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Hamburgers not "beefy" enough

Christina D Jun 9, 2012 07:13 AM

Since I've become acquainted with my Kitchen Aid meat grinder, I've been grinding the meat for my burgers. I've followed Bobby Flay's advice, 2/3 chuck, 1/3 sirloin, don't overhandle and s&p on the outside. What I haven't done is cook them in a cast iron pan. My husband insists on grilling.

I've found that although they are fresh and tender (to the point of almost falling apart), I'm not getting a good beefy, meaty taste from them.

Any thoughts on why not? Should I increase the amount of sirloin? Dry age the meat in the fridge for a day or so before grinding? Add a dash of worchestershire? Tie my husband to the deck chair and break out the cast iron?

Your advice would be greatly appreciated.


  1. tommy Jul 10, 2012 02:46 PM

    I've been adding lamb to get that extra kick of beefy flavor. Makes little sense, I know

    And marrow.

    1. globalgourmand Jul 9, 2012 10:41 PM

      Put me in the umami camp, assuming that salt is not the issue and you're incorporating the flavorful cuts. I will post this article link despite that I keep getting an error and can't find a cached version: http://www.goodeater.org/2/post/2009/04/cheffing-with-tony-maws-not-just-a-cheeseburger.html

      With mouth-water detail, it outlines all of the thoughtful, tested techniques that go into this highly-esteemed and supremely beefy burger. From what I can remember, Maws uses dehydrated miso for the umami kick, three flavorful lean grass-fed cuts (short rib, flap and brisket) plus 100% bone marrow in a 85:15 lean meat to fat ratio . I hope that one day the link will be repaired and you can read about this very special burger.

      Oh here! Someone on CH has summarized it already! http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/617891

      1. 2
        2chez mike Jul 8, 2012 01:38 PM

        I have found that beef, in general, has lost some it's beefy flavor over the past several decades. Same with chicken and pork. Maybe has something to do with what the stock is fed and how they're raised?

        1 Reply
        1. re: 2chez mike
          mcf Jul 8, 2012 03:45 PM

          It depends what kind of beef you buy, and how it was raised, yes.

        2. t
          travelerjjm Jul 4, 2012 01:56 PM

          Honestly, the beefiest burgers I ever ate were grass-fed beef with buffalo ground in. The net fat ratio was close to 15%. I have a friend who adds a few drops of Kitchen Bouquet to burgers to make them more flavorful. YMMV.

          3 Replies
          1. re: travelerjjm
            mcf Jul 8, 2012 03:45 PM

            Couldn't have had much bison, then, unless they added fat, maybe?

            1. re: mcf
              travelerjjm Jul 10, 2012 09:31 AM

              I suspect that there was added beef fat, or at least trimmed so there was a lot of fat. Bison is very lean, yet very tasty.

              1. re: travelerjjm
                ginaatcateror Jul 10, 2012 10:02 AM

                Sign me up on the "add a little buffalo for flavor" list - alone it's almost too lean for a great burger, but added to regular beef? Delicious. There's also a hybrid critter called a "beefalo," but I've never tried it. But maybe mixing buffalo with a higher-fat cut of beef might be worth a try.

          2. j
            jvanderh Jul 4, 2012 12:09 PM

            Aged beef makes a huge difference!

            1. 1POINT21GW Jul 3, 2012 10:33 PM

              CDouglas mentioned an article that went into depth testing many different cuts of beef and their respective ratios in developing the perfect ground beef blend. Here is the blend they discovered was the best combination and ratio of beef cuts that makes the very best hamburgers:


              I have made this recipe exactly as it describes and I will tell you that this blend makes the absolute, hands down, bar none, all day long, done deal, be all end all best hamburger that I have ever eaten. The taste is mind-blowingly beefy. I have never tasted anything so beefy tasting in my entire life. This hamburger blows every other hamburger I've ever eaten away - even the so-called "best" hamburgers as voted by whoever.

