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The Best Ground-Beef-To-Fat Ratio For A Perfect Burger

With grilling season fast approaching, it’s time to consider: What is it that makes hamburgers so craveable?

It turns out it’s all about the fat. And on this, experts concur — the most popular and flavorful ratio of lean to fat comes in at 80/20.

Paul Piccinini, owner of New York City’s Piccinini Brothers, which sells to restaurants as well as individuals, says his most popular mixture for hamburgers is an 80/20 ground chuck. “That is what produces that juicy, flavorful burger people look for,” he said.

Piccinini says he does have customers who ask for a 90/10 leaner mix, or who go in the opposite direction and ask for 70/30. “People with health concerns generally ask for a leaner profile, but that burger can be on the drier side,” he said. For those who want something fattier, Piccinini notes the 70/30 ratio can be a bit more flavorful, but creates a “sloppier and messier burger.” Like other butchers, Piccinini can create a “custom flavor profile” by adding other meats such as brisket, short rib or an aged meat to the chuck.

“People love burgers because of the fat feel,” said Ashraf El-Gharby, owner of Halal Cuts Taco and Meat Shop in Irving, Texas. “You see people who are very health-conscious, but there is just something about burgers.”

El-Gharby, who has a master’s in food science, said a good burger’s appeal is “a function of the fat.” He calls 80/20 the “magic mix,” and says he’s typically grinding “a nice marbled chuck.” El-Gharby and other butchers urge consumers to buy burgers that have just been ground. “A good burger has a nice mouthfeel that envelops your taste buds,” he said.

Always read the labels on packages of ground beef to find the right fat percentage.

lleerogers via Getty Images

Always read the labels on packages of ground beef to find the right fat percentage.

“When I do want a hamburger, I want a proper one,” said Mark Rosati, the culinary director of Shake Shack. Rosati says the chain, in working with New York City butcher Pat LaFrieda, learned that “the concept of what a burger can be is really a science,” and the ideal burger involves variables like fat content, cut of meat, the cooking temperature and the way the meat is ground. At Shake Shack, the lean/fat ratio generally comes in at 80/20.

Rosati says Shake Shack tries to source its meat locally, when possible. He urges consumers to “experiment, educate themselves, and go on a pilgrimage with their butcher to create the right blend.” Rosati said he never buys meat that’s been pre-ground, but he notes that people are often intimidated about talking to butchers. He says it’s fun to play around with different cuts of meat in a burger. “You can look at it as a winemaker would make a cabernet,” he said. “You can add touches of different meats to change a burger’s flavor profile.”

Two California butchers ― Angela Wilson, owner of San Francisco’s Avedano’s, and Israel Feuerstein, owner of Los Angeles’ The Rabbi’s Daughter ― relish the chance to work with customers. “When consumers have a butcher grind meat, they have the option of making alterations,” Wilson said. For her, however, the ideal approach is just good old-fashioned chuck at the 80/20 blend. “When I’m grinding meat for a burger, I usually start craving one.” She said she does get customers who have read a recipe in a newspaper where someone is using different blends of beef, and that prompts them to ask for customization. “But for me, I think simplicity is best.”

Feuerstein said he generally recommends the 80/20 blend when people are cooking their burgers medium to medium rare. “If they’re cooking them more well-done, I suggest closer to a 75/25 mix.” Feuerstein also said the best meat for hamburger is chuck, and he’s observed that the popularity of cooking shows has led more customers to talk about “mixing it up with different blends.”

Now what about our health?

When it comes to eating hamburgers, consumers get the green light as long as it’s in moderation. Julia Denison, a registered dietician at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Magee-Womens Hospital, said, “The main thing we should be getting from eating is enjoying our food.” Denison said the percentage of fat definitely affects flavor — “so a burger isn’t worth it if it’s super dry.” She said the 80/20 ratio is what’s typically recommended, and limiting yourself to one hamburger a week is best.

Amy Peck, a registered dietitian nutritionist in Katonah, New York, agrees. ”If you’re going to eat a burger, then enjoy it,” she said. “Hopefully it’s only an occasional treat, so you may as well commit to making it the best-tasting version possible.” She recommends ground beef that’s either an 80/20 or 85/15 ratio for the juiciest and tastiest burger, and if you can spring for the cost, 100% grass-fed beef is a healthier option. “It has an improved fat profile, with less saturated fats and more omega-3 fatty acids than grain-fed cattle,” she said.

Camas Davis, founder of the Good Meat Project, also touts the benefits of grass-fed beef: “It is leaner, but I find the flavor is much more nuanced than grain-fed; there’s a terroir in the burger like you find in wine.” Davis said the benefit of working with a butcher is that they can add more fat to the grass-fed mix to bring it to that 80/20 sweet spot. “The quality of the fat is also different with grass-fed,” she said.

Butchers and nutritionists alike say that as the price of beef has gone up, they’re seeing their customers and clients make some changes. “I’m seeing even burgers are becoming somewhat of an indulgence,” El-Gharby said. Feuerstein said his customers are buying sliders for children, rather than full-size burgers. “But,” he said, “I think especially in the summer, home cooking replaces dining out as people are able to entertain outdoors.”


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Daring Foods Plant Chicken Review

There are two flavors I love, while there are two flavors I can continue without.

