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Sep 19, 2012 11:14 PM

best raw hamburger - frozen or fresh?

Hi Chowhounds,

Question: I am having a BBQ (hot dogs and hamburgers) and serving around 60-80 people.

Is it crazy of me to make the burgers from fresh raw meat?
Should I just buy the frozen patties like everyone else?
Is there such a thing as good quality frozen beef patties?

At Costco, their fresh ground beef lists 5-8 different countries their beef is from. That sort of freaks me out. But the frozen patties are usually the same (made from beef trimmings from different countries)

I would like to balance quality with cost, if that isn't a pipe dream.

Thanks for the advice....and advice for my last question. You were all so helpful!


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  1. I buy all my beef for my family from a local butcher, the Midwestern Meat Market, and the difference vs. regular grocery store meat is remarkable. But I have to say, I had a burger at my in-laws' over the 4th of july that was very delicious, and was a pre-formed patty from costco. It was outrageously huge, however. I think you could have sliced it in half and made two burgers out of it easily. If I were feeding that many people, I'd certainly look in to a costco membership for those patties!

    1 Reply
    1. re: modthyrth

      My Costco (Westbury, NY) carries both fresh patties formed from the same ground beef they sell in bulk packages (and for the same price, $2.99/lb) and frozen patties that are the thin, fast-food restaurant style type. If the patty you had was huge and good, I'm betting it was one of the fresh patties, because they are indeed monster - they come about 8 to a 6lb pack. They're also way tastier than the frozen ones, which are IMO pretty bad.

      Maybe the OP could do as modthyrth suggests and buy the fresh patties, but simply cut them in half crosswise to create two thinner patties? That way you'd cut down on some of the work and still have tasty burgers that are a manageable size and not too expensive.

    2. I used to help organize my office picnics which occured three times per summer. I purchased premade frozen sirloin hamburger patties from Loblaw's. (Canadian grocer) They were thin patties and were always good. What is good about precut, is that they are uniform and when you are cooking for as many people as you are is helpful, as cooking times should remain the same for all. A thin patty would also facilitate time on the grill.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Ruthie789

        In addition, your time is worth something. Is it really worth wearing yourself out to produce 50 or more hamburgers individually, when you could be doing other things with all that time and effort? Especially when there will be an unknown number of leftover burgers that you'll have to freeze anyway. Hand-making hamburgers from freshly ground beef might be worth it for your family, if you find it really makes a difference in the taste and quality (or the price), but that's a different story.

      2. Last June we made a Cookout (I don't call it a BBQ when there was no smoked meat) for about 80 guests that included burgers and franks (other meats as well) that has to be available from 1PM unntil 11pm.

        I made all the burgers myself. I ground the meat (neck and skirt) to about an 18% fat content, added my seasonings and formed 5 ounce patties, I then stacked 3 layers of 4 separated by waxed paper and placed in gallom size zip-loc freezer bags and froze.

        The day of the party I pulled 4 bags at 10 am to defrost and continued to pull bags from the freezer to defrost as the day went on.

        Yes, I made the patties from fresh ground beef, but I did freeze them. I controlled cost by buying the beef on sale and grinding it myself. We always have at least 4 of these bags in the frezer ready to use.

        I don't like the frozen patties that are commercially available, as they are made from assorted scrap, and they don't have my seasonings mixed in. Just sprinkling seasoning on the outside of a burger when cooking doesn't produce the taste I like.

        Excuding labor. Cost of buying 'decent' frozen patties $3 lb. Cost of grind and make my own $2.50 lb. Difference in quality and taste PRICELESS.

        8 Replies
        1. re: bagelman01

          I am sure yours were amazing. I just do not have time even for a party, let alone individually grind and form patties.

          1. re: bagelman01

            Did something similar myself the morning of a party for thirty people a couple years ago. As I was up at five to get the shoulders on the offset, it was a productive way to keep myself from starting to drink beer too early (something about tending the barbecue makes me thirsty). Way I see it, if you're gonna make burgers, make burgers you'd want to eat yourself.

            1. re: MGZ

              As I did indicate, some of the frozen burgers indicate they are of sirloin origins, and Costco's are as well. What is wrong with a sirloin hamburger. Yes what you have done is over and above the norm. I am sure it would have been great, but, is it ok just to serve something that is a standard good without overextending yourself and the budget? Good way to keep away from the beer though!

              1. re: Ruthie789

                What's wrong with a sirloin burger? Generally a sirloin burger that you have not ground yourself will have only about 10% fat content. This is far too lean to cook on the grill and have a tasty moist result.
                If I remember correctly you are in Canada (if I'm incorrect, I apologize), and if so you may have different fat contents and call cuts of beef by different names. In the US, Ground Chuck is typically 20% fat, ground round is typically 15% fat and ground sirloin 10% fat.

                I grind neck and skirt for both the fat and the wonderful sweetness in the neck meat. I also came from a kosher background, and kosher sirloin is not readilly available in the USA.

                That ground sirloin might be ok cooked on a flat top or for making meatlof, but would not make a great burger on the outdoor grill.

                  1. re: bagelman01

                    Yes am Canadian and meat and fat content is different. I do understand that the meat grinder must make the most amazing burgers. For convenience I think it might be ok to serve a premade burger if I did not have the time? Maybe I've got to go out and buy that meat grinder!

                    1. re: Ruthie789

                      Here in the states there are many electric meat grinders with adequate (1 Horse power or greater) motors available for less than $100. Or if you have a kitchenaid you can buy the grinder attachment.

                      I use the kitchenaid if doing more than 2 pounds, A 25 year old Waring electric if doing 2 pounds or less and I have an old fashioned hand crank model that clamps on the table that I use to grind liver (the electrics turn too fast and turn liver to paste).

                      A nice thing about grinding my own beef is that I can grind in fresh onions, stale bread, seasonings, etc. if I so choose. This gives much better distribution than sprinkling the outside of a patty.

                      There is great convenience in using premade patties, they just don't taste the same. But, in our local major chain supermarket (Stop and Shop) the fresh patties are often on sale for less than the price of the bulk ground beef. Last week the bulk 85% lean was $5.29 lb, while the fresh patties 85% were $3.79 lb.

                      I was doing the grocery shopping for my mother's live-in health aide, and when I got to hamburger on the list, I grabbed the patties, the aide can form them into meatballs or meatloaf or use as burgers. I saved on the purchase.

                      The other reason to avoid the premade or preground beef is the 'pink slime' issue that has been discussed on these boards. I don't know if it is an issue in Canada,

                      1. re: bagelman01

                        Bagelman I am going out to buy a meat grinder. I have now come to the conclusion that fresh ground is ideal.

            2. Much as i like lean meat for burgers (costco's 12% works great for me) you would really have to be careful with meat that lean on a grill/barbecue. The real problem with most preformed patties is that they are made with meat under pressure, squirting them out and stamping them, and it just changes the texture. If I'm making burgers for a few people, i would rather have fresh, and the fresher the better for flavor. But a party/cookout for a dozen or more, I go with the frozen patties. I have enough other stuff to get done.

              1. Serving that many people I would definitely go with preformed burgers. I procrastinate too much, and for a group that size I'm sure the preformed burgers would be plenty tasty for all but the most discerning burger connoisseur. Unfortunately, I can't recommend a brand, as I don't have cause to buy many preformed burgers, but anything with a significant enough fat content, say 20% or more, will come out sufficiently tasty and juicy.