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A Better Burger

I never thought James Beard’s simple hamburgers from The Armchair James Beard—with salt, black pepper, and minced onion stirred into ground beef—could be improved upon… until I tried grinding my own beef to make them.

It was much easier than you might imagine. First I cut the beef into strips, then I fed the strips into the grinder attachment on my stand mixer. The whole process took just a few extra minutes, and the time spent was well worth it: The burgers were tender and juicy with a flavor that was beefy, rich, and cleaner than usual.

Some say grinding your own beef immediately before seasoning and cooking results in meat that tastes less mineral-y than beef ground earlier that day. Another explanation: Since I ground the beef myself using high-quality meat from a reputable butcher, I wasn’t as nervous about cooking the meat to medium—instead of all the way to well-done as I would for supermarket ground meats—and left a hint of juicy pink meat in the middle. (Note: Cooking Light and the USDA both encourage cooking ground beef to 160°.)

Money-Saving Tip: My butcher sold me inexpensive and lean beef “tenderloin tails.” These are are the pointy ends of tenderloins, and some butchers remove them to keep a tenderloin roast more uniform in shape for even cooking. Instead of $20 per pound of tenderloin, I bought the tails—with some fat that ensures tender, flavorful burgers—for $5 per pound.

If you can’t grind your own, simply ask your butcher to grind the meat fresh for you. Season and cook it as soon as you get home.

Photo: Courtesy VirtualErn on Flickr