Food Fight: Ground beef
The good stuff.
With all the recent concerns about meat tainted with E. coli and unsanitary slaughterhouse practices, it's hard to know where to get a safe burger. Well, how about grinding up your own beef and making your own? It's as easy as getting an attachment for your KitchenAid (or even just using your food processor), it's cheap, and there's no worries about your burger coming from multiple sources and being mixed with "mash-like product" and "trimmings" as a recent New York Times' article describes the composition of many industrialized beef patties. Here's the lowdown on two different burger blends:
Burger #1: the raw materials.
Burger #1 was composed of a 55/45 blend of chuck and sirloin from Rainbow. You can readily see how different a patty looks -- that rich, ruby color and those fantastic globules of fat -- when you self-grind, even if it's typical Rainbow-quality.
Burger #1: the finished product.
After frying them up to a nice medium/medium rare, we dug in. The burger was juicy and flavorful, with a nice, lightly crisp exterior. Extremely passable. Delicious even. Our burger master figured it comes out to about $2/burger going this route. Not. freaking. bad.
Burger #2: the raw materials.
Burger #2 was made with an organic, grass-fed trifecta of sirloin, brisket, and oxtail -- all from Seward Co-op. Here's the recipe we used, from Serious Eats. If the Rainbow blend looked robust and healthy raw, look at these babies. It's sort of like when the Wizard of Oz turned from black and white to color.
Burger #2: the finished product.
This burger was almost Sloppy Joe-like in how moist and loose it was.The meat tasted earthier than the Rainbow blend, and a tad more chewy. This burger was also fattier than the other. All in all it was distinct, what one of my eating companions suggested she'd serve on a special occasion. Total cost per burger? About $4.
The Winner: Burger #2. While twice as expensive, and probably twice as labor-intensive (due to the oxtails -- man you really gotta manhandle them), we unanimously decided that the unique, rich, fatty flavor made #2 worth the dimes and effort. For every-day burger making, the Rainbow blend is perfectly acceptable -- one of my companions couldn't distinguish between the two at one point -- but at the end of the day the organic beef stood out. Both were far tastier than any frozen, pre-formed patty though. The takeaway? Grind yer own beef if you can.
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