Warning: The following facts are off-putting but important. In the United States, most beef comes from one of only 13 processing plants. This state of affairs means that preground beef can contain meat from hundreds of different cattle, increasing the risk of bacterial contamination, and has been recalled on several recent occasions for this very reason.
Therefore, for a number of food-safety and practical cooking reasons, we’ll always opt for freshly ground meat. That means you’ve got two options: Find a butcher who will grind cuts of meat to order, or grind it yourself. But not all markets offer freshly ground meat: Many purchase bulk packages of ground beef from beef-processing plants, which they sometimes regrind and supplement with meat scraps before packing into smaller parcels.
YOU CALL THE SHOTS
The good news is that grinding beef at home isn’t difficult, and doing so will improve the taste of any dish exponentially. The fresher the meat, the better it will taste, and grinding it yourself also allows you to control the fineness of the grind; you’re in control and can be sure you’ll end up with the exact results you want.
HOW TO GRIND YOUR OWN MEAT
1. Cut the meat into 1-inch chunks and freeze it until it is very firm and starting to harden around the edges but still pliable, 15 to 25 minutes.
2. Working with 8 ounces of meat at a time, pulse the chunks in a food processor until they’re coarsely ground, ten to fifteen 1-second pulses (longer for a finer grind), stopping and redistributing the meat around the bowl as necessary to ensure even grinding.
NOTE: This technique can also be used with pork, lamb, chicken, or turkey (stick with chicken thighs or turkey thighs; the white meat is too lean). For lamb, you can use a shoulder roast or shoulder chops—they're both perfect for this task. For pork, you can use a boneless pork shoulder roast (it's often labeled as "Boston butt"). With all these cuts the method is exactly the same: Cut the meat into small pieces (making sure to trim away any excess fat), freeze until nice and firm, and then process in batches.
RECIPE FOR MEMBERS: Juicy Pub-Style Burgers
Our hand-ground burgers start with sirloin steak tips for their supremely beefy flavor, and we up the richness factor by adding melted butter to the freshly ground beef before forming the patties.