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RBR Tailgating: Burgers of Rage

Hamburger 101: Learning from @&$^&#$% mistakes.

Last weekend I ordered a meat grinder attachment for my KitchenAid mixer.

The day it arrived I was like a kid on Christmas morning - not one of our new commercialized Christmas mornings where every avarice is satisfied so much as the old timey Victorian Christmas mornings where a child might get a single present and perchance some elderly crank buys the family a goose to make amends for a lifetime of prudent business practices. I wasn’t expecting the world, but I knew for certain that my burger making game was about to go into an overdrive of mixed metaphors, and just in time for the Texas A&M game.

My favorite hamburgers tend to be on the lunch menu of fine dining restaurants. They grind together trimmings from the evening menu’s filets and strips with fat from other cuts. The results are spectacularly juicier and more flavorful than any pre-ground beef I’ve ever purchased.

I knew it wasn’t in my or most tailgater’s budget to match those white table cloth spots cut for cut, but from what I have been reading, my hand ground patties were about to make the grocery store ground stuff look like McDonald’s.

After dismantling and thoroughly washing my new kitchen toy, I went to a newish gourmet grocery store not far from my house. I had heard good things about their butchers so I went straight to the back, told the white coated gentleman all about my grinding plans, that I was a complete novice, and that I wanted a cut with very high fat content to make a very juicy burger.

Without hesitation he came from behind the counter and pointed to his preferred cut. There were other options at several times the price, but he was adamant that his cheaper choice was the best of the lot for my purposes.

At his recommendation I bought the beef rump roast.

It made the least juicy burgers I’ve ever cooked. My iron skillet was as dry when I pulled them off the heat as when I put them on. Utterly terrible.

Rather than damn his enthusiastically ignorant opinions to wherever I suspect recent chop blockers go to do penance with Ryan Pugh, I’ve stoked my little kernel of rage and lit a fire under myself. By the end of this season I’ll have perfected the tailgate burger. There may not be unanimity on that point among the RBR faithful, but there should be informed discussion.

There’s a cost ceiling when considering a game day meal, so no Kobi or Wagyu beef. I’m after affordable and flavorful.

Anger leads to action. I’ve been reading. I’ll be playing around with various blends of chuck and short ribs in the near future aiming for a 25% fat content with some strong beefy taste, but I’m open to all manner of suggestions. I’m seriously going to test and test until I’m satisfied.

To that end, let me know what you think. If you’re a hamburger aficionado I’d love to hear from you. Share what you’ve learned in the comments or shoot me an email.

By the post season I hope to have, not so much a recipe, but a set of guidelines to help make even the tried and true tailgate heroes just a little bit better.

This week’s dry rump disaster wasn’t a complete waste. You always learn a little by doing.

Marbled, but not nearly marbled enough.

Cold is your friend. Chill the grinder for at least 30 minutes in the freezer before using and keep the meat refrigerated until needed. Do all that you can to keep fats from getting soft. They’ll muck up your grinder to start, and leave you with a mealy burger when cooked.

Cubes of meat are easier to work with than strips. It’s also easier to get a uniform mix when using multiple cuts of beef when you can throw a bunch of different small pieces of meat that a few larger pieces.

Some say grind once. Some say grind twice.

In the above, the pile on the right was ground twice while the pile on the left was ground once. I expected that the twice ground pile would have a more uniform distribution of fat and the once ground would be lumpy. That didn’t seem very evident with the crappy butcher chosen beef until I made patties.

You can see little bits of fat in the once ground patty on the right. Once cooked, the two burgers were indistinguishable from one another, but I’m guessing that once I get my meat blend down, this will actually make a difference.

I’m sorry for the deferred recipe. I’m a little pissed about it to be honest. I cook, photograph, and taste these things on Wednesday and write them up Thursday night. There’s not a lot of time for a redo. This is my sixty third of these posts. Maybe I’ve not pleased every one every time, but until this week, I’ve put forth something I’d be proud to serve. Not this time.

Again, sorry. But I’m a make this thing sing by the end of the season.

Roll Tide, no (more) injuries, and enjoy whatever you are having that isn’t a rump roast hamburger.