All hamburgers share one common thing that defines how good they’ll be, meat. Picking the best meat for burgers is a critical step before bothering with other ingredients, toppings, or condiments.
Let’s figure take a look at our options for meat and get a solid base to create awesome burgers. From there you’ll be ready to try adding things to the meat, trying different meats, and going crazy with toppings.
Selecting the Best Meat for Burgers
- hanger steak
In taste tests, the cut that was the best meat for burgers is chuck.
Ground chuck starts at the neck and goes down to where the ribs end. The meat here is flavorful and relatively fatty with a fair amount of connective tissue. While it may not be great for a steak, once ground for a burger, the meat cooks well and tastes great.
How to Buy Ground Chuck
When picking out your meat, first look for 20% fat, 80% lean beef. Even if it’s not 100% chuck you’ll find this meat very flavorful.
If you go to the grocery store, you’ll often see pre-packaged ground beef. If this doesn’t specifically say ‘ground chuck’ it’s probably made from mixed trimmings. This may not be ideal, but its convenient… what’s most important first is buying in the best fat to lean ratio.
Now to make it even better, you want to ensure you’re using only chuck, and you can ask your butcher for coarse ground chuck for burgers. The fat content will vary by the cut of meat that is chosen. If it looks too lean you can ask your butcher to add some fat into the chuck they grind for you to get it up to the 20+% fat range.
Chuck is also the best meat to grind for burgers and you can buy a chuck roast to grind at home. Grind it coarsely, using the 1/4″ holes, and only run it once through the grinder.
The most important thing is getting that fat to lean ratio.
Other Meat Options
Once you’ve made some burgers with 80/20 ground chuck you might want to try mixing it up a bit. Some things to try include:
- Mix in some brisket with your chuck
- Put some short rib in the mix, which is meaty and tender
- Include some ground dry-aged beef like rib-eye for a more steak like flavor
- Try Wagu beef, which is from Japanese cows and is extremely tender, melt-in-your mouth beef
- Add in some sirloin, which makes the patty stand out and extra beefy (top sirloin, tri-tip or knuckle)
- Try a non-beef burger like turkey, lamb, fish, brat, chorizo, etc
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