Grilling Guide

All About Ground Beef & Grilling Burgers

Hamburgers are a tailgate and backyard barbecue staple at cookouts across the country. Have you ever thought about all the different ways you can enhance ground beef for grilling burgers?  Every part of the burger-making process, such as sourcing, lean-to-fat ratios, and the type of beef, impacts the magnificence of sinking your chops into that thick, juicy hamburger patty. Get ready to take your burger grilling game from great to glorious!

What is Ground Beef?

Ground beef is the basic building block for grilling a great burger. Not all ground beef is the same. The lean-to-fat ratios and where the meat came from on the cow is what differentiates the varieties of ground beef. These both have a significant impact on flavor and cooking times.

How Is Ground Beef Made?

Ground beef is made from whole-muscle trimmings as they’re cut into steaks and roasts. Since trimmings have different fat content based on their original cuts, they’re blended together to achieve desired lean-to-fat ratios.

This trimming-blending process is crucial for ground beef made from whole-muscle cuts, such as chuck roast, or undesirable beef sections that aren’t suitable for sale on their own. Creating ground beef is an efficient way to use every ounce of meat on the carcass.

Best Cattle Cuts Used for Ground Beef

Ground meat can come from any of the 9 primal cuts of beef. Typically, from the chuck, short plate, brisket, or flank. Ground chuck is the most popular and can be paired with trimmings from other primal cuts to achieve different flavor profiles and lean-to-fat ratios.

Best Lean-to-Fat Ratio for Burgers

The amount of lean meat compared to fat in the blend heavily influences flavor, nutrition, and ease of grilling. Ground chuck with an 80/20 ratio is commonly referred to as lean ground beef. It perfectly splits the difference between too lean and too fatty, delivering a juicy, flavorful burger. The 80/20 ground beef is preferred among most Americans and grill masters!

A fattier ratio (70/30) typically results in an overly greasy burger that may shrink and cause flare-ups as the fat renders over the flames. Because it has the highest fat content it also has the most flavor and is also the most affordable.

Try different lean-to-fat burger ratios until you’ve found your favorite blend. Just remember to adjust cooking times and techniques to accommodate the fat percentage and its effect on your patties.

Popular Types of Burgers

Now for a more detailed look at some of the most common burger styles – from the standard ground chuck burger to different types of meat and veggie burgers. Here’s a quick rundown of what makes each burger patty unique.

Ground Chuck Burgers

Most popular choice because it naturally has the ideal 80/20 lean-to-fat ratio we covet in burgers. The moderate fat content usually doesn’t cause the patty to fall apart, shrink, or dry out when grilled.

Steakhouse Burgers

This beef blend is a mix of chuck, brisket, and short-rib meat that spurs a taste explosion along with tenderness and richness that you just can’t get from a standard ground chuck burger. The lean-to-fat ratio depends on how the beef trio is blended. A fattier ratio will require greater care over the flames, so always check the numbers before firing up the grill.

Bison Burgers

Bison is a popular alternative to beef. A much leaner blend that makes grilling a little trickier as the meat tends to dry and fall apart in the absence of binding fat. The common lean-to-fat ratio for this type of burger is 90/10, resulting in a healthier patty that’s more vitamin-rich with lower cholesterol. Bison meat is also slightly sweeter than beef, so it’s a great base for savory burger toppings like mushrooms and bacon.

Wagyu Burgers

Wagyu burgers have a fattier composition that can create flare-ups if not closely monitored. The flavor is worth the slight shakeup in cooking style. Thanks to more balanced lean-to-fat ratios like 75/25, these burgers are rich, juicy, and borderline decadent.

Stuffed Burgers

You can stuff a burger with just about anything: bacon, different cheeses, mushrooms, or jalapenos. Keep in mind that the patties will be heavier than usual when flipping. So, crimp the edges of the burger to completely seal in the stuffing. After that, grill as usual for perhaps a minute or two longer to account for the extra ingredients.

Veggie Burgers

Veggie burgers are made using a variety of plant-based foods. Grilling a veggie burger is just like grilling any meat patty. If you’re making your own blend, roast the veggies beforehand to force out their moisture. Otherwise, the water will cause the burger to fall apart as it grills.

Seasoning Burgers

Burgers taste significantly better with seasonings dispersed throughout the meat, not just on the surface. Use salt and pepper at a minimum. Wet ingredients like minced onion, ketchup, mustard, and Worcestershire sauce improve not only the taste but also the juiciness. Mix in the seasonings as gently as possible with your fingertips so you don’t compress the texture too much.

Making Burger Patties

Proportion the meat using 1-pound of beef to make 4 quarter-pounders as a starting point. Roll into evenly sized balls. Then using your hands, the lid of a jar, or a burger press flatten the ground beef balls into discs sized according to your needs. Create a small dimple with your thumb in the center of each flattened patty. As each patty cooks, that well will fill in and flatten out, giving you a nice level surface.

Grilling Burgers

Set up grill for dual-zone cooking, so you can move patties to a low-heat area if flare-ups become an issue. Place burgers on the grill from back to front and left to right, also flipping them in this same order to avoid reaching over leaping flames. Never press your burger into the grates with your spatula, all this does is remove the fat and juices then you will be missing out on those wonderful flavors.

Well, that pretty much covers the basics of ground beef and grilling burgers. Now you can become a burger boss like never before. Wow your guests and create mouthwatering masterpieces at the next tailgate or backyard BBQ gathering!