Choose Chuck for Better Burger

burgerYou are tantalized by building a better burger. My inbox is filled with promise. But essentially, it centers around four elements: the meat, the cheese, the grill and the bun.

First up — the meat aisle. Most of you will notice that ground meat often isn’t labeled ground chuck or ground sirloin. The packaging indicates the fat content: 80 percent, 90 percent and 95 percent lean being the typical three.

A meat department employee at Wegmans on  West Ridge Road store explained that more than one type of beef can be ground together to create the different percentages, such as sirloin and round in the 90 percent. You can go to the butcher shop and ask to have either chuck (typically 80 percent lean) or sirloin (typically 90 percent lean) ground, but that requires some planning. Personally, I love Urbaniak Brothers and buy ground chuck there. But I live about 25 minutes away, so it’s not always convenient.

If you are in a hurry, buy the 80 percent at the grocery store. That means 20 percent fat, which equals flavor, but also means shrinkage. So keep that in mind when forming your patties.

I’m in love with Wegmans new onion rolls, so those typically go into my cart. Aldi has lovely brioche rolls that are on all the trendy menus. Be sure to toast both, otherwise they can dissolve with the juicy burger.

Then there is the cheese. So many varieties, so little time. Poll your guests or make sure to buy a variety, such as cheddar, Swiss, bleu and one of my favorites, Muenster.

Finally, there is the fire. Go charcoal all the way, baby. For great grilled flavor, it has to be charcoal. If it’s a weeknight or there are more than a dozen people and assorted salads, I would use the gas grill.

To get a 4-ounce cooked burger (quarter-pound), you need 5 ounces of ground beef. For a 5-ounce cooked burger (just shy, actually), you will need 6-ounce patties. This accounts for the shrinkage from the 20 percent fat. To shape them, I like to use the top of a mayo jar. I put an indentation about the size of a quarter into the center each patty to help keep it flat (you’ll notice if you don’t, the middle peaks and the sides slope down) when it is cooked.

Then salt and pepper both sides before cooking.

Place onto the grill. If you need to check doneness by temp, they make these cute little thermometers that indicate rare, medium, well done. Put it in after the first flip otherwise you will burn your fingers trying to pull it out when flipping. My general rule of thumb is to flip after the first 2 1/2 to 3 minutes. Cooking time is going to depend on the heat of your grill.

mini thermometers
You can find these on Amazon for about $10.

Finally, let it rest. Give the burger about 5 minutes to finish cooking, collect its juices back an sit for a minute. Use that time to gently toast your rolls.

Serve with sliced tomatoes, lettuce, onion and condiments you like.

If you are feeling up to more of a burger challenge, I suggest a mixture of 1/3 ground chuck, beef short rib and bison. More on that in another posting.

Happy grilling,


Published by


Mom, blogger, former magazine editor in who loves family, friends, good food, and adventure. She is the owner of Meadballs, LLC, which delivers farm-fresh meals she has cooked in her northwestern Pennsylvania kitchen.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *