Making your own burgers is a great way to control exactly what goes into your meal, as well as ensuring you get a high-quality product that tastes just how you like it. Rather than sticking to the same basic burger recipe, why not discover the best meat for burgers and really up your game this BBQ season.
Whatever your taste and experience level, there are numerous options, all of which are thousands of times better than your standard grocery store fare.
- 1 Best Meat for Burgers – Beef Cuts
- 2 Expensive Beef Cuts for Burgers
- 3 Dry Aged Beef for Burgers
- 4 Other Great Meats for Burgers
- 5 Choose the Right Meat for Your Burger Patty
- 6 Final Thoughts
Best Meat for Burgers – Beef Cuts
Wondering which cut of beef makes the best burgers? Truth be told, there are actually several great cuts you can use to make homemade burgers. Whether you are looking for a simple single cut or want to try combining two or three different cuts, we’ve got all of the best beef cuts for burgers covered.
The classic burger meat, chuck is an inexpensive cut from the shoulder region. With its 80-20 meat-to-fat ratio, chuck can be used for single meat burgers, having enough fat to remain juicy all on its own. Being from a hard-working muscle, it also has good flavor, although some people find it a little bland.
While chuck is, without a doubt, one of the best single cuts to go for if you don’t want to blend different types, it is also popular combined with other cuts, such as sirloin. If you are just getting started with experimenting making your own burgers or are looking for a good basic burger meat for hassle-free grinding and cooking, you can’t go wrong with chuck.
The brisket comes from the chest area of the cow. This economical cut is a popular BBQ joint, however, bear in mind that if you are using brisket for burgers you’ll want to make sure that it is thoroughly ground.
This will ensure that you’ve broken through all of the tough inter-connective tissues that will otherwise make for a chewy burger. Hence why it’s not uncommon to smoke brisket joints for 12 hours to get them tender and juicy.
Flavorwise, brisket has a distinctive, almost sour taste, with grassy overtones. As this beefy-tasting cut has a high 70-30 lean-to-fat ratio, brisket will give you a rich burger, although it can be a little grainy texture-wise. If you like your burger well done, you may want to try out making a brisket burger or adding it to your burger blend, as the extra fat will help to keep it moist throughout the longer cooking duration.
Another popular cut with a high-fat content, short rib is 70-30 lean-to-fat, for moist, strong tasting burgers.
As the name suggests, this cut comes from the short section of the cow’s ribs, with the meat cut just below the loin. It is fairly inexpensive, making it an economical way to add depth and flavor.
Rich-tasting, with an almost nut-like, umami taste, short rib can be a little overwhelming when used alone. However, whether you decide to use it by itself or in a burger blend with another cut of meat, it certainly helps to ensure your burgers stay juicy thanks to its high fat content. This makes it another good choice to use for well-done burgers.
Often considered as one of the best cuts for steak, sirloin comes from the back area of the cow. Tender, with a good grassy, slightly sour meaty flavor, adding ground sirloin to your burgers is sure to enhance their taste and texture.
With a lean-to-fat ratio of approximately 90-to-10, depending on the exact cut, sirloin just doesn’t have enough fat to make a good burger on its own, especially as you’ll lose a lot on the grill leaving you with a dried out, crumbly burger. So, you’ll want to incorporate another cut into your burger blend.
A popular burger mix including sirloin is to combine 50% chuck with 50% sirloin to up your fat content. Otherwise, short ribs also make a great blend with sirloin where their rich, nutty flavor complements the sirloin’s grassy beefiness.
Skirt steak can be a little tricky to find in some areas, so you may not have come across it pre-packed and ready to buy.
Along with the hanger steak (see below), skirt comes from the plate section of the cow, just below the ribs. The skirt is the diaphragm muscle, making it a fairly fibrous, chewy cut.
As you would expect, skirt is low in fat at 90-10 lean-to-fat. Aside from its low fat content, it can be slightly gritty-tasting when ground – so you’re going to want to mix it on with another cut. However, skirt does give you great depth of flavor with plenty of gamey tang, making it a great addition to your burger mix to liven up any blander cuts.
Gelatin-rich, high in fat, and cheap to buy, oxtail makes a good cut to experiment with adding to your burger blend. It has an 85-15 meat-to-fat ratio, so it can help to boost your burger fat content and juiciness.
When ground, it can be a little gritty, however, this is unnoticeable when mixed in with another cut. Oxtail is high in flavor, for a strong meaty taste. It is best used to elevate your burger mix, transforming blander cuts into a rich-tasting meatiness.
Like skirt steak, hanger steak also comes from the plate primal cut. Cut from the diaphragm area, as given away by its name, this cut “hangs”, encircled by the rib cage. You may also find it called butcher’s steak.
Hanger steak is fairly lean, around 90-10 lean-to-fat, so it can get pretty crumbly when ground. It does, however, have a lot of taste, with a rich game flavor. If you are looking for a more sophisticated burger, you should definitely consider adding some hanger steak into your burger blend.
