How To Choose The Best Ground Beef For Burgers

With summer coming, many home cooks are getting ready to fire up their grills — and with the grilling season comes hamburgers galore. If you're hoping to make this year's burgers the best ever, there's one simple factor that can make all the difference: the quality of your beef. Whether you gravitate towards inventive flavor combinations (like this quesadilla burger) or are a stickler for a classic cheeseburger, the final product will only be as good as its ingredients.

Though it seems like a fairly straightforward dish, achieving a juicy, flavorful burger can be a challenge. If you don't choose the right type of beef, you might end up with unpleasantly dry patties or a lackluster flavor. According to experts, there are two main guidelines to keep in mind when shopping for ground beef to make your burgers. First, you'll need to choose the right cut of beef and make sure it has the right amount of fat. Second, it's important to consider how recently the beef was ground.

Choosing the right beef

According to Simply Recipes, chuck is the best option for burgers, thanks to its 80/20 fat ratio — meaning that 80% of the beef is lean meat and 20% is fat. These proportions ensure that your burger stays juicy and flavorful, explains The Spruce Eats. If you choose meat that's too lean — defined by the site as above 82% lean meat — your burgers will likely turn out dry.

Choosing beef that is too fatty can also cause problems. As The New York Times pointed out, hamburgers containing over 20% fat won't have as balanced a flavor and are prone to falling apart.

The second factor that can dramatically impact your burgers is how freshly the meat was ground. According to Serious Eats, you should generally stay away from buying pre-ground beef because you wouldn't have control over the coarseness of the grind, but pre-ground meat isn't usually the freshest or highest-quality option available.

Instead, you'll want to either get your beef from a source you trust (such as a local butcher) or simply grind it yourself. And, per Serious Eats, the latter option is easier than you might assume. If you have a KitchenAid mixer, the publication recommends using the brand's meat grinder attachment to make the job easy. Otherwise, hand-cranked grinders are a great option. If you don't have either option, a food processor should do the trick.