              Simply grind the beef as directed in the recipe, gently form into patties, season generously with kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper, and sear on a super hot cast iron skillet or griddle until an instant-read reads 130 degrees F, about 3 - 4 minutes per side.

              I cannot encourage you to make this recipe enough. If you do, try making your own bun (it's super easy) to eat it with. Here is the best bun recipe I've ever come across:


              1. iL Divo Jul 3, 2012 02:22 PM

                I don't care about your burgers or anything else but I love this: *^ kidding

                "Tie my husband to the deck chair and break out the cast iron?"

                ok my first thought was to add a little worchestershire or Bo-vril (sp?) or kitchen bouquet.
                maybe you're missing the pink slime ;:-/

                1. Mr Taster Jul 3, 2012 02:14 PM

                  Here's a good read for you.

                  Nancy Silverton (of La Brea Bakery/Mozza/everything fame) discusses how to make the perfect backyard burger.


                  Mr Taster

                  1. k
                    kengk Jun 11, 2012 04:13 PM

                    In regards to the discussion of grinding different cuts for burgers: I grew up eating home grown beef, my dad sent a cull to the slaughter house when we ran out of meat. With three boys it didn't take the family long to go through one either eating it seven days a week.

                    I think that if you took a prize steer, raised on the finest feed, curried and coddled to perfection, you would not have meat as tasty as a 3-4 year old (fat) dry cow that had nothing to eat but pasture and hay.

                    I know that there are nuances of flavor between different cuts as well as fat content. Howsomever, you can't make a silk purse out of a sows ear.

                    1. tzakiel Jun 11, 2012 09:03 AM

                      No input, as I haven't ground my own burgers yet, but some good info here so far!

                      1. c
                        CDouglas Jun 11, 2012 07:38 AM

                        The following article examines eight different cuts of beef for use in hamburgers either alone or in combination. The second page offers a nice blend of three meats for use in grinding your own for burgers. Great information:

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: CDouglas
                          Tom34 Jun 11, 2012 03:17 PM

                          Nice article, mentions adding a little OXTAIL too.

                        2. biondanonima Jun 10, 2012 01:30 PM

                          Try salting the meat a day or so before you grind it. I cut mine into strips that will fit into the grinder, salt it as I would if I were cooking a steak, and leave it in the fridge overnight. When I'm ready to grind, I drain off the accumulated liquid (save it) and put the meat in the freezer for 20 minutes or so to firm up. Once ground, I fry a little of it to check the seasoning for future reference, but it never really tastes "salty," just very beefy. If the ground meat seems too dry you can work in a bit of the accumulated juices, but that has never been a problem for me.

                          1. n
                            Nanzi Jun 10, 2012 10:54 AM

                            I'm pretty sure that I read in another forum that brisket is a wonderful 3rd addition to the grind. I was seriously thinking about getting a grinder last year and read lots on the subject. I know I saw it more than one place, and along with sirloin & chuck.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Nanzi
                              mcf Jun 10, 2012 12:12 PM

                              I read all that stuff, brisket with short rib, or with chuck and short rib, etc... did them all, not impressed, discovered that grass fed flank steak alone is moist, very flavorful all by itself. Now to double grind it.

                            2. j
                              JudiAU Jun 10, 2012 09:48 AM

                              You cannot dry age beef in the fridge for a day or two. That is more or less just making the meat old. Dry age needs to be done with a large, whole cut under special circumstances. And aging the meat after it is ground well just create a bacteria-fest.

                              1. coll Jun 10, 2012 02:33 AM

                                I've been noticing a trend towards adding some brisket. I'm getting close to trying to make burgers myself, but haven't quite begun yet. Lots of good info here, thanks!