Whether you’re vegan, plant-based, or just love trying vegan meals, you know it can be hard to find tasty alternatives.

Disney Pixar

There’s tofu, seitan, and tempeh — just to name a few. Brands have created numerous tasty alternative meat options, especially during the last few years, and Daring Foods is one of them.

When Daring Foods reached out to me, I knew I had to try them as I have heard about the brand but never tested out their plant chicken. I was sent the flavors in Original, Cajun, Breaded, and Lemon & Herb, and it’s important to note these are all soy-based.

To not waste too much time, I decided to make a burrito, salad, quinoa, and jasmine rice dish, to really get a feel of each flavor. Let’s begin!

First up, was Daring Foods plant chicken, in the flavor Breaded. Here’s how it looks before being heated up.

Celina De Jesus/BuzzFeed

As you can see, some pieces are smaller than others, and it was slightly seasoned. The heating instructions state to heat 1/4 of oil on a pan, on medium heat, and then cook for 2 minutes until golden brown.

And here’s how it looks after a few minutes or so:

Celina De Jesus/BuzzFeed

While it doesn’t look exactly like the package, it sure does look yummy.

Here’s a quick snap of my food, before adding any dressing.

Celina De Jesus/BuzzFeed

As you can see, the inside of the plant-based chicken wasn’t really empty.

Biting into each piece tasted savory and great, but I will admit, I may have added too much oil as the breaded part was a bit mushy. Oiliness aside, the flavor made up for it.

Celina De Jesus/ BuzzFeed

For this flavor, I give an automatic 4/5, and I can’t wait to make this again. 

Next up, was their flavor in Original.

Celina De Jesus/ BuzzFeed

Here’s how it looked before heating up! 

This time, the instruction states to preheat your pan for about a minute on medium-high heat, and then add 1.5-2 tablespoons of oil. Then, add to your pan and let sizzle for about 4-5 minutes if thawed.

Celina De Jesus/BuzzFeed

You can see the oil start to marinate with the bottom portion of the piece, all while it sizzles.

And here it is up-close, with a golden brown finish. The texture was pretty tough, again, and while the flavor is listed as original, it did taste pretty bland when compared to the flavor Breaded.

Celina De Jesus/BuzzFeed

I would give it a 2/5, since it lacked in seasoning.

Third on the list was Lemon & Herb. At this point, the instructions were pretty similar as the Original flavor, but cook 3-4 minutes instead.

Celina De Jesus

Full transparency: This image was shot after, as I accidentally deleted the original thawed pieces.  

Here were the results.

Celina De Jesus/BuzzFeed

Not only did they look super yummy, but they smelled delicious as well.   

I decided to go all out and make what some may consider a burrito, or maybe even a taco. Either way, it looked incredibly tasty, and I could not wait to try.

So far, this one was my favorite out of the first three flavors. Each bite tasted a bit like spring, and chopping them up made it slightly easier to chew through.

Celina De Jesus/BuzzFeed

In comparison with the first two I tried, Lemon & Herb has more of citrusy taste to it. For this flavor, I give it an automatic 5/5.

Last to try was the flavor in Cajun. Similarly to Lemon & Herb, add some oil, and let cook for 3-4 minutes until golden brown.

And voila. While I might have slightly overcooked them, I was pretty happy with how flavorful they appeared to be and couldn’t wait to dig in.

The first bite was pretty tough; at this point, I expected it and figured maybe I had overcooked all of the flavors, but nonetheless it was good. I was expecting for there to be a bit more flavor, but it didn’t taste bad.

Celina De Jesus/BuzzFeed

In comparison to Original, this has a bit more flavor, but not as much as I was expecting. My rating for this one? 3/5. 

To recap, my favorites are the Lemon & Herb and Breaded pieces. I can only imagine all the great recipes I’ll be able to incorporate these plant-based chickens with; my only note would be to make sure to not add too much oil.

Celina De Jesus/BuzzFeed

As for the flavors Cajun and Original — while they weren’t terrible, they just didn’t have the flavor I was looking for.

And there ya have it! While there are some flavors I will be purchasing myself, there were one or two I could manage without.

Walt Disney Co. / ©Walt Disney Co./Courtesy Everett Collection

Editor’s Note: Daring Foods sent this food to me for free in exchange for coverage, but my review of the plant chicken is honest and in no way impacted by this.

Have you tried Daring before? Let us know in the comments below.


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Chefs Share The Essential Ingredients You Should Use

“I once saw Giada De Laurentiis on a morning show. She used whole milk in a recipe, and the host said something like, ‘…and of course, you can substitute skim milk if you’re on a diet.’ Her response was, ‘Only if you don’t want it to taste good.’ She’s right. In my personal experience, whole milk mozzarella on pizza is so much better than low moisture, part skim.”



26 Cooking Tips To Elevate Your Favorite Recipes

If you browse the internet, you’ll come across a whole lot of cooking tips. But how do you know which are actually worth trying? Well, I combed through the r/AskCulinary subreddit and responses from the BuzzFeed Community and compiled this list of seriously smart cooking tips that will upgrade a ton of your favorite meals.

Oh, and by the way, some responses have been edited for length and/or clarity.