A Grind Is A Terrible Thing To Waste Transcript

OmahaSteaks.com, Inc.

A Grind is a Terrible Thing to Waste
In the Car

    If America has an official dish it's the hamburger. To any who would argue I say 29 billion hamburger portions of beef per year cannot be wrong. Now whether that qualifies as a cuisine or not, nah, that's another question. Anthropologist Sidney Mintz in fact argues that it's not enough for a food to be eaten a lot or even cooked a lot. It must be debated. It must be discussed often by those who produce it.
    Now by that standard, well, the hamburger may have been cuisine at one point but not now. I mean, we've handed all of our burger making over to drive through drones. And the only discussions we have on the issue are when we're yelling orders at three inch speakers.

Near McDonald's

GUEST: J. Wellington Whimpy, Fictional Entity

    I don't know if Mintz is right. But I do know that if we take burgers into our own hands, treat them like food again instead of Soylent Green, then we might just get our cuisine back. Then who knows what might happen: flavorful meatloaf, succulent meatballs, the sky's the limit, really.

J. WELLINGTON WHIMPY: [knocks on the window] Pardon me, sir. I'll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.
AB: Tell me my disturbingly familiar friend, if I give you money, are you going to go blow it on take-out hamburgers?
JW: Most certainly, sir.
AB: Just as I thought. Hop in big guy. I've got a better idea.

    You know what they say, "Buy a man a burger, feed him for a day. Teach him how to make a great burger, he's got good eats for life."

AB: Strap in, Chubby. [AB accelerates quickly]

Steeps of Russia: Dark Ages - 7:54 am

    Ground beef was probably born during the dark ages when fierce, Tarter tribesmen cruised the plains of Asia with tough cuts of beef under their saddles. The clever carnivores then shot the tenderized meat with herbs and consumed it raw. Thus, Steak Tartare.

The Kitchen

AB: [trying to snap JW out of a daydream] Mister. Hey, mister. Hey. Hey, mister. Are you getting any of this?
JW: I will gladly pay you ...
AB: ... you Tuesday for tomorrow's hamburger next week. Yeah, you told me. You told me. I just ...
JW: [becomes very sad]
AB: Ah, come on. Don't cry mister. I didn't mean to be mean to you. It's just that this stuff is really important. Because to really understand the entire burger chronology you've got to understand the ...
[sneaks out]
AB: ... German experience and combination with the New World [looks around] ... Fine.

Crabapple Kroger: Alpharetta, GA - 10:09 am

GUEST: Penny Lanciano, Meat Cutter

    Where once there was hamburger now there are, like, six or seven ground meat options not including pork, lamb and veal. Successful meat cookery depends on knowing the nature of the native cut. The first two are easy. Ground round and ground sirloin are indeed from the round and sirloin primals, respectively. Extremely lean, round and sirloin tend to dry quickly if overcooked.

ground round
ground sirloin

[The American Steer Diagram]

    But unfortunately, health experts tell us that because of the possibility of food born illness we need to cook our ground meat to 155 degrees for 15 seconds which for round and sirloin is practically jerky.

commercial ground
meat - 155 for
15 seconds

    Their best bets for culinary happiness is to be mixed into a moist meatloaf recipe or combined with fatter meats like pork, lamb or chuck which does come from the chuck primal. Flavorful and juicy, chuck has a little bit of connective tissue and about 30 percent fat. In its raw form, chuck is usually braised into a stew, chili or pot roast. But when ground, chuck becomes hamburger fodder extraordinaire. Which is not to say that it's the same as hamburger or ground beef which comes from ... well let's find out.

Chuck (shoulder)
moderate connective tissue
30% fat

AB: Hi, Penny.
AB: Ground hamburger. What is it?
PL: It's all of our left over trimmings from all of the cutting that we do during the day.
AB: Well, like this?
PL: Like that.
AB: But that's fillet and rib. I mean that's prime stuff there.
PL: Why it's good stuff. It's all good stuff.
AB: So, basically somebody could very well come in here and buy just the hamburger which is from trim and it would be better than, say, buying ground round.
PL: Absolutely.
AB: But how do you like your burgers?
PL: I like the trim and I like ground chuck.
AB: Yeah? Yeah? Do you have any special recipes?
PL: Yeah.
AB: What is it?
PL: A great meatloaf recipe but I'm not telling you.

    Well, even if they won't fess up their secret recipes, the truth is is meat cutters are still full service people. So you can go into a market and pick out a roast or a steak and ask them to grind it right there before your eyes.
    Of course the true hamburger, meatloaf, and meatball lover can and should, I think, occasionally take the grinding into their own hands.

72% of the refrigerators in this country contain ground beef right now.

