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The Science of Ground Beef

The Science of Ground Beef

Craving a burger? Science helps us to understand what ground beef is, and how to cook with ground beef to appreciate it the best. Don't miss the tips!

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Here we often talk about prestigious cuts of meat, slices of tender fillet, thick sirloin steaks and layers of sea bass. Sometimes, though, you just need a good burger. Tell the truth: just the thought made you hungry, didn't it?

There are many components that make up a tasty burger, but the biggest one is precisely the meat. As we know, hamburger is ground beef, and you cannot even imagine how many parameters can affect its characteristics. I'm speak of the quality of the meat, of course, but also of the "grain" of the grind, the percentage of fat and so on. These characteristics are vital in the other ground meat-based dishes. Meat sauce, meatballs, sauces... ground meat is a truly essential ingredient in cuisines all over the world! Why, then, rely on pre-packaged meat that is produced who-knows-how? To discover all the secrets of good ground beef and how to cook it, we will first learn what meat is made of. There are many muscle fibers, collected into bundles separated by connective tissue. And then there is a variable portion of fat.


In principle, if we eat raw meat (maybe for a quick tartar, not beaten with a knife) the fat percentage should be small, but if we have to cook it is better to for it to be higher. The muscle fibers are long and resistant, so the grind serves to reduce them into smaller parts, which we call "grains". How small? It depends on the machine or grinder we use (prices start at ten dollars and up, but a basic model is great for recreational purposes), but in general not too much, especially for burgers. Large grains of meat guarantee the preservation of the original taste of the meat which, once cooked, has a pleasant texture. If the grind is too fine, we run the risk of finding ourselves with an ugly looking "blob" that lacks in taste. Often industrially ground meat has a fine texture for a reason, to mask the lack of freshness, or the "origin" of its parts. It is not uncommon, in fact, that the bowels and even scraps of different animals, such as chicken, are added beef or pork (the type is indicated in the label).


By grinding meat at home, however, we make sure that the grains are distinguishable from each other. Once cooked, they decrease in size and appear very compact to the eye. In the case of a good burger, let us remember that grinding causes the release of adhesive proteins that work to keep the various pieces of meat together. This is also why it is best to add salt only when it is formed, by pressing it on the surface of the burger. By mixing the salt into the mixture, we risk the burgers coming apart. Well, at this point, since we're here, let's see how to make a hamburger as it should be! We'll start from the weight: 200 grams of sirloin should satisfy more serious appetites. For an even tastier meat, add a little pork meat (fat). Alternatively, a tablespoon of butter. And two tablespoons of olive oil, salt and pepper. Put the meat in the freezer for about half an hour until it begins to harden; in this way the pieces will be the same. Now cut the meat in three to four parts, and put it in the machine or pass it through the grinder. At the end, stir gently, adding butter and oil. I do not recommend forming burgers with molds. It's better to use your hands, which have more control over the pressure. It should not be excessive, otherwise the hamburger will become hard. Finally, add salt to the surface and bake in a pan greased with butter or oil. Trust me: you will eat the best hamburger of your life.

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