Why Blended Beef Grinds Make For The Best Burgers, According To Shake Shack's Top Chef

Backyard grill masters all over the world are engaged in the relentless pursuit of the perfect burger. By tinkering with spices, splurging on premium buns and toppings, and fine-tuning the application of heat, we get closer and closer to the ultimate meal — but let's not forget about the beef itself. We recently had a chance to chat with John Karangis, Executive Chef and VP of Culinary Innovation at Shake Shack, about what he looks for in a burger patty. It turns out, the one thing we've all been overlooking is coarseness.

"Ground beef is made with different sized plates on a meat grinder," Karangis told us. "A coarse grind on ground beef means the meat is ground using plates with larger holes in it, producing a coarser texture." So, highly coarse ground beef would contain large chunks of meat, whereas ground beef that isn't as coarse would be made of small pieces.

"Personally, I prefer a variety of grinds to contribute to the overall eating experience," Karangis went on. "Smaller grinds are more likely to blend in the patty when cooked, cooking slightly quicker while contributing more fat and moisture to the burger, while the larger grinds provide another important texture and nuance." By combining the strengths of fine and coarse ground beef, we can take advantage of both while minimizing the drawbacks of each. This is a game changer since it means that the most expensive beef is no longer the best choice for burgers.

Beef so fine

"I've seen several different grind sizes through the years," said Karangis. "Ranging from a small grind size, which is very fine, to much larger grind sizes." If your grocery store doesn't offer a blend of both fine and coarse ground beef, all you need to do is mix the two together when you're forming the burger patties.

Of course, there are plenty of other ways to add flavor when cooking ground beef that all contribute in meaningful ways. "The overall success of a well-cooked burger is very reliant on ensuring the meat and cuts chosen are incredibly fresh, and the patty is well-seasoned and cooked made to order like we do at Shake Shack. These are all important factors we follow in making all our burgers in all of our Shacks."

The same idea applies to other ground beef recipes you're looking to take up a notch. By considering the coarseness of the beef and keeping an open mind about mixing different beef grinds together, you can exert more control over your cooking. Karangis himself was a fan of using this idea outside of burgers. "A beef chili or a Bolognese sauce both use ground meat, and it could be made simply with a larger or smaller grind of beef. For me, I really enjoy a variety of grind sizes. Mouthfeel and texture are so important to the overall enjoyment of food, and I wouldn't want to limit texture (or flavor) if I didn't have to."