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Ground my meat: what went wrong?


I've been pleased with the 4 times I've previously ground my own meat for hamburgers. This last time was less pleasing by quite a bit.

I shopped for "what's on sale" but as it was feeding my in-laws I wanted it to be semi-special as well. I had nice chuck steaks (about 2#) and as they had filet on "close out" at about $6/lb for odd shaped hunks I snapped up about 1.5# of that.

I froze my grinder equipment (including the catch bowl) for a couple of hours and then chilled my cut up meat in the freezer for about 20 minutes.

I grabbed pieces from both cuts of meat alternating to try and get it close to uniform in "mix". I ground it on my "large" ring first and caught it in the cold bowl. So far so good.

I then added it back into the grinder after changing to the smaller die. (I have the Kitchen Aid grinding stuff, by the way).

By now we were starting to get a little warm I'm sure although I don't know if it had an effect on things.

I grilled my burgers (they were just about room temp when I grilled them) and hit a medium temp on them. They looked great. Juicy. Etc.

But the taste and texture... not so much!!

There was a sort of grittiness to it. Micro grit but still grit. NO I didn't grind any bones. The flavor was flat (and yes I sort of under seasoned, but still). There was maybe a mineral or liver flavor present. It didn't taste juicy like it looked. Not HORRIBLE but golly I could have done better just opening a package of grocery-ground.

My thoughts on what may have been contributing to my disappointment:

* The butcher said the filet was a little long in the tooth. That didn't matter to me but maybe it should have.
* Filet may just make crummy burgers but for the record- I love the taste and texture of filet
* Too warm , lost fat?
* My chuck wasn't real chuck or something (although it looked just like every other chuck roast /steak I've had)
* Not putting enough salt on the burgers really had significant effect

I've previously used a variety of mixed cuts: chuck, brisket, ribs, sirloin. I've always loved the results. This one was an anomaly (I hope!)

Your thoughts welcome.

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  1. I think filet of any vintage is a really poor burger choice, though I don't know about grittiness. There's a reason it's so often serve with rich, creaming sauces. Old past its best days filet is something it gives me the willies to think about.

    If you're accustomed to mixing those fattier and flavorful cuts, I'd expect you'd really be missing the flavor they bring with filet.

    1. I'm guessing you did all that freezing/chilling stuff that you'd done previously. I never do that and have never had a problem but obviously it's what you do. I also only grind once with the large die. My beef burgers are always chuck and nothing else. I wonder with the leanness of the filet, could the chuck then also not had enough fat on it? I ground a few pounds the other day and was at first concerned that they had trimmed it too well but it had great marbling. I know CHs who use short ribs but don't remember reading about filet. The chuck I ground was 50% off cause it was getting older. Never worries me a bit.

      1. IMHO, Filet brings nothing to a ground beef blend. I am not even a fan of filet on a plate. No fat , no flavor.

        A straight chuck grind (or) a 50/50 chuck / sirloin grind with a little extra fat added to make up for the leaner sirloin is also a pretty consistent winner.

        Short ribs with their extra fat also blend well with a leaner cut.

        I do take the time to trim gristle away....season.....chill meat and grind with all grinder parts being chilled as you describe.

        One of my favorites is the end of the year freezer clean out where everything gets ground with some extra striploin fat added.

        1. Filet is a terrible burger choice. It has little flavor, zippo flat, and the tenderness is lost.

          How fatty was the chuck? Unless it was half fat your burger was much, much too lean.

          I also think you really only need to grind once.

          And yes, salt makes a huge difference.

          1. I would guess the filet was too lean and it lean-ed out your mix. Also, filet is not a great source of beefy flavor.

            All of the other cuts you mention that you've mixed before all tend to have marbling, a fat cap, or both. Filet is usually very minimally marbled and has little cap.

            I also have the Kitchenaid grinder, and prefer to chill my equipment beforehand, but I've been pressed for time before and ground with room temp equipment and had not problem (smaller batch, though, as heat from friction and from the motor will increase the more you grind in one session.)

            1. Maybe the fillet was liver pieces, I think the mineral taste is a dead give away. Fillet just doesn't have enough fat or flavor for a burger application.

