The staple of any good cookout, whether it’s part of a celebration – like the 4th of July, a summer birthday, or just a June Saturday — is the cheeseburger.
Cooking a burger is one of the most simple things you can do. Using grass-fed beef is a way to make your summer burgers a bit healthier, but it can also add a degree of difficulty to the task if you don’t know what you’re doing.
The difference in grass-fed beef
Our ButcherBox grass-fed ground beef has a meat-to-fat ratio of 80 percent meat to 20 percent fat, which is just the perfect amount of fat to ensure that the meat stays rich and juicy, and maintains a robust flavor.
Our in-house chef Yankel Polak says that, first and foremost, grass-fed burgers are better because of their flavor. “Grass-fed has a significantly more developed flavor, almost as though it’s been dry-aged,” Chef Yankel says.
As we’ve mentioned previously, grass-fed meat has numerous benefits. Not only are you getting meat that hasn’t been fattened with grains on a feedlot but has been pasture-raised and eaten grass its entire life — which is more humane as well. Grass-fed beef is considered more nutritious according to folks with more nutrition knowledge than us.
As our friend Liz Wolfe of Real Food Liz explained the benefits of ButcherBox grass-fed beef, “The meat is healthier for us…more conjugated linoleic acid (a super interesting and health-promoting substance) and a better ratio of Omega 3 to Omega 6 fats.”
How to cook a burger the right way
Enough about how great the meat is, here’s how to take grass-fed ground beef and turn it into something magical.
First, make sure to preheat the grill. If you are using an open flame, let the heat source burn down which will minimize flare-ups, something more common with grass-fed beef.
Yankel says that you should always start with an extremely hot surface. “I like to set up two zones when grilling so I can sear on the hottest part and move it to the lower temp to finish,” he suggests. “That initial blast of heat is crucial to get the flavorful caramelized crust without overcooking the inside.” This can be done on both gas grills and charcoal grills. On a gas grill, set the burner temperatures at different heats and cook burgers on the cooler side once seared. On a charcoal grill, you can get the perfect burger by moving the hot charcoals to one section and sear on high heat and finish on medium heat or the cooler part.
If you are cooking inside, on a cast iron skillet, for example, you will need to follow a few different directions — check out the New York Times food section story on cooking “diner-style burgers” for more on cast iron cooking advice.
In terms of add-ins. Most chefs agree that the more simple you keep it the better the burger ends up. The best thing to add to a grass-fed burger is salt and pepper. “Once you start mixing vegetables — like onions — and BBQ sauce into your ground beef you’re going to experience changes in cooking time and texture, and you’ll lose that amazing beefy flavor,” Yankel explained. Although, if you do want some extra flavor, try adding other dry ingredients like garlic powder or onion powder. If you do add Worcestershire sauce or a marinade or dressing, do so sparingly.
No All-American burger is complete without adding some slices of cheese. Whether it is American cheese, cheddar, or something more exotic, there are differing opinions on how to add cheese to get the perfect burger. While you can just throw cheese slices right on the burger after flipping it over, Chris Thompson over at Gawker suggests putting the cheese on the top of the hamburger bun, and then putting the meat onto the cheese, melting the cheese into the bread and burger. You can then add burger toppings to the bottom of the burger.
Grass-fed beef in general cooks about 30 percent faster than grain-fed. Chef Yankel says, “Obviously there’s a lot of room for variety and error here, but the general rule of thumb is: Don’t walk away while it’s cooking.”
A good rule of thumb for a 6-ounce burger is to cook it for about 4 minutes per side for medium-rare. Although you’d be tempted to do so, the less you flip them, the more they retain their juiciness and flavor. “Grass-fed, grass-finished beef tends to be a bit dryer and chewier after 130°F, or medium. So you want to cook your burgers to medium-rare, which is an internal temperature of 120°F.”
(The one time to break this rule is Chef Yankel’s special ButcherBox Bacon Burger recipe below where he mixes a whole bunch of chopped bacon and ground beef together for a truly unique burger. With the bacon burger, you can cook longer, and the burgers stay moist and juicy due to the additional incorporated fat content.)
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Lastly, the best grilled burgers are given some time to rest after cooking. “The longer it rests, the better it will taste, the juicier it will be, the more vibrant the color inside,” says Chef Yankel. For the best possible flavor and texture, always allow ButcherBox grass-fed burgers to rest in a warm place for 8 to 10 minutes after cooking before cutting or serving.
The biggest mistake people make when cooking grass-fed burgers is that they overcook the meat. “Meat continues to cook after removing it from the heat,” Chef Yankel says.
You can just grab some ground beef and throw it on the grill, but then you’d be missing out on the best burger you could possibly make. Cooking great grass-fed burgers takes a bit more attention to detail.
The great thing is that the result is a fantastic, healthy, and mouth-watering burger.
Here is one of our favorite burger recipes…with a twist. Chef Yankel’s ButcherBox Bacon Burger mixes some bacon with our grass-fed ground beef for a burger that will shock the tastebuds of your guests at your next barbecue.
ButcherBox Bacon Burger with Chipotle-Lime Mayo
- 1 pack ButcherBox ground beef
- 1 pack ButcherBox bacon
- 1 Tbsp freshly ground black pepper
- 2 avocados peeled and halved
- 6 burger buns or lettuce leaves
- salt and pepper to taste
- 2 Tbsp chipotle paste
- 1 Tbsp lime juice
- 1 c mayo
- 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tsp cracked black pepper
- 1 tsp kosher salt
Bring burgers and bacon to room temperature.
Preheat grill to high heat.
Place defrosted bacon in the freezer for 15 minutes and then finely chop or pulse in a food processor.
Mix pepper, bacon, and ground beef together and form into 6 equal patties, about 6 oz. each.
For medium-rare, grill for 4 min per side, while rotating 90° every 2 min. Keep your meat moving to ensure that it cooks evenly. Remove from grill when the meat thermometer inserted into patty reads 120°F.*
Rest for at least 8 min.
Rub avocado with olive oil and season with salt. Grill face-down for two minutes, with a 90 turn after one minute. Set aside, and slice when cool.
Combine pepper, kosher salt, mayo, lime juice and chipotle paste and mix well.
Stack your burger, avocado slices, and chipotle mayo.
Make sure to grab a napkin and enjoy!
*If flare-ups occur due to the cooking bacon, move burger off flame briefly while flame dies down, then continue cooking.