It’s also a great value, being relatively tender with a big bold flavor for much less than your standard cuts.
Flap steak can easily be confused with hanger steak, as they tend to look very similar and have about the same fat content. However, flap meat is very different, being cut from the bottom sirloin primal, close to the tri-tip. It isn’t that common in big stores, although its popularity is on the rise given its bold meaty flavor.
Inexpensive and pretty lean, when ground up it can crumble due to the low fat content, making it best added to another cut when making burger patties. If combining with other lean cuts, you’ll want to cook your burger fairly rare, or else consider adding a fattier cut to boost fat content for a moist well done burger.
Round comes from the cow’s rear leg and is available in three main cuts: round top, round bottom, and eye round.
Cuts from the round are very flavorsome but lean, with a 93-7 meat to fat ratio. This makes it a good partner for fattier cuts such as short rib when blending your own burger meat mix.
Cheap and considered pretty healthy, you could also consider mixing your ground round in with some chuck for a slightly lower fat burger that’s moist and full of flavor. Round is easy to find and great if you’re on a budget, making it a popular choice to add into any meat blend for burgers.
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Expensive Beef Cuts for Burgers
If you are looking to make extra-special burgers, you may want to consider using Kobe or Wagyu beef. Whether you go for Japanese or American Wagyu beef, you’ll be paying top-dollar for some of the very best meat on the planet.
So good, some people think it’s a waste to use Kobe or Wagyu fillet steaks for burgers. Others really enjoy Wagyu beef burgers, with a 75-25 fat ratio from the extensive marbling providing delicious texture and flavor, for a melt-in-the-mouth experience. One thing is sure, it’s definitely worth trying even if you then decide you prefer it as a steak rather than ground up.
Depending on where you buy your meat, buying an expensive cut for your burgers could be a good move, especially if you are buying at the last minute and choice is limited.
If you can’t get to a local butcher or order in time from one of the excellent online meat shops, purchasing expensive cuts can ensure that you get prime meat that is free from hormones, antibiotics, with no animal by-products in their feed.
Dry Aged Beef for Burgers
If you are really big on flavor and don’t mind spending a lot of cash, then adding dry-aged New York strip steak to your burger blend will give you a strong umami flavor, enhanced by the enzymatic breakdown of the muscle fibers from the dry-aging process.
New York strip steak comes from the short loin cut and has an 85-15 lean-to-fat ratio, or you could opt for a slightly higher 80-20 dry-aged rib eye steak. As dry-aging gives the meat a more intense, beefier taste, it’s definitely well worth trying if you love burgers and don’t mind paying out.
Other Great Meats for Burgers
There are plenty of other great meats that can be used to make burgers. If you are looking for an alternative to standard beef burgers, here are some of the most popular options – you’re sure to find one, or several, to try out at your next BBQ.
Lamb burgers are really tasty and you’ll find a huge variety of recipes, from basic meat-only versions to ones including numerous herbs, spices, and garlic. As with beef, the cut of lamb that you use will make all of the difference to your lamb burgers. If you don’t want to blend different cuts, the best single lamb cut for burgers has got to be the shoulder with its high fat content and deep flavor. It’s also one of the easier cuts to grind at home.
A lot leaner than beef, turkey is a popular, inexpensive alternative. However, the lower fat content means turkey burgers are prone to drying out and falling apart.
Once you have ground up your turkey, you’ll want to add some condiments, such as mayonnaise or ketchup to your mix, or some people prefer to use an egg. Add shallots, garlic, herbs… whatever you like.
A good turkey burger is even better with a range of flavorings and toppings, why not try out something new this weekend?
Looking for the taste of a meaty burger, but need a lower fat version? Then make sure you give buffalo or bison burgers a try.
Similar in taste to beef, but much leaner, lower in calories, and containing more protein, no doubt about it, buffalo burgers are a much healthier alternative to beef burgers. In fact, bison meat is even recommended as an alternative by the American Heart Foundation.
While you can use almost any cut of bison ground for burgers, chuck makes a good all-around choice that isn’t too expensive. Or else, you could try a mix of ground rib and loin. Don’t over-grind your bison meat, one pass through a 3/16 inch plate is recommended.
Elk is an increasingly popular alternative to beef. Similar to venison but without that strong game flavor, elk burgers are both lean and organic. If you are looking for a healthier alternative to beef burgers, without losing out on a meaty taste, you should definitely try making elk burgers.
Use elk chuck for grinding, if your cut comes with any extra fat, make sure you add it into the mix for extra moisture. As with bison, you should try to pass elk through just once on a large, loose grind.
Avoid overworking the meat when making your patties and enjoy medium or medium-rare for the best results.
Packed with high-quality protein and omega-three fatty acids, salmon makes a healthy, yet heartily satisfying burger. Combine shredded salmon with spices and vegetables or mix your salmon chunks with egg and breadcrumbs, form patties and grill. Salmon in particular is a heart-friendly alternative to red meat burgers.