The Kitchen


    Before we get to grinding, let me answer the question that's been plaguing your mind. Yes, it's worth it. Okay.
    There are three basic ways to home grind. If your mixer accepts a grinder attachment, you're home free. Now home grinders are inexpensive, reliable, easy to use but may be a little too Green Acres for some folks. A sturdy food processor does an amazingly good job at chopping meat. Which may not be exactly the same as grinding, but it does turn out a darn good burger not to mention Steak Tartare ... which is another show.

    Now although I'm a hand grinder fan, today we are going to use the processor simply because in this country these [food processors] out number these [hand grinders] by about 5,000 to one.

    Now the key to successful grinding or chopping is preparation. All the meat should be cubed to about an inch and a half and chilled.

[ed note: he says 1" cubes the text
says " cubes; the recipe calls for 1"]

    Now for a pound of ground meat we're going with eight ounces each of sirloin and chuck.

1/2" cubes

1 lb ground meat =
8 oz sirloin =
8 oz chuck

    They're a couple of other precautions you can take to make sure you don't process your ground meat straight into beef mousse which may sound like a good thing to eat but trust me, it isn't. Those things are work in small batches and with quick pulses.

work in small batches
use quick pulses

    So, I'm going to start with the chuck. Just kind of scatter it around. I know it doesn't look like much but that's actually the perfect amount for a processor this size. The second part is working in pulses. It usually takes about ten to get there. So here we go. One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Six.
    [pauses and takes the top off to show] By the way, this is where I would stop if I was making chili. Take a look. Good chili grind. That was six, right? Yeah. Seven. Eight. Nine. Ten. There we go. We got one little chunk in there. But besides that, that's great looking ground chuck. Got some good fat worked through there which is exactly what we need to hold this mixture together later on.

chili grind

    Now, the same thing with the sirloin. One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Six.
    [pauses and takes the top off to show] This is where I would stop if I was making Steak Tartare. But, hey, that's another show. Seven. Eight. Nine. Ten. Going to take a look. Yeah. There we go. The same texture basically as the chuck. A little finer of a grain, maybe, but that's because it's a little bit leaner.

steak tartare

    Once you've got everything turned out, just kind of mix it over, get it as combined as you can. Now we can go straight from here to cooking. Well, seasoning and then cooking. But, if you don't want to use it right away, just do what butchers do. Wrap it up in a little parchment or butcher's paper, put a piece of tape on it, label it and use it within the next couple of days.

Cooks in Hamburg, Germany applied heat to steak tartare
creating "Hamburg" steak, which later became the rage
as far away as New York's famed Delmonico's.

The Kitchen

    Next up, seasoning. And we only need one thing, salt. Kosher salt. I'd say about half a teaspoon for a pound of meat.

salt ... kosher salt
1/2 tsp

    That's all. No herbs. No chopped onions. No garlic. No soup mix. No mysteries. Just salt. Why? Well because it actually seasons the meat. Makes it taste beefier as opposed to herby or shallot-y or garlic-y or anything like that. Any other flavors that want to hitch a ride can wait to ride on the bun. 

chopped onions
soup mix


    Now, when it comes to portioning we like five-ounce patty. Not four. Not six. Five. And to get it we go to the scales.

5 oz patty

    Now see five ounces renders the perfect patty. Four inches by three quarters of an inch.

4" x 3/4"

    Now when shaping use a light hand. Now just start by kind of shaping it into a ball. Just kind of throw it back and forth until you've got an orb. There. Then flatten out gently. Just kind of make a disk like this using as little pressure as possible. Now if your hands tend to get hot, use a little bit of cold water. It will make the meat stick less.
    Now when it comes to pans, I like to use cast iron. It's extremely dense so it gets very, very hot and it can hold on to that heat even once foods hit it. That means meat, whether it be a steak or a hamburger, will have time to develop a really nice crust.

    Now I like a griddle for hamburgers because no sides means easy spatula access. I don't have to fight my way down in there to flip the burger over. I put this over medium high heat two maybe three minutes before I'm ready to cook.

medium heat
2-3 minutes

    And to figure out if the pan is ready, just kind of drop a little water right into the middle. Now if it sizzles up like that and quickly evaporates, you're in the zone. Good to go. If it just kind of lays there and looks at you, gets one or two bubbles in it, then you definitely got more heating to do. And if the drops kind of just skittle of the side of the pan like rain on a freshly waxed car hood you need to take the pan off the heat and let it cool down for a minute before cooking. This is perfect.
    You'll notice that even though we salted these, well, quite awhile ago, no moisture has leached up out of it at all. Truth is is that it would take hours for that small amount of salt to leach any real moisture out of there. So, another myth dispelled. Into the pan.

    No patty smashing! Now we've all seen it in a movie with a diner scene or something. Someone squishing the burger and it hisses and makes this wonderful sound. Well that sound comes from the fact that this [spatula] is pushing all of the juice out of the burger. Sure it makes it cook quicker, but it makes the meat a whole lot dryer. So, no smashing.