                                1. iheartcooking Jun 10, 2012 12:37 AM

                                  Mixing salt and pepper in with the beef instead of on the outside makes a huge difference!
                                  Also a TINY BIT of soy sauce, Maggi, or worstershire will help.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: iheartcooking
                                    ritabwh Jul 9, 2012 05:40 PM

                                    +1 on mixing the salt with the ground beef. use a little bit more than you think necessary.
                                    msg and fish sauce or soy sauce or maggi, or worchestershire sauces are probably not necessary

                                  2. ipsedixit Jun 9, 2012 08:59 PM

                                    +1 on all the salt suggestions.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: ipsedixit
                                      Mr Taster Jul 3, 2012 02:12 PM

                                      Yup. Generously salt the outside of the patties just before grilling. And mix in a tiny bit of fish sauce to the ground beef.

                                      Mr Taster

                                      1. re: Mr Taster
                                        hotoynoodle Jul 3, 2012 09:04 PM

                                        fish sauce, soy sauce, worcestshire sauce and tomato juice all help with umami in burgers.

                                        use what you have but be careful with the salting.

                                    2. RealMenJulienne Jun 9, 2012 05:56 PM

                                      Make sure you are using enough salt. Also, purists may shake their fists but soy sauce is good for adding meaty depth of flavor to ground beef. The best way to incorporate it into the patty is to briefly marinate the beef in soy sauce before grinding. That way you don't over-work the ground meat trying to mix it in by hand.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: RealMenJulienne
                                        Mr Taster Jul 3, 2012 02:13 PM

                                        Yup. Generously salt the outside of the patties just before grilling. And mix in a tiny bit of fish sauce to the ground beef- not so that you taste the fish, but so the glutamate levels are boosted.

                                        Mr Taster

                                      2. mamachef Jun 9, 2012 04:54 PM

                                        Hit your room-temperature meat w/ salt and ajinomoto, and blend it in lightly. Let rest for 20 minutes or so; form into patties, and have a HOT pan. Get a good sear on your burgers, and your problem should be solved, tastewise. You might consider adding just a bit more fat to your grind if the falling apart is a problem.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: mamachef
                                          linguafood Jun 10, 2012 05:43 AM

                                          Ain't nothin' a little MSG can't help.

                                        2. mcf Jun 9, 2012 02:50 PM

                                          I had the same problem, experimented with all the combinations, and always use grass fed. I've settled on grass fed flank steak, but the most important thing to keep it from crumbling or not tasty enough is to dry it out a bit; there's often just a bit too much water content otherwise. I grind it into a paper towel lined bowl, then cover with more paper towels and blot, then leave in the fridge in the towels for a while before making burgers. If it's not dry enough to make non crumbly burgers, I'll blot in smaller sections some more. HTH.

                                          1. t
                                            Tom34 Jun 9, 2012 09:02 AM

                                            If you have a local butcher, you could get a couple LBS of: Oxtail, short rib , Flap meat, flank, sirloin & chuck. He should throw in some extra fat cap for free.

                                            Make up several different combinations (writing them down) and try them. Not really that expensive, should be fun and a lot of good eats. PS: If you can't get beefy flavor from the assortment above you may have to mix in some Bison.

                                            11 Replies
                                            1. re: Tom34
                                              j8715 Jun 9, 2012 10:36 AM

                                              You've run oxtail through a meat grinder?? and it was fun??

                                              I'm 90 percent sure you are talk out of your ass on this one. Don't run something that is all gristle and connective tissue through a meat grinder. Also: flank and short rib aren't expensive?

                                              Mang, are you semi freezing the meat. this will prevent your burgers from getting mashed in the grinder. that might be why your burgers are almost falling apart and seem a bit drained of flavor.

                                              1. re: j8715
                                                hotoynoodle Jun 9, 2012 11:51 AM

                                                i can get both flank and shortrib for less than i pay for ground beef.

                                                1. re: hotoynoodle
                                                  Tom34 Jun 9, 2012 01:34 PM

                                                  I agree Hotoynoodle. Since it will all be ground & free fat cap fat can be added, all the above can be USDA select grade or even USDA standard which are very reasonable, even more so if you can get it in the form of trimmings.

                                                  j8715 : Oxtail is often ground and added to ground beef. I would trim it of the heavy gristle & connective tissue before grinding. Same for any of the other cuts. And yes, it is best to pre cube the meat, spread the meat out on a cookie sheet(s), freeze the meat until the moisture on the outside starts to freeze. Also best to freeze the grinder attachment.

