Sunday, May 17, 2009

Ramblings: Premium - Gourmet Burger Blends

Premium Burger Blends

There has been a trend of late for restaurants and meat purveyors to construct gourmet burger blends. These burgers cost more, but they come with a pedigree. No expense is spared in the creation of these blends, but is the result worth the expense and extra work?

Until recently there have been two types of upscale burgers. The first is a publicity stunt, pure and simple. These include the Richard Nouveau Burger found at the Wall Street Burger Shoppe that amongst its accoutrements counts gold leaf and the $186.00 The Burger produced at a London location of Burger King (yep, Burger King). The second was a ‘steak burger’, where the chef substituted prime steak for the standard 80/20 chuck. As you can imagine, there was a pretty wide disparity between the two styles of premium burgers.

Recently some middle ground has been found. Meat wholesalers, such as Main Street Meats ( have been experimenting with creating a premium blend of high end meats to create the perfect burger. Main Street Meats, who have a mail order business for those outside their immediate area, includes kobe brisket, prime aged rib cap and short rib meat to achieve what they consider the best possible burger.

Although these blends are intended for restaurants, they are becoming available to the public with increasing frequency. The cost of the meat is about 80% more than that for standard, good quality ground beef. Not too drastic an increase for a luxury.

I purchased a few pounds of the 1946 Blend Premium Ground Beef and a pound of the standard ground beef from Main Street Meats. Side by side, I formed a patty of each. Trying to obtain an unadulterated flavor, I just added salt and pepper to the top and bottom of each patty. I cooked the patties side by side with the same heat for the same length of time.

The precooked weight of the standard burger was 7.9 oz. After cooking to medium rare, the weight was 7.1 ounces. The precooked weight of the premium burger was 8.1 ounces. The weight after cooking to medium rare, the weight was 7.6 oz. The premium burger with the presumably higher fat content actually lost less weight (by volume) than the standard burger. I’m not sure, but I believe that the melting fat caused flare ups that seared the premium burger quickly, sealing in the rest of the moisture.

To be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I assumed that either the difference would be dramatic, with the premium burger being vastly superior to the standard burger, or there would be no discernible taste difference. I was wrong on both counts.

The premium burger was clearly different in flavor and texture. It was also clearly a better, lusher burger. The difference was (in my opinion) certainly worth the price increase. Oddly, the difference wasn’t just that the flavor was amped up. The premium burger had a denser, more ‘meaty’ taste. As you can see from the pictures, prior to cooking the standard burger had a richer red coloring (possibly due to the fat content) and post cooking the premium burger had a darker, more intense sear (although they were roughly the same size and cooked under the same conditions).

The standard burger was lighter in taste and texture than the premium burger. As most burgers come with an assortment of toppings, the premium burger seems better designed to host other flavors. The more ‘meaty’ flavor can stand up to the onions, ketchup and other additions.

I’m not someone that adds a lot to my burgers. I’ll possibly slap on some cheese and maybe mustard, but aside from ketchup on a rare occasion, that’s it. I do, however, add to the meat itself. I have been accused of making meatloaf burgers as I add worcestershire sauce, pepper and other flavors to the meat before grilling. Although I’m usually happy with the results, this experiment has helped me to realize that it’s not really necessary. The flavor of the meat itself should shine through.

I believe that I will be cutting back on adding to the meat and I will certainly be using the premium blend again.

Interested in burgers? Check out PigTrips interview with Nick Solares of A Hamburger Today.


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