Last summer I purchased a grinding attachment for my kitchen stand mixer and since then I’ve had a ton of fun grilling my own meat blends for hamburgers, sausage and more. While ground beef from your local grocery store or butcher are perfectly fine when you’re short on time, grinding it at home allows you the freedom to play with different combinations of chuck, brisket, shortrib, and more.
Now although grinding your own meat at home might seem extremely challenging, it’s really quite simple once you understand the basics. For that, we’re turning to John Carruthers and Jesse Valenciana, authors of the recently released BBQ and grilling cookbook ManBQue! By (Running Press, 2014), for their grind meat “how to”. Also, be sure to check out the book’s other informative tips on barbecue and grilling basics, as well as a diverse array of mouth watering recipes such as the Molten Minneapolis Burger, Smoked Maple Bacon, and Bacon Skinned Italian Sausage.
Grinding your own meat at home
Way before pink slime became the panic of one week’s particular news cycle, we were already grinding our own meat. And it didn’t have anything to do with being local, organic, or moral. It wasn’t about indicting the agricultural model. It was because of the following:
It takes maybe an extra twenty or twenty-five minutes to grind your own beef, and the results are worth it every time, in everything from burgers to shepherd’s pie. It’s not even a health kick thing—one of our favorite things to do is control the fat-to-muscle ratio of the burger. Why exactly did you think In-N-Out Burger inspires such devotion? Within human reason, a little more fat in the burger is always preferable to less. Ever have a patty made solely of 95 percent lean sirloin? It’s like bad meatloaf on a bun. It tastes like you imagine the color beige would. For a good burger, we like to mix and match the following cuts. They’re from all around the animal, and we like to consider them the Justice League of the burger world.
Chuck—A relatively cheap shoulder cut with a decent mix of muscle and fat. The size and ease with which you can break it down and grind it makes it the easiest cut to use for our purposes. There’s not a terribly distinctive flavor, so it acts as the base for a lot of our burger mixes.
Short rib—Pure concentrated flavor from the rib or plate section of the animal. The dry-aged variety is said to make men find religion.
Brisket—One of the nine primal cuts, the brisket is best known as a long-cooked Texas tradition. We’ve found that it adds a nice rich body to our grinds with well-worked muscle fibers and juicy fat and collagen, especially the triangular pectoral cut.
Hanger—A sometimes hard-to-find cut of meat that used to be known best as the steak the butcher would take home for himself. There’s only one of these per cow, so if you do find a butcher with a case of hanger steaks, load up. It tastes like beef-flavored beef. SO BEEFY.
Oxtail—Another collagen- and fat-rich cut, this time from the tail of a steer. Prepare to cut out lots of tiny pieces of meat from the bony tail sections. It’s worth it.
To grind, cut your meat into cubes no larger than an inch on any given side. Larger cubed pieces will grind better than smaller scraps or trimmings. Lay them in a single layer on a baking sheet and let them firm up for about twenty to twenty-five minutes in the freezer. Don’t let them freeze completely through. The meat grinder, mixer attachments, or food processor bowl and blades should join the meat in the deep freeze. Everything has to stay cold, or your fat is going to turn into warm mush, killed before its time. Not coincidentally, this is going to make your burger suck. We usually just keep our meat grinding gear in the freezer all the time, so it’s ready whenever we hear that primal call. Once your gear is cold and your meat is firm, follow the directions on your grinder of choice. When you have a bowl full of delicious-looking ground meat, feed it all back through again, making sure everything’s still cold. The double grind will better activate the protein in the meat that keeps the strands sticking to one another instead of crumbling apart on your grill.
Different combinations of meats will result in different flavors for your burgers. There are a number of famous purveyors, writers, and chefs who swear by their proprietary grind mix, but in the end, it comes down to personal taste. So the recipes listed in this chapter will all call for “ground beef,” which you can read as a substitute for your favorite blend.
Now you can leave the egg, breadcrumbs, and god knows what else to the 1960s backyard grill warriors, as you should. Handle the meat as gently as possible to keep the texture as loose as possible. Ever see a guy just working the crap out of a bowl of meat before slap-slap-slapping it into patties? That guy’s just making bad sausage. Fake sick or hide in the bathroom when his burgers come off of the grill.
If you don’t have a grinder, or a mixing stand grinder, or a food processor, ask the butcher to double-grind the cuts for you himself. Even that beats the pre-packed stuff for texture and flavor. And if you’re really set in your ways, the recipes in this book will work in spite of your recalcitrance. We’re thorough like that.
Reprinted with permission from ManBQue! © 2014 by John Carruthers and Jesse Valenciana, Running Press, a member of the Perseus Books Group.