                                                  1. re: Tom34
                                                    keg Jun 10, 2012 12:39 AM

                                                    Oxtail. I'm a butcher. Cleaning an oxtail would yield a depressingly small amount of meat. Grinding one whole would clog the plate in your grinder and what did pass through would taste like knobs of gristle. You might be thinking of shank meat, which is very flavorful, but also full of a lot of connective tissue too. It's better for a braise.

                                                    The patties are falling apart because with single pass grinding the meat is greatly unbound. A second pass through the grinder or paddling in a mixer will increase the bind (protein extraction) and make the patties stay together.

                                                    Aging ground beef is not advisable. Bacteria love surface area and ground meat has an immense amount of it. All meat has spoilage bacteria and possible pathogenic bacteria too. Grinding it is like firing a starting pistol for accelerated growth. Also kitchen aid mixers are not known for producing a high quality ground product.

                                                    Regardless of what cut you select, look for good marbling. Grass fed beef depending on how it's finished can be very low in intermuscular fat, or possibly quite nicely marbled. Grass fed, grain finished is my own preference for ground beef. I look for a chuck roast with healthy fat percentage, grind it coarse, change plates, and regrind half through a finer plate, mix and patty. Great texture, good bind, fat to sustain flavor,and moisture and beefy beefy-ness.

                                                    1. re: keg
                                                      kipkappa Jun 10, 2012 01:18 AM

                                                      Great post. Thanks.
                                                      If someone over-grinds or worse, mashes the meat through a weak and warm grinder, will that probably help create a tough hamburger? Same problem created with over mixing and over pushing the ground mass into patties?

                                                      1. re: keg
                                                        j8715 Jun 10, 2012 05:38 AM

                                                        thank you. I don't even think you need to play the "I'm a butcher" card here.
                                                        using a grinder once you learn anything stringy needs to come off first.

                                                        another thought for Christina D, are you using chuck stew meat that is all trimmed lean meat? If so, switch that part out for some sort of chuck roast like the man says. I really don't think there is anything wrong with the 70-30 mix described in your recipe.

                                                        1. re: j8715
                                                          Christina D Jun 10, 2012 07:49 AM

                                                          I'm using the chuck roast, not the stew cubes. Also, I'm grinding twice, but through the same plate. Maybe I need to switch to the fine plate for the second grind.

                                                          There are great suggestions here...I thank you all. I think this will be a summer long experiment and I'll be sure to report back.

                                                          1. re: Christina D
                                                            acgold7 Jun 10, 2012 10:39 AM

                                                            You definitely need to use the fine plate at least once if you want the burgers to hold together (if that is an issue for you). I double fine grind mine and I don't use the coarse plate at all. You do need to abuse the meat a little bit to get it to bind, as keg very wisely notes.

                                                            The chuck roast is a very good choice.

                                                            All the suggestions here re: taste (more fat, more salt, various enhancers which contain the elusive umami like msg, Worcestershire, soy sauce, Maggi, etc.) are good ones because they all will kick up the flavor without necessarily adding flavor of their own, used judiciously.

                                                        2. re: keg
                                                          amitys Jul 3, 2012 02:06 PM

                                                          Gosh, I'm so glad you wrote this reply because I have been trying to find out for months why my home-ground burgers always fall apart. I've tried everything, had no idea about doing a second grind! Thanks a million. :)

                                                      2. re: hotoynoodle
                                                        Vetter Jun 9, 2012 09:19 PM

                                                        I can't. I wish I could! Those run around 7 bucks a lb here. Shortribs especially are now considered upscale. I can't think of any former poor-folks cuts that are still cheap here. Even tongue is at least 5.99/lb.

                                                      3. re: j8715
                                                        Tom34 Jul 4, 2012 03:31 AM

                                                        Yet another person found a little oxtail puts the beef flavor over the edge and makes the best burger they have ever eaten. I guess the folks at "Seriouseats.com" and everyone else who did the IMPOSSIBLE also "talk out their ass" as you would so eloquently put it.

