Burger Blends Are Bullshit... Or Are They?
"Chef So-And-So does a mix of Brisket, Hanger and Short Rib to make their famous blah blah blah..."
It's all just gimmicky bullshit, right? Or is it?
I know, as butchers, we all tend to think that it doesn't make a difference what muscles go into our burger grind. Just start with good meat, hit about 20% fat, and it's all the same. That's what I've always thought. But recently I've had to reexamine my view.
The first thing that made me question my thinking about burger grinds was when I recently heard myself telling a customer something that I've said a million billion times before. Something along the lines of: "This is a hardworking muscle, so it's a lot more flavorful."
It hit me suddenly. Why would I think different muscles taste different when cooked as steaks and roasts, but somehow they're all the same when they pass through the grinder? It's an inconsistency that's been bugging me lately. So I started thinking about it a lot. From several different angles.
Let's get back to our friend "Chef So-And-So", because this to me is the most interesting angle. If we're going to say that all muscles taste the same in a burger blend, let's at least admit that there may be drastic textural differences. Careful butchers can know for sure that we didn't put shank meat or big chunks of silverskin into our trim. And that our grind will be free of chewy, gristly weirdness. A chef, on the other hand, can only know for sure what's happening in their grind if they buy whole muscles and grind them in-house themselves. If they order ground beef from a distributor, they really have no quality control, so in the best case scenario they're going to get an inconsistent product. Worst case scenario, it will often just be bad.
Now, does this mean that I think if you Pepsi Challenge two 80/20 grinds side by side, you'd be able to tell which one is the Brisket/Chuck/Short Rib, and which is random trim from a whole animal? Probably not. But it does mean that I'll be a bit more patient with the "custom burger blend" people from now on.
Just please don't ask me to grind Filet.