Simple, Choice Ground Beef

Ground beef is continually in high demand because it is delicious, is versatile in many different culinary applications and it cooks quickly (convenience factor). Ground beef has historically been less expensive than most retail cuts of beef. That price record is largely because the lean component of commercial ground beef comes predominately from culled dairy and beef brood cows. So, most ground beef is actually of a salvage product from after cows are no longer productive enough at producing milk and/or at calving. Cow carcasses are normally coarse ground and blended with ground fat that’s been trimmed from grain-finished steers & heifers. The blended coarse grind is ground finer during a final grind. Retail market cattle carcass trimmings are gathered in large quantities at harvest plants (economies of scale). Blending-in ground fat trimmings adds value to fat, makes the resulting ground beef more juicy, and helps impart a mild grain-finished beef flavor. Species specific meat flavors are believed to come mainly from animal fat. Today, ground beef is in such high demand that it sometimes sells at a higher retail price per pound than grain-finished chuck and round cuts. That phenomenon is part of the ongoing convenience of preparation food trend.

Pictured is the starting-raw beef that was used to make $2.53 a pound Choice ground beef. I used one large brisket because it was approximately 1/3, much needed, fat. Brisket fat is comparatively soft (less saturated) and uniquely flavorful. Lastly, briskets were on sale at $1.99 per pound. The reminder of the grind was Choice eye of round; that ran me $2.79 per pound at Gordon’s Food Service. Brisket also adds some delicious collagen flavor that is characteristic of ground chuck. Grinding whole muscle cuts can be further considered a best practice because because it cuts down on e-coli contamination risks. Fecal borne e-coli contamination comes from exterior carcass areas; that were exposed during cattle harvest. Hot carcasses go through a steam cabinet and are sprayed with anti-microbial organic acids. Sprayed-on organic acids will make the surface of exposed whole carcass lean appear to be cooked (denatured). Still, I trim off any discolored surfaces and throw them out.

There was a little objectionable material loss in the form of silver-skin, jelly-like membranes, discolored exterior fat and a bit of discolored lean. There was also some bag purge/weep. However, the total weight loss was more than made up for by the few hand fulls of ice that were used to facilitate grinding.

The number of needed sandwich size bags was estimated, and they were opened prior to cutting any meat. I consider that a good practice that helps minimize the length of time that the beef is out of refrigeration.

Meat was cut into strips narrow enough to feed through the meat grinder, it was also somewhat equally distributed between to lugs. The premixing of meat strips better distributes the fat during grinding. Notice the frozen bread in the upper right hand corner of this pic. It was fed through the grinder last to help push beef out of the grinder head.

Grind everything once through a 3/16 inch hole size plate then mix by hand back and forth between the two lugs. You don’t want to grind these young and comparatively tender cuts twice; as is normally done with cow lean grinds. As mentioned before there is very little heavy connective tissue in these cuts. And, I did trim the silver-skin off the tapered ends of the eye of rounds.

After the fat is blended in it fairly well, throw all the grind into one lug.

Pull all the grind to one end of the lug. Piling the grind deep helps keep it cold during packaging (less surface area exposed to room temperature).

Tightly hand pack the GB into sandwich size bags. This run of Choice ground beef yielded 39 bags. I packed-out 16 small bags then got them into the freezer before packing the remaining GB.

4 sandwich size bags fit nicely in a gallon bag; to achieve a tight double wrap. Spread the gallon bags out in the freezer so that they freeze rapidly. When held below 0F and this GB will maintain high quality for a good 6 months. The “smash burger” craze is mostly hype. I just lightly mix in salt, pepper and parsley flakes then form burgers by hand. I partially microwave thaw sandwich bag size packs, cut them into smaller chunks with a chef’s knife then finish microwave thawing.

Save money, have a convenient meat product on-hand and eat good.

Written by George Wolfer

George Wolfer

Been associated with the meat industry pretty much since starting at a Vocational High school Meat Processing program in 1974. Like to learn and teach interesting and worthwhile livestock production, meat processing and marketing practices.

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