After reading “The Surprising Reason ‘Pink Slime’ Meat Is Back,” I emailed it to Danielle with a message that said something to the effect of, “We no longer buy our ground meat from any place that does not grind it onsite from actual larger cuts of that meat.” (Read here for Pink Slime: Part 1) Thankfully, we have several establishments nearby that do just that and our discussion about the article prompted a Saturday morning trip to the establishment among these that is locally owned and operated.
As we walked in, we were warmly greeted and asked in what way we could be helped. Despite having a number of packages of ground beef prepackaged and ready for sale in their cooler case, I asked this helpful individual for two pounds of ground chuck. Now, two pounds is a very small amount of meat to grind and by asking for ground chuck, I was asking for a very specific cut to be used to make the ground beef, and I didn’t even request that they grind it especially for me. Regardless, the request was handled like it was as commonplace as it should be, and the clerk retreated into back (which was almost entirely visible behind a large glass window). About 5-7 minutes later, they returned with what looked a bit more like 3 pounds of ground beef on a Styrofoam meat tray. They proceeded to weigh it, wrap it, and price it in front of me. We paid and were, delightfully, on our way.
Yes, it took a little bit longer than just grabbing a package out of the cooler and I did have to actually interact with another human being, but these seemed like rather small prices to pay. After all, I could have had to raise, slaughter, and butcher the cow myself… right?
We arrived at home and I opened the package of freshly ground chuck… ground chuck! It was not “hamburger,” it was not “ground beef,” it was ground chuck and I practically watched it being created! As soon as I touched it, I knew that we had been eating mass market “ground beef” for far too long. This stuff was light, airy, and soft to the touch compared to the dense, tough, and slimy ground beef to which we had become accustomed. Cooking confirmed it. It cooked faster, as ground beef that was less dense would. And eating it, oh, eating it!
Have you ever made a pie crust? If you have, then you probably know that the key to achieving a flaky pie crust is using room temperature butter that has been barely incorporated into a flour mixture, making for a dough that is nearly dry and crumbly. What this means is that the flour and the butter (the fat, if you will) have not become homogenized, they’re still separate. When pressed into a pie pan and baked, the butter melts and liquefies as the flour firms. The melted butter leaves behind the cavity it once inhabited as solid butter (fat). This is what creates the delicious, flaky layers that are the hallmark of a well-crafted pie crust.
Similar to it is the well-crafted hamburger. Non-homogenized lean meat and fat, when gently formed into a patty and cooked, result in a burger that is soft, airy, and utterly juicy. If it starts out dense (or if you over-work it, a la meatloaf) it will end up dense, tough, and dry. A good hamburger is not dense and this ground chuck created one of the most soft, juicy, and delicious burgers I have had in quite some time. Not dense and firm but rather soft, tender, and ridiculously juicy… as a hamburger should be.
I learned some valuable lessons in the procuring, forming, and consuming of this delicious ground chuck. I learned that convenience had been getting in the way of deliciousness. I learned that I was far better off looking into the eye of my local butcher as I specifically asked for freshly-ground chuck than I was grabbing a package of 80/20 mystery meat off the cooler shelf, as I dashed through the meat aisle. Ultimately, I learned that I don’t ever need to worry about pink slime in my ground beef again. Do you?