For the best results with the least effort, look out for skinned salmon in store and lightly chop by hand rather than using a food processor for patties that hold better, remaining moist and tender when cooked.
A firm family favorite, chicken burgers are a great alternative to beef. While filling, they are lighter and when coated in breadcrumbs, give you a good crispy texture that works well with a bun and lettuce combo.
Make sure you pick up some boneless, skinned chicken breasts and grind at home for the best chicken burgers. Popular additions to chicken patty mix include cheese, milk, and egg to help keep your chicken burger moist, without it falling apart.
Crab cakes are satisfyingly tasty and fulfilling. Whether you opt for a traditional crab cake with breadcrumbs or go for a full-on cajun crab burger, crab meat has a slightly sweet, almost meaty flavor that’s surprisingly versatile.
Most recipes for crab burgers include mayonnaise as a binding agent to be mixed in with your crab meat and bread crumbs. You can experiment with various other additions including spices, green onions, Worcester sauce, and mustard.
While pork isn’t the first choice that springs to mind when you think of burgers, it is actually a really nice change from beef. Pork shoulder is inexpensive and grinds nicely down. Form patties and grill over a high heat to get a good sear.
Thanks to their good fat content, your pork burgers will cook well on your grill and stay moist. If you are looking to spice things up a little, there are some fantastic Asia pork burger recipes or you could take the easy route with some sweet and spicy condiments.
Wild boar has an almost nutty, distinctive flavor. Healthier than regular pork, it has fewer calories and higher protein levels. It is surprisingly easy to make into burgers, simply grind, roll into balls, and shape into patties.
Enjoy your wild boar burgers with a simple garnish or else try out adding some extras to your burger mix. Apple, blue cheese, and paprika are all popular additions that will really enhance the flavor of your meat.
Venison is low in fat, but high in flavor making it another great alternative to beef. As it is so lean, you’ll want to make sure that you don’t overcook it.
A lot of basic venison burger recipes add in some bacon to help to increase fat levels and ensure that your venison burger stays moist even if you cook it all the way through.
With its rich, earthy taste, venison makes a good choice when you are looking for a strong tasting burger. Plus, as it is game, it is free from additives. If you don’t want to add bacon into your mix, consider adding some beef fat, or blending with a high-fat beef cut.
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Choose the Right Meat for Your Burger Patty
As you will have noticed throughout our best burger meats section, we’ve included you with approximate meat-to-fat ratios.
Ideally, your burger should have an 80-20 lean-to-fat mix, with some people advocating a 75-25 or even a 70-30 mix. There is no doubt that burgers need fat to stay moist and juicy, so try to keep at 80-20 as a minimum.
If you prefer your burger well done as opposed to medium-rare, consider upping your fat content slightly if your burgers are fairly lean. Cooking your homemade burgers until they are cooked through will mean they’ll be on the heat for longer, increasing the likelihood of them drying out. Adding in a little extra fat can make a big difference, giving you a cooked-through burger that is still juicy, tender, and flavorsome.
If you don’t want to mess about with blends, or at least not yet, but could do with upping the fat content and adding a little extra taste, consider adding some bacon into your mix. It’s a quick and easy way to a deliciously tender burger.
Otherwise, if you are thinking of blending your own burger meat mix, here are some starter ideas.
- Chuck – use 100% chuck for a basic burger.
- Chuck and sirloin – a popular burger mix, use half and half to get extra flavor.
- Short rib and sirloin – improve your sirloin’s fat content with short rib and complement its grassy-like flavor with its umami undertones.
- Round or chuck with short rib or brisket – use 70% of the lean cuts of round or chuck and 30% of the higher fat cuts of brisket or short rib.
- Lean cuts and bacon – try 70% chuck, sirloin, or round ground with 30% bacon trimmings.
Obviously, these are just ideas to get you started. While simple is often the best, as you gain experience and work out which flavors and textures are your favorites, the better your burgers will get. Creating the perfect burger can involve a lot of trial and error, and what tastes like perfection to you, may not be everyone else’s ideal.
You might also want to try out mixing up other meats and fish. Aside from the popular traditional pork and beef combination, consider some of the following options:
- Shrimp is a good addition to your crab or salmon burgers.
- Try combining bison with beef sirloin.
- Boar and venison burgers are a popular combination for game lovers.
- Combine lamb with beef or turkey for a milder tasting burger.
There is certainly no shortage of options when it comes down to choosing the best burger meat. While there are several traditional favorites, it all really comes down to finding a good meat-to-fat ratio, an agreeable texture, and a fantastic flavor. As we’re all different, don’t be afraid to take our suggestions as a starting point. Make your own adjustments and come up with your own customized burger blend, you’ll not only end up with the very best burger blend recipe, it is also going to be a lot of fun getting there.