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Confused about beef for burgers

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I've been learning how to cook burgers at home for awhile now but I'm still confused about the beef choices. Normally, I use ground chuck, but it gets expensive when I have to start feeding more than a couple of mouths. Not as expensive as going to a good burger place, but it still adds up.

The ground chuck I normally get is 80/20. The thing that confuses me are the other beef varieties at the store. There is a similarly packaged beef that is 70/30, but then there is a "tubed" version of ground beef that is also 70/30. The similarly packaged one looks very close to ground chuck, but the tubed one looks different when I unwrap it from the tube. It's hard to explain other than that one looks like spaghetti strands and the tubed one doesn't. Is there a reason for that? And which ones do you guys use for your burgers?

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  1. Avoid the tube if you can. Generally, I've found it to be tasteless. Not for burger. Not for chili.
    Lots of mouths=discount on family pack sizes. Get the cheaper 70/30.

    2 Replies
    1. re: monavano

      I've never used the tube stuff but wonder if it's ground into mush. Actually I've been grinding my own for a few years now.

      1. re: monavano

        I thought of taking a tube to the trash as I used partial amount for 2 small burgers then I used partial in Swedish meatballs- very odd flavorless off texture too. no more Stater Bros tube GB for me

      2. i think that is just the method of grinding, rather than the meat to fat ratio, that is causing it to look different.However higher fat(cheaper) is probably usually ground in a machine that can extrude more and more quickly and perhaps differently. the ratio may show more or less red to white in he meat itself

        1. I'm using Estancia grass-fed ground chuck from Uruguay. More expensive, but better for a good hamburger. I use less expensive ground beef in a meatloaf.

          4 Replies
          1. re: GH1618

            Where are you? Uruguay seems far away to ship beef from, but maybe I'm out of the loop.

            1. re: bbqboy

              San Francisco Bay Area. Estancia is a California company.

              1. re: GH1618

                Can you taste a difference from American grass fed beef?

                1. re: bbqboy

                  I haven't done a side-by-side comparison. That's the premium ground beef at the market I prefer for fresh meat, so I buy it and I like the result. I don't think their regular ground chuck is grass fed.

          2. The tubed one - and others that are not stranded - have added water. Crushed ice is added to the beef before grinding. There may also be the "pink slime" blended in.

            Always look for the stranded type of ground meat, which is a sign that it has not been "diluted".
            I am not sure where I learned this - maybe America's Test Kitchen.

            1 Reply
            1. re: greygarious

              LOL. When I come out with especially esoteric pieces of info I always figure it's from NPR :)

            2. As a kid my mom would always add finely chopped mushrooms, onions, and crushed crackers or oatmeal to stretch to make more patties- also added great flavor

              1. The 80/20 chuck is usually the recommended blend for burgers. I make mine with 90/10 or 93/07, since that's what I keep in the freezer for other use. But most often I add some finely chopped onion and steak sauce for flavor & moisture.

                1. Mass produced ground beef is the bottom of the barrel when it comes to beef. It could be exclusively from or a combination of any of the following: Old infertile dairy cows, steer scraps, imported who knows what coarse ground that is blended and reground with domestic. Pink slime took a back seat but it will be back as it should be for economical reasons.

                  The unknown is normally the cheapest, followed by chuck, then butcher shop scraps & then sirloin, then custom blends followed by grounding your own. For the best G/B you have have ever had, grinding your own. 2nd best is scraps from an independent butcher. Cheapest are the chubs (tubes of who knows what) .

                  Bottom line: Meat is not complicated like Quantum Physics. Generally you get what you pay for. From there its a matter of whats its worth to you!

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: Tom34

                    Truly the best money I ever spent was the KA stand mixer and the meat grinder. I'm no germophobe by any means but really do appreciate knowing that my burgers come from a single animal.

                    1. re: c oliver

                      This x 100000000000000. Taste, texture, all of it.

                      If home grinding isn't possible, grab a chuck roast at the local store and have the butcher grind it for you. At least you know its a single joint, and the possibility of contamination goes way down.

                      1. re: c oliver

                        Even if somebody doesn't have the KA mixer, an inexpensive stand alone grinder will work.....one key for any grinding is to chill the meat and grinding head.

                        1. re: Tom34

                          So many people say that but I don't do it and everything is fine. Not that it would hurt but I've not found it necessary.

                    2. Chubs are those "tubes".

                      Avoid them whenever you can. Aim for fresh ground (shape your own burgers) and remember that FAT is flavor when it comes to grilling. 80/20 is a good ratio, and so is 85/15.

                      1. The stuff in the tube is compressed, and the stuff on the styro tray isn't. That's why they look different. I steer clear of the tube. The store packaged meat *should* be from the cut they advertise, but having steaks of your choice ground by a butcher shop is best.

                        I use higher fat, 80/20 or 85/15, for grilling and 90/10 or 93/7 for stovetop burgers because the fat drips through on the grill whereas the burgers cook all up in it in a skillet.

                        1. St. Julia advocated 80/20 for burgers. Other tastes may vary.

                          About every 3 years or so I buy the tube to give it a try. Cannot it really be that bad? So far, yes.

                          I am blessed with a large chain and an independent that will grind up whatever I want. At no additional price. Ask around.

                          1. I have the butcher fresh-grind the meat and I use a mix of chuck and short rib. Usually 2 lbs chuck to 1 lb short rib but sometimes go 50 / 50. Then I freeze them and use what I need.

                            It is a lot better than getting pre-ground meat.