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The Ultimate Burger Part 1: Meat Tips

Posted on: August 28th, 2012

Hamburgers are pretty common, but a great burger is a rare and beautiful thing! A proper burger and fries is a real treat meal for me, so I want it to be very special!  There are only a couple places I will eat a burger out (I did my homework), but not many – I usually cook my own.

Great burgers are simple – use quality meat and toppings – you can taste the difference!
Here in the fast food age, most folks want their burger fast
and cheap – but it only takes a few more minutes and a little pocket change to
serve burgers that are truly special (and safe!) – here are some buying tips, my next blog will focus on cooking and recipes – please share and subscribe via RSS or email at right.

We always grind whole-muscle meats at Tony’s
The Meat
The quality of the meat is the most important aspect of any
burger – period!  Sadly most ground meats
come from bulk processors and dominate the market based on low price. Price-first
shopping leads short cuts, questionable ingredients such as by products and pink slime, potentially contaminated outside trimmings and intervention steps using strong chemicals to lower risk of pathogens.  Saving a few coins is nice, but not at the risk of food poisoning or dying of e-coli!
Ground Beef Problems
The outside surfaces of beef sides and primal cuts naturally
have a greater potential for contamination – and bulk processors cut it away and use it in their ground beef – that’s Strike 1. The trimmings of hundreds of animals are then
combined to make huge batches of ground beef – Strike 2. Then the remainder
of the carcass is run through automatic meat recovery systems (AMR’s) to strip every scrap of ‘edible’ protein from them – Strike 3. Next theses scraps
are blended with the lowest grade trimmings and treated with chemicals to kill
bacteria and mixed into other ground meats – Strike 4! This is what you’ll
find in almost every grocery store, price club, school and restaurant.
Ground Beef Tips
Avoid all bulk ground beef and only buy from
a smaller retailers and restaurants that grind whole muscle meats and trimmings
in-house. Be careful, some places will split hairs, saying they grind fresh when they actually re-grind pre-ground bulk factory meats with their
own trimmings and call it fresh. There are local butchers like us at Tony’s Markets, and a few restaurants out there that grind only whole muscle meat and trimmings, and they are
definitely worth seeking out!
Bratburger with camembert and sweet Guinness onions.
Lean VS Fat
The best tasting ground beef for burgers is about 70-80% lean.  90-95% lean ground meats are really low in fat so they can’t have the same flavor or juiciness.  With super lean ground meats like this, I like to mix in a little egg and breadcrumb to soften the texture, and seasonings, bacon, cheese, steak sauce, veggies, etc. for a more tender texture and increased flavor.
Kobe / Wagyu beef makes particularly delicious burgers more about Kobe Style Wagyu Beef Here.
Tony’s Homemade Green Chile Chicken Sausage
Ground Poultry Problems
Unfortunately poultry is no better – most ground chicken and
turkey patties and other ‘poultry products’ have the same issues, and it’s impossible
to know exactly what inside. To start, they usually are made from the lowest
grade birds.  Next, they’re ground with
the outside skin (which is where most bacteria live) as well as all the fat and
connective tissue. Then they add ‘meat pastes’, made by crushing the bones and other
‘edible tissue’ under high pressure and forcing it through a screening device
to remove sharp fragments. It can also contain dimethylpolysiloxane, tertiary
butylhydroquinone, dozens of corn derivative products, sugars and chemical
The resulting poultry ‘pseudo-meat’ is the norm in almost all poultry patties, lunch meats,
hot dogs, nuggets, fingers, sausages and prepared foods containing
poultry (like pot pies, soups, burritos, etc.).  Are you eating these or feeding them to your kids?
Ground Poultry Tip
Avoid all processed poultry products and
insist on whole muscle chicken or turkey ground fresh and without skin and ‘by-products’. At Tony’s (and any self respecting independant butcher shop) we use 100% whole
muscle meats without skin, fat or additives in all our ground chicken products.
I strongly recommend our skinless ground chicken or turkey thigh meat, I find ground breast meat is just to lean to make a good tasting patty.
My bro DJ and I inspect all suppliers from farm to table
The Bottom Line
It’s pretty simple – shop quality first and avoid bulk-processed
meat (and all bulk processed foods in general!) If you want a great burger, find a butcher or restaurant with higher
standards that grinds whole muscle meats fresh and in house, and then cook your
own! Ultimately you’ll spend less and get better quality than eating out – get
your family involved, suppertime is family time! – Buon Appetito – Salute!

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