Burger Rule #1:
No Patty Smashing!

Pressing on the burger's raw side with the
spatula can lead to cross-contamination.

    If you're looking for a medium rare burger, and why else grind your own meat if your not looking for a medium rare burgerwell, they still taste greatgo for four minutes on each side. If you prefer a medium burger look for five minutes each side. Then we'll be ready to flip and we'll be ready for the second cardinal rule of burgers.

medium rare = 4 minutes per side
medium = 5 minutes per side
well = why bother?

[AB flips the burger]

Burger Rule #2:
One Flip Only!

    Now before you pour on the usual condiments do me a favor. Just try this just one time, okay? Toasted bun, right? Little mayonnaise. Or a lot of mayonnaise depending on how you feel about mayonnaise. Little black pepper. Fresh ground. Right in the middle. Okay. Now that is going to form the base of a sauce that will be completed by the juices from a well rested hamburger patty, cooked medium-rare of course. Top that off with the other part of the toasted bun.

toasted bun
black pepper

    I'm willing to bet that you haven't had flavor like that in your mouth for years. Maybe ever. And heck, we don't have to stop there. This thing was built for add-ons. [AB walks over to the fridge while JW's hand reaches in and takes the burger] I mean, besides, you know, mustard and pickles, lettuce, onions, tomatoes especially when they are in season. Sometimes I actually like to take c ... [stops, notices the burger gone, looks around]

Outside on Bench

    Although cooking to 160 is the only way to be absolutely, double-dog sure your beef is safe, most E. Coli cases involving beef have been specifically targeted at commercial grinders. So grinding whole cuts at home certainly improves your odds of creating a worry free medium-rare burger. A pleasure, I admit, I never eat out. By the way, even if you prefer well done, grind your own. It just plain tastes better.

The Kitchen

    Great meatloaf is always juicy, but it never falls apart. It is neither bland nor so heavily seasoned that is looses its meaty soul. A great meatloaf is, in fact, a lot like a great hamburger only turned inside out. This is how we do ours.

    Step one. Oven set to 325 degrees.

heat oven to 325

    Now, the software. There's a lot of it but don't be overwhelmed by it. We're going to kind of split it into teams. The dry, the vegetables and the meat. It will be a whole lot easier than you think.


    It all starts with six ounces by weight of garlic flavored croutons. Then we follow that with a half teaspoon of two peppers, both black and cayenne right in on top of the croutons. A teaspoon of chili powder and a teaspoon of dried thyme. Now just spin this up until the croutons basically don't look like croutons any more. There, that looks pretty good. There's still some recognizable forms in there but, hey, it's meatloaf. Into the big bowl.

6 oz garlic croutons
1/2 tsp black & cayenne pepper
1 tsp chili powder & dry thyme

    One half of an onion. I've just kind of cut this up into quarters and it fell apart the rest of the way. Into the processor. One carrot just peeled and snapped into pieces and to tell you the truth, if you wash the carrots you can skip the peeling part. Three cloves of garlic. No paper please. And about half of a red paper, just torn into chunks.

1/2 onion, rough chop
1 carrot, broken
3 garlic cloves
1/2 red bell peppers, torn

    Now it's better to over process here than under process but you don't want to turn this into a puree. That looks about right. Now just get your finger underneath and hold the blade in, you can drop everything in at once. There.

work in pulses

    Now besides body and sweetness the vegetables are going to provide a lot of moisture for the meatloaf which is actually going to prevent us from having to add extra moisture. Most recipes that you see include a lot of water or cream even or a lot of extra oil. We're not going to need any of that because the moisture is already built in.

    Now the meat is the same break down as we used before. Eighteen ounces of each. One. Two. Nine. Ten. Okay. That goes on top.

1:1 Chuck to Sirloin

18 oz Chuck & Sirloin

    Now I'm also going to go ahead and add a little bit of salt. Not a whole lot because those croutons, I admit, I bought in a store. Okay, I'm a little lazy. They have a lot of sodium on there but they're going to need just a little bit more because there's a lot of meat in here. So I'm going to put about a teaspoon and a half of salt right on top of the meat.

Check out the
crouton recipe from
"Salad Daze" at

1 1/2 tsp kosher salt

    I'm going to go ahead and mix this up before we add the final ingredient. Of course the final ingredient would be something to help bind all this up. And that would be something that would, well, hopefully have a little bit of an emulsifier in it maybe. Something like, say, lecithin which of course would be present in large amounts in one egg. It only takes one. If you put two eggs into a meatloaf some really nasty things can happen. It's got to do with proteins and fats. Let's just say don't use more than one because one's enough. Don't crack this on the side of the bowl. It's a bad thing. It pushes the shells up into the egg. So, one egg right into the middle.


