My meat grinder has been getting a real workout lately. In addition to chorizo and the sausages I made for Canada Day, I’ve taken to grinding my own beef for burgers… and once again, I’m reminded why entire industries spring up around certain “junk” foods; if we all had to grind our own meat every time we wanted a burger, we’d eat a lot fewer burgers. (And I haven’t even been baking the buns myself!)

But it’s worth it to me, for two reasons. First, I know how clean my grinder and kitchen are, so when I grind the meat myself, I feel comfortable cooking it to less than well-done, though I’m still not taking every precaution I could. I get squeamish around store-bought ground beef, and even more so around pre-made burger patties. Second, I’ve heard the hypothesis that beef ground, cooked and consumed within a short window tastes better even than beef ground earlier that day.

While I haven’t investigated this claim thoroughly, it sounds plausible to me: cutting the meat into tiny pieces exposes much more surface area, which would allow it to oxidize a lot faster, and could produce some of the off-flavours of rancidity. Either way, I would rather grind the meat just before cooking it anyway, since I’m making only a couple of burgers.

People sometimes make a big deal out of the cuts of beef used in burgers, swearing by one combination or another, but I tend to stick to shoulder (sold as “blade” or “chuck,” depending on which side of the 49th parallel you live on): it’s reasonably priced, you don’t have to muck about with odd quantities to get the ratio right, and it tastes good. The important thing is to look for a good line of fat running through it; fat is flavour, and it helps keep your burgers moist.

How to grind your own beef for burgers

Thoroughly chill your grinder and the bowl you’ll be grinding the meat into. Dice the meat, weigh it, spread it out on a baking sheet, and chill it in the freezer for 10 minutes or so. Calculate 0.75% of the weight of the meat, and measure out that much salt: That’s 7.5 grams of salt per kilo of meat; using Windsor kosher salt, it works out to about one-and-one-eighth teaspoons of salt per kilo. You can also ready some black pepper or other spices, if you wish.

Pass the beef through the small die of the grinder, add the salt and pepper, then pass it through the grinder a second time. Working the meat as little as possible, form patties, pressing them just enough so they hold together, but are not dense. Grill or pan-fry to your desired internal temperature.

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