The Best Ground Beef for Burgers, According to a Butcher

A chef and beef expert weighs in.

<p>Simply Recipes / Nick Evans</p>

Simply Recipes / Nick Evans

Is there anything more delicious than a full-flavored, juicy hamburger hot off the grill? I don't think so. I'm firing up my grill all summer long to enjoy as many burgers as possible while the sun is high and the days are long.

Before you press out those patties, know that a truly drool-worthy hamburger starts with choosing the best ground beef. 90%, 85%, or 80% lean meat... which one should you choose? To find the answer, I spoke to Chef Andrew Hunter, Executive Chef at Niman Ranch, a network of more than 600 family farms and ranchers raising beef, pork, and lamb humanely and sustainably.

Types of Ground Beef

There are two types of ground meat: meat labeled “hamburger” can have beef fat added to it, and meat labeled “ground beef” cannot. Up to 30% fat is allowed for both hamburger and ground beef.

Ground beef is labeled by lean-to-fat ratio:

  • 80/20 = ground beef that contains 80% lean meat and 20% fat

  • 85/15 = ground beef that contains 85% lean meat and 15% fat

  • 90/10 = ground beef that contains 90% lean meat and 10% fat

A fat content of 25% to 30% is labeled regular while 80/20 is labeled lean ground beef. Packages of 85/15 and 90/10 are labeled extra lean.

Some ground beef packaging lists the cut that the meat is from—chuck, round, and sirloin are common. 80/20 is often ground chuck, 85/15 is often ground round, and 90/10 is usually ground sirloin. The USDA also allows ground beef to contain multiple cuts to get to the desired lean-to-fat ratio.

Unlike whole cuts of beef, the USDA doesn’t grade ground beef or hamburger, though it does need to meet all the federal and state guidelines to be sold in stores.

<p>Lori Rice</p>

Lori Rice

85/15 or 80/20 Ground Chuck Is Best for Burgers

According to Chef Hunter, "Burgers are juiciest [made with ground beef] with an 85/15 or 80/20 ratio. The lean meat and the fat work together to create the juiciest and most flavorful burger. The fat melts during grilling to make the most delicious flavor combination."

80/20 is the ideal choice because it will be the most flavorful. Ground round comes from the back of the cow, near the tail, upper leg, and rump. At 85/15 it's considered an extra lean ground beef and it's a solid second choice for hamburgers.

Ground sirloin is cut from the back section of the cow. It’s labeled 90/10 and is a more expensive cut of beef than round or chuck. It has a full beefy flavor but is too lean for hamburgers.

Chef Hunter adds, "90/10 is perfect for making spaghetti sauce, taco meat, and other concoctions when sauce and seasonings are in the mix. There's less fat to drain, the yield is better, and the flavor of the lean meat really shines."

<p>Simply Recipes / Nick Evans</p>

Simply Recipes / Nick Evans

Tips for Picking the Best Ground Beef

According to Chef Hunter, "Color and package date equate to freshness. Look for packages with a bright rosy-pink color with only a little juice emerging from the ground meat." A pink color is a good indicator of how fresh the beef is. If the outside of the beef is grey, pass on it.

To discourage bacteria from growing, keep ground beef cold in the refrigerator until ready for cooking. Freshly ground beef will keep in the refrigerator for up to two days.

Chef Hunter says, "If you have a package or two in the fridge and aren't sure when you're going to use it, put it in the freezer and it will stay wholesome until you need it." Ground beef can also be frozen for up to four months. When you're ready to have burgers again, "the best way to defrost ground beef bricks is in the refrigerator for 24 hours," he adds.

Read the original article on Simply Recipes.