don't think adding fat would help accomplish that ;)