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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. (http://www.highlandhillsfarm.com/


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 ;)

                3. My DH plops them briefly in balsamic before grilling. (Not artisanal - salad-dressing quality.)

                  I have friends who feel grass-fed ground isn't that great as a burger and prefer to use it in something longers/moister cooking, like chili. YMMV, of course.

                  1. We make them on the second tier of the grill so they aren't sitting directly on top of the flames. They do cook quickly and I find they taste best on the rare side. We also make very thin burgers. Then we add a layer of jarlsburg cheese, some sauteed mushrooms, grilled vidallia onions...mmmmm..... on a toasted whole wheat bun with some olive oil mayo and a smear of mustard.

                    Well, I know what we're making tomorrow night for dinner!

                    1. Here's my post on the California board on some local grass-fed beef I used to make burgers.

                      What surprised me is how much moisture this 95% lean grass-fed retained even on the well-done outer portions of the patty. I did cook it rare, but the outside was quite crusty. Next time I'd probably not heat my pan as hot for a less browned/crusty surface and more even cooking, as there's no need to melt off fat.

                      1. I love grass-fed beef burgers and love that they are lean. ANd it's nice to know that what fat they DO have is good for me! To keep my burgers juicy, I like to add about 1/2 cup of shredded veggies to the meat before I cook it. definitely onions, and then whatever else I have that might taste good. Some folks even add blueberries (chopped up, I think). I read about that in eating well magazine. here is a link to their recipe: http://www.eatingwell.com/recipes/blu...
                        I think they had a whole article about blueberries a few years ago.


                        1 Reply
                        1. re: amyamelia

                          I would even add to cook the onions and/or vegies in a little olive oil, so they can add a touch of sweetness to the beef, and a little more fat. I've been adding sauteed onions to my beef and turkey for burgers, and find I get a much tastier burger that way - plus they don't do that "stick in your throat" thing that happens when you eat a too-dry burger. I don't put any condiments on my burger at all, so a little dressing up before is helpful, if not necessary.

                        2. Not familiar with the particular type of beef you're talking about (I just grind up a choice roast from the store usually - don't know what they ate). But if it's really lean, I'd say just cook it fast. Hot, hot grill.

                          Or, and this is questionable, you could try panfrying it or cooking it in a cast iron skillet with a little bit of fat. If it's already ground, I wouldn't go to the trouble of cutting in some fat.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: AbdulSheikhMohammed

                            Replying to my own thread here.... for shame. Just wanted to point out that if you do cut in any fat, try some butter!

                            I've cut in butter with beef burgers and lamb burgers that didn't have enough fat (I shoot for ~20%). Delicious!

                            1. re: AbdulSheikhMohammed

                              I like my burgers quite rare, and the grass-fed beef works fine for that -- I find them flavorful, juicy and intense. But my spouse, who won't touch meat that isn't cooked completely through, complains bitterly that it's "dry" and "gamey." (And I've got a freezer full of it -- bought a quarter of a cow a few months ago.)

                              Balsamic vinegar seems to lift the "off" taste, but I haven't figured out how to incorporate that into burgers. My best luck so far has been with an adaptation of a James Beard recipe -- you add a tablespoon or two of heavy cream and a hefty shot of grated onions to your pound of ground beef.

                          2. I had a grass-fed-beef hamburger steak for the first time three nights ago. Didn't do anything to it, and it tasted fine to me.