                                                    2. twyst Jun 9, 2012 08:40 AM

                                                      In addition to changing the mix of your ground meat as suggested above, you could try to work in stuff with more umami to make the beef taste beefier. Ground porcini mushrooms, dash of worcestershire, or even a dash of (gasp!) MSG.

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: twyst
                                                        greygarious Jun 10, 2012 09:45 AM

                                                        I'll second the MSG, and venture a suggestion that will be even more reprehensible to some - a sprinkling of dry onion soup mix mixed into the meat. Either adds salt. I do not use additional salt on a burger, but I DO make them in cast iron. I prefer the overall sear to the incomplete searing of a grill (and am not a huge fan of smoke).

                                                      2. Uncle Bob Jun 9, 2012 08:11 AM

                                                        I use pure, carefully selected chuck. You might try adding an Oxtail or two to your grind....

                                                        Have Fun & Enjoy!

                                                        2 Replies
                                                        1. re: Uncle Bob
                                                          hotoynoodle Jun 9, 2012 08:29 AM

                                                          i was thinking oxtail or some shortrib meat.

                                                          don't skimp on the salt.

                                                          1. re: hotoynoodle
                                                            Kelli2006 Jun 9, 2012 11:54 PM

                                                            I second the idea of adding boneless short rib to the mix.

                                                            Stay away from meat that has been enhanced with various liquids. If you want more beefiness then try to get grass fed, but be very careful not to overcook grass fed beef.

                                                        2. todao Jun 9, 2012 07:53 AM

                                                          Before you reinvent the wheel, try cooking one on the grill and another on your cast iron skillet and do a taste test. As wyogal mentioned, be sure to salt the burgers before they hit the grill/skillet and allow them to sit for about fifteen minutes before you put them on the heat.
                                                          If I were wanting to dry age the meat I'd do it after grinding rather than before


                                                          "Add a dash of worchestershire? " Might add worchestershire flavor but not "beefy" flavor.

                                                          3 Replies
                                                          1. re: todao
                                                            Tom34 Jun 9, 2012 08:20 AM

                                                            Mixing in some flank or flap steak would also increase the intensity of the beef. Being your grinding your own, cooking med to med rare will also increase the flavor (vs) well done. Little salt, pepper & garlic powder also give it that steak flavor.

                                                            I would never dry age ground hamburger in the same manner a whole primal cut is aged. I don't know what dry aging for a day or two would do other than dry out the ground. I would skip the aging and add the more flavorful cuts and maybe a little more fat.

                                                            1. re: todao
                                                              twyst Jun 9, 2012 08:34 AM

                                                              "If I were wanting to dry age the meat I'd do it after grinding rather than before"

                                                              That really sounds unsafe and Im pretty sure you'd get someone very sick.

                                                              1. re: twyst
                                                                Tom34 Jun 9, 2012 08:42 AM

                                                                Yeah, I had to re-read that one several times myself.

                                                            2. w
                                                              wyogal Jun 9, 2012 07:41 AM


                                                              1. k
                                                                kengk Jun 9, 2012 07:25 AM

                                                                I would try to find some nice grass fed beef. If that is what you are already using all I can suggest is to try a different cut to grind. Maybe some flank steak.

                                                                2 Replies
                                                                1. re: kengk
                                                                  JeremyEG Jun 9, 2012 07:37 AM

                                                                  Second the grass-fed suggestion. Of course people eat it for lots of different reasons but one of my favorites is the intense 'beefiness' that is brings to dishes. Have your husband grill some grass-fed beef outside and if that doesn't work, insist on the cast iron pan! Good luck and please report back!

                                                                  1. re: kengk
                                                                    Cachetes Jun 9, 2012 07:40 AM

                                                                    I'll third this. I don't even eat beef and rarely prepare and cook it. But I recently made a batch of burgers with grass-fed beef and fed them to family. They talked about them for days.

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