It’s true, grinding your own meat for burgers will result in WAY better tasting burgers. Just ask any restaurant chef or Dennis and Sherry McGrath, aka The Porkateers, who won the Bull Burger Battle in San Diego. They had their Kitchen-Aid stand mixer on-site and were grinding their own meat when the competition began. The result was a burger that won them a new Bull BBQ Angus Grill Cart and an entry to the World Food Championships!
For this year’s Fourth of July burger party, we’re going to grind together some beautiful chuck steak with some smoky bacon, garlic, and freshly cracked pepper for a burger that will most definitely get you crowned King of the Backyard!
Don’t worry if you don’t have a meat grinder. There are a couple ways to get around that with a little help from your butcher or even a food processor. You can buy the chuck already ground, but better yet, buy the chuck steak and ask your butcher to coarsely grind it for you. Also, ask him to not compact the meat after it’s ground – leave it loose.
A food processor will do a decent job of chopping the meat. However, you have to really pay attention and not let it get so fine that it becomes a paté. Cut the meat into 1-inch cubes and partially freeze the meat (explained below) in a single layer on a sheet pan. Then working in batches, add just enough meat to the food processor to cover the blades. Pulse a few times (that’s P-U-L-S-E) until the meat is chopped slightly larger than the ground meat you get at the grocery store.
- 2¼ pounds chuck steak (not roast)
- 12 ounces smoked bacon (pref. slab not sliced)
- 6 cloves garlic, minced
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Kosher salt, for cooking
- Special Equipment:
- Meat grinder, food processor, or friendly butcher
- Empty bowl nested in another bowl of ice and water
- Remove any sinew or gristle from chuck steak (use steak cut instead of roast; the roast requires a lot more trimming) and then cut into 1-1/2 inch cubes. Cut bacon into 1 inch pieces. Place meat on a sheet pan and add minced garlic and a hefty bit of freshly ground black pepper - I used about 1 tablespoon medium cracked black pepper.
- Toss everything together and spread into a single layer on the baking sheet.
- Place the meat in the freezer for about 30 minutes before grinding. This will make it easier for the grinder blades to slice through the meat and keep the fat cold and solid so it won't clog up the blades or grinder. Do not freeze the meat as the freezing will change the consistency of your final product.
- Place the meat in the hopper of the grinder (or see note above about using a food processor). Do not overfill or try to shove too much through at a time (patience is a virtue, Grasshopper).
- Place a bowl nested in another bowl containing ice and water, below the grinder to catch the freshly ground meat. Remember to try to everything as cold as possible for ease of use as well as food safety.
- Portion and loosely shape patties; make them slightly larger than the buns. By not compacting the patties too much, you leave pockets for juiciness to happen. Also, the meat will not be so dense that the burgers will cook faster and more evenly. Keep the patties refrigerated until you are ready to grill.
- Set up grill for direct cooking over high heat; set up a cool zone to move the burgers to - there will be flare ups. Brush and oil grates before cooking. Cook burgers 3 to 4 minutes per side. Remove burgers from the grill and let them rest before serving. Yes, burgers need to repose like any other meat.
- Dress 'em and eat 'em! If you want to add cheese to your burger, add a slice 2 minutes before the burger is done cooking.
Cheers and Happy Grilling!