There’s no denying that delicious burger starts with a great patty. When it comes to constructing the best burger patty, there are a few factors that come into play – but perhaps the most important one is which meat you choose for your burger.
Ground beef is the most popular choice of meat when it comes to making burger patties at home. You can make some delicious food with ground beef, and we’ll talk about how to pick the best ground beef for burgers in this article too.
But there’s a world of possibility out there when it comes to the best meat for burgers. In this article, we’ll go over a few other factors you should keep in mind when you attempt to construct a delicious burger patty. From there, we’ll talk about some of our top choices for meats to use in your next homemade burger!
A Quick Note on Fat Percentage
It’s important to start with the role fat plays in the cooking process.
Fat is a source of moisture and flavor in any type of meat. When meat gets grilled, the fat melts and adds flavor to your food while also keeping it from drying out over the hot flame.
When it comes to burgers, the ideal fat percentage of your patty mixture is between 15 to 20%. You can go a little bit leaner than that, but you start to sacrifice in the flavor and texture department the leaner you go. Not to mention, the higher fat content will help keep burgers from falling apart.
This is exactly the reason that beef chuck is most common for burgers as it falls right into that sweet spot range of 15 to 20% fat content. You get a perfect amount of fat to keep the patty moist and compliment the beefy flavor of the chuck.
It’s also worth noting that mixing the right types of meat is not only okay, it’s encouraged! Some of the best burgers I’ve had in my life have been blends of different types of meat. At the end of the day, what you’re looking for is a final mixture that falls in that sweet spot of 15 to 20% fat content (a little higher is ok, especially if you like your burgers well done).
Blending can be a great way to incorporate delicious meats that might normally have too low of a fat content for burgers. Ground pork, for example, typically has a fat percentage near 25-30% which can be combined with leaner meats like turkey to make a great burger patty.
You would just need to blend it with a leaner meat, ground beef or otherwise, to end up with a burger patty meat that’s in the 15-20% fat percentage range.
Owning a meat grinder is a key tool and will help unlock a world of burger possibilities. This truly allows you to make burgers out of any type of meat you want – you won’t just be limited to what’s been pre ground for you at the store. And it will definitely be a step up from grilling frozen burgers.
Best Meat for Burgers – Beef Cuts
Here are our picks for the best beef cuts for burgers. Each of these have great flavor, texture, and fat content – making them ideal choices for burgers or burger blends.
Chuck Steak (Ground Chuck)
Ground chuck is the most common type of meat for burgers. It’s ideal because chuck steak naturally has a generous amount of marbling and when ground, falls into that honey hole of fat content percentage that we’re looking for.
Flavor wise, ground chuck has a traditional beefy flavor that any burger lover is familiar with. Seasoned ground chuck can be used for burger patties on its own, but it’s also an ideal candidate for blending and is typically combined with one or two other cuts of meat for enhanced flavor.
I’m from Texas, where BBQ brisket is basically a way of life. Brisket is undoubtedly a top choice on the smoker, but does it work for burgers?
The answer is a huge, resounding yes. Brisket is one of the best meats for burgers thanks to its delicious beef forward flavor and high fat content. Flavor wise, you’ll be hard pressed to find a richer, deeper flavor with your burger. When ground, the fat content of brisket typically hovers around 25-30%, so it’s a great choice to blend with both medium fat content cuts and leaner cuts.
Sirloin and Tri-Tip
While sirloin and tri-tip are not one and the same, they both come from the sirloin section of a steer. For all intents and purposes with regards to burger making, the ground version of these two beef cuts are very similar and interchangeable.
Both of these cuts are pretty lean steak cuts, but packed with beefy flavor. As such, it’s a great cut to combine in a burger blend with other higher fat ingredients. Even simply blending one of these cuts with ground chuck can result in a delicious, classic burger.
Beef round is never used on its own in burgers, but it’s a great additive to blend with some of the other meats on this list. The reason is that beef round is extremely cheap and extremely lean, while providing a nice beef flavor.
So if you’re looking for a proper filler or something that can bring your fat ratio down, give beef round a shot.
Boneless short rib is known for its incredibly rich flavor. It’s very high in fat content, so adding short rib to your burger will result in lots of extra moisture in addition to the beautiful flavor.
Personally, I like to blend short rib into my ground chuck mixtures, especially if my crowd prefers their burgers more well done. The extra moisture does wonders to maintain tenderness and juciness even after a long time on the grill.
Best Meat for Burgers – Non-Beef Cuts
If you want to get a little more ambitious and branch away from traditional beef cuts for your burger, here are some other great choices for best beat for burgers.
Ground turkey has a reputation for being an extremely lean type of meat, which is definitely the case if your ground turkey comes from the breast. The reality for most turkey burgers is that the fat content is closer to around 15%, whether fattier dark turkey meat is included in the blend or if it’s combined with another fattier type of meat.
Either way, turkey is a great option for burgers because of its delicious flavor profile – which is less in your face than beef. It also unlocks a new set of ingredients to work with in your turkey burger recipes like cranberries, feta cheese, and much more.
Pork Shoulder (Ground Pork)
Traditionally, ground pork comes from the pork shoulder section of the animal, and has a delicious, distinct flavor that is great in a burger. It has around a 30% fat content most times, and can be combined with leaner cuts of meat for an ideal burger – beef or otherwise.
Pork tastes great in all situations, and is a particularly good choice for Asian style burger recipes that utilize soy, ginger, sesame, and other Asian inspired flavors.
Buffalo burgers are widely considered to be a more healthy alternative to beef and are high in valuable nutrients like protein, zinc, and vitamin B12. Using buffalo meat also means a naturally lower in fat, calories, and cholesterol alternative to beef.
Compared to beef, buffalo burgers are lighter in flavor. They have an almost slightly sweet flavor and are incredibly tender, even after they’re cooked to well done. With minimal seasoning, you can enjoy the incredible and healthy flavors of buffalo burgers.
Some might just refer to a chicken burger as a chicken sandwich, but it’s nonetheless a great meat to put between two buns with some toppings.
You can make a chicken burger with a thinly sliced chicken breast or with ground chicken. Ground chicken gives you a little more versatility in the flavor department, as ingredients, herbs, and seasonings become a little easier to incorporate.
Salmon burgers fly under the radar but definitely qualifies for this list. Simply take a center cut salmon filet and put it through a food processor to essentially ground your salmon. It has a fantastic natural fat ratio and makes a great burger.
If you really want to take things to the next level, you can coat your burger with bread crumbs to add an outer layer of crunch to the tender insides of your burger. Salmon is a very healthy alternative to beef as salmon is rich in antioxidants, and a great source of high-quality protein, vitamins, minerals, potassium, and selenium.
I hope this article has opened your eyes up to all of the burger possibilities out there! At the end of the day the best meat for burgers is all about two things – texture and flavor.
Achieving the right ratio of fat content is crucial to a great burger, but beyond that it all comes down to personal preference. Which flavors do you like? What are your favorite sides and toppings? How do these interact with your burger patties?
All of these questions can be explored with experimentation and trying new things – so get out there and start making some different types of burgers to throw on the grill!