Recently the Test Kitchens staff had a lively discussion about the makings of a perfect hamburger. We all agreed that you definitely want to start with fresh, good-quality ground beef―but what about that lean-to-fat ratio? And is it really worth it to pay more for an expensive cut of ground beef? There were lots of different opinions, so we headed for the local supermarket to do a little research.
Prices will vary according to store and weekly specials, but the minimum percentage of lean meat found in the different types of ground beef is set by government standards. We weighed the ground beef before and after cooking, shaping four burgers from each pound of meat.
Extra-lean ground beef ($4.19 per pound) and ground sirloin ($3.99 per pound) were both labeled 92% lean, but we found the sirloin had a much better flavor and was not quite as dry. Ground round ($3.29 per pound and 85% lean) proved to be the group's favorite. Juicy and flavorful, it tasted considerably less greasy than ground chuck ($2.79 per pound and 80% lean). Whether pan-fried or grilled, they all yielded a cooked weight of around 12 ounces, which let us know that there was still a good bit of fat hanging around in some of those burgers. Ground beef ($1.69 per pound and 73% lean) yielded a cooked weight of 10 ½ ounces and left an alarming amount of grease in the skillet. Where cost is concerned it's a bargain, but if a recipe doesn't allow for a good bit of fat to be drained off after browning (such as meat loaf or stuffed peppers), then opt for a leaner cut.
Tips and Tidbits