1 egg

    These are clean [hands] and they are perfectly useable. What you don't want to do is work the meatloaf like this. You don't want to squeeze it. That's just going to mess up the wonderful texture that we've got working in the meat. So just toss this. Time to pan up.

Don't squeeze the Meatloaf.

    Now, the loaf pan is not here for what you think. Just kind of pack this straight into the loaf pan. Now once it's all in, just kind of push it out so it fills the corners. This is strictly going to be a mold. There. Now just turn this out right in the middle of the pan or as close to the middle as you can get. And it will come out like that.

    Why not cook the meatloaf in this [bread] pan instead of that [sheet] pan? Oil can get out. The fat that seeps out, and there's going to be some, can just head right on out of the loaf. In here, no such luck. If you don't' have a loaf pan to shape it just throw it down and shape it with your hands. Just put a little cold water on your hands before you do it. I've seen meatloafs that look like cartoon characters for goodness sakes.

oil get out
heat gets in

    Now the most important thing about cooking meatloaf is temperature management. If this overcooks or cooks too fast, you're going to get a grainy texture because all the little proteins are going to ball up and just squeeze out all the other ingredients. It will crumble on the plate. Very unsatisfying. So, the best thing to do is to stick with a low oven and use a probe thermometer. Just insert the probe at a 45 angle right into the top of the loaf like that. You don't' want to over shoot the middle of the loaf or you might hit the bottom of the pan and that will give you a false reading.

low oven
probe thermometer

    So, that's pretty secure. And this is going to go straight into that 325 degree oven. It's a relatively low oven.

325 oven

    Now all you have to do is plug in your probe and wait till she chirps. Of course there is one other small job to do.

set for 155

The hamburger bun was invented by Walt Anderson,
a Kansas cook who later founded White Castle.

The Kitchen

    The glaze. And it's pretty complicated so you'd better hold on to your britches.

    It all starts with a half cup of ketchup. Any brand will do. Now the sugar in the ketchup is going to help to create the harden surface of the glaze. You need a little bit of sugar for that. Otherwise it's just going to be red frosting.

1/2 cup ketchup

    Next, a tablespoon of cumin hopefully freshly toasted and ground would be best. Then you're going to toss in a shot of Worcestershire sauce and a shot of your favorite hot sauce. There you go.

1 Tbls ground cumin
shot of worcestershire
shot of hot sauce

    And just to make sure that this really does become a glaze something that's got a shiny crunch on the outside I give a couple of squeezes of honey. Not a lot. Don't want to overwhelm it with sweetness.

1 Tbls honey

    Now just mix that up kind of like a very, very red cocktail and spoon* it on. Now I usually wait and do this once the meatloaf has been in for, well, 10 or 15 minutes just to let the outside of the meat kind of crust up a little bit. If it's less moist on the surface, the glaze is going to stick better. Yeah that looks about right. Of course, oven opening is evil, as we all know, so work quickly.
    When it sets, this glaze will create a darned tasty crust. Crust being another thing you can't get if you use a loaf pan.

    Now you know one of the things that I like best about meatloaf is that it's modular. It's kind of the 'garanimals' of food. You can switch out almost any ingredient in this as long as you keep the chuck there. At least a third of the meat should always be beef chuck. It's got the texture, the right fat content.

30% chuck

    But you could use ground lamb, you could use ground pork just about anything that you like.

lamb pork
veal emu
venison opossum

    As far as vegetables goes, shoot, sky's the limit. But if you really like high moisture things like mushrooms, cook them a little bit before you add them to the meatloaf or they'll just water log it.

cook hi-moisture veggies first

    Oh, did I mention that this meatloaf recipe morphs marvelously into meatballs. It's true. All you have to do is scoop it out with a disher or even an ice cream scoop. Shape them into rounds, brown them in a little hot oil and then braze them long and low in a nice red sauce. Of course the red sauce is another ... [JW's hands reach into the PIP and take the meatballs] hey, what the ...?

Worcestershire Sauce descends from garum
a Roman sauce made from rotten fish.

    Now before you slice that up into luscious slabs and park it along side mash potatoes or build any incredibly high meatloaf sandwiches, which is what I intend to do, give this a rest. After all it is meat and it needs a few minutes just to kind of get its juices back together. So ten minutes on the counter.
    And when cutting time does arrive, break out your serrated knife. It's going to make for a much, much cleaner cut [door knocking] and your pieces ... [JW knocks on the front door] augh ... excuse me ... [goes to answer door while JW has somehow entered the kitchen and takes the meatloaf]

The Street

    We hope we've shed some new light on our old friend ground meat. Long exiled to drive-throughs and ketchup casseroles, this American manna waits for us to come to its rescue. And considering the vexing disappearances of today, it looks like I'm off to rescue a little bit more. See you next time on Good Eats.

*Although he says to "spoon" it on, he's ends up brushing it on.

Hit Counter

Last Edited on 08/27/2010