              1. I've had fillet that had a mineral liver flavor so I would guess that's where the flavor came from. Can't think where you got a grittiness from. And not to beat a dead horse but fillet is a poor choice for a burger

                9 Replies
                1. re: scubadoo97

                  I'm trying to think of the name of a cut that people have said has a livery taste.

                  1. re: c oliver

                    I've heard that about skirt and hanger steaks, but never really noticed that flavor myself.

                    1. re: c oliver

                      Many would say the heavily worked chuck region can have a strong flavor that resembles liver. That's why many do a 50/50 chuck/sirloin blend with a little extra fat added to make up for the lean sirloin. Crazy :-)

                      1. re: Tom34

                        Well, I really LOATHE beef liver and I only grind chuck so it sure don't taste liver-y to me. And it dang well better not :) OT but for the last year or more our fave burgers are ground pork shoulder.

                        1. re: c oliver

                          Yeah, taste is an individual thing. Straight chuck is not for me. Short ribs & sirloin to me is a nice blend. I know many add pork. I have added bacon which is a burst of flavor.

                          My parents cooked calves liver in a CI pan with bacon and onion and try as I may I just could not acquire the taste growing up. Have tried it many times since their passing and still can't warm up to it. Yet others love it. Go figure.

                          1. re: Tom34

                            Yeah, I finally stopped trying. Our pork burgers are nothing BUT pork.

                            1. re: c oliver

                              Never had a pure pork burger. I am getting a fresh shoulder butt in about 2 weeks as part of a meat order from my buddy. This one has a 12 plus hour 225 degree date with the BGE but they certainly are cheap enough & fatty enough that I think grinding one may make a good burger. What cut(s) of pork do you use?

                      2. re: c oliver

                        Round, according to Cooks Illustrated, and if I'm not mistaken, especially bottom round.

                    2. The grit thing worries me. Is it possible you got some metal shavings off your grinder? We had this happen once with a lesser quality grinder than your Kitchenaid. Threw out a whole batch of sausage. :(

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: hippioflov

                        It wasn't a hard grit like metal or bone. Hard to describe but almost a dusty sort of texture. I've read on burger lab site that Kenji thinks skirt steak can create this texture issue:http://aht.seriouseats.com/archives/2...

                      2. When a butcher tells you the meat is old .... Why buy it?

                        I'm thinking that the off taste is from off filet.

                        Like others have said filet is also bad taste and texture wise in a burger.

                        7 Replies
                        1. re: C. Hamster

                          I'd estimate the 75% of the meat we buy is in the "brown meat" area at the grocery. And we've never found any issues at all.

                          1. re: C. Hamster

                            Not sure my logic is sound but dry and wet aged meat is desirable.. why would something 5 days old be bad?

                            1. re: e_bone

                              Wet or dry Aging must be done under certain conditions. Sitting on the foam tray wrapped in plastic wrap is not of those conditions

                              1. re: scubadoo97

                                Good dismissive reply but I think what you're actually saying is that dry aging beef should have a protective fat cap and wet aging beef should be sealed from the air. How, in 5 days, is sitting in a sealed butcher Styrofoam tray different than any other wet age set up?

                                  1. re: e_bone

                                    Scub is right E-Bone. With wet aging the commercial chamber vacs apply a lot of pressure and really force out the air. When a case of cryovaced sub primals is first opened, (before they are manhandled by labor & customers), the plastic is so tight to the meat the sub primal often is stiff to the point of feeling frozen. In "that" condition, 28 days from the case date @ a constant 34 - 38 degrees is not a problem. A puffy cryovaced sub primal that has air pockets with liquid swooshing all around is not a good candidate for wet aging.

                                    With dry aging, a sub primal with a full fat cap is suspended either on a hook or a wire rack for even air circulation and held at the same constant temp. Humidity & air movement are also controlled. At the end of the process the hardened cap (bark) is cut off.

                                    A single steak, either cryovaced or in a foam tray will eventually spoil.

                                    1. re: Tom34

                                      Okay good! I like this and it makes sense. The butcher would do a facepalm knowing that I was complaining about cooking the meat he told me not to buy!! Thanks to both of you for replies.