Most Americans agree that hamburgers are awesome. However, it’s hard to find two foodies who will agree on how to make the “best burger.” From toppings and buns to cheeses and seasonings, so many variables influence a burger’s taste. However, the critical ingredient every chef has to consider is, well, the meat! If you’re looking for a quick and easy reference to the preferred burger meats, then this is the post for you. Below, you’ll find all of our exhaustive research on the most popular types of burgers.
The four most common types of hamburger meat are as follows:
- Ground Round: Butchers cut round meat from the cow’s rear upper leg and rump. Fat content is usually around 10 - 15%, but many people describe round as one of the toughest cuts.
- Ground Sirloin: The cow’s sirloin is located in the posterior near the hip and usually has ~10% fat. It’s from this area that we get famously tender (and expensive) steak cuts. However, due to the lower-than-average fat content, sirloin is a bit drier than other meats.
- Ground Chuck: Ground chuck comes from the cow’s shoulder and usually contains around 20% fat. This higher fat content makes chuck the most popular choice for flavorful burgers.
- Ground Beef: When products are labeled as “ground beef,” they could contain any mixture of meat from the cow. Lean-to-fat ratios vary depending on what cuts go into your ground meat mix. However, there is a USDA cutoff limit of 30 percent fat.
Making a great burger takes time and technique. However, a quick read of this guide should put you on the right path to patty perfection. In addition to burger meat, this post will go over great burger alternatives, buns, and convenient Hamburger Helpers.
Chuck, Sirloin, or Round — Which Makes The Best Hamburger Patty?
Ultimately, choosing the best meat for a hamburger depends on your preferences. However, the experts at America’s Test Kitchen found that most people who tried a “blind burger taste test” preferred ground chuck. The reason for this isn’t all that surprising: ground chuck comes from the cow’s shoulder, which gives it a higher fat content. Not only does this ~20% fat content give your burger a juicy flavor, but it also provides all that extra moisture you can hear as it sizzles.
While ground chuck usually steals the show in burger tastings, America’s Test Kitchen said ground sirloin was a close runner-up. Sirloin is near a cow’s hips in the posterior chain, and it’s where you’ll find many of the most valuable cuts of steak. While sirloin doesn’t have as much fat as ground chuck (usually around 10% fat), it has a melt-in-your-mouth velvety texture. On the downside, ground sirloin also tends to be the priciest and driest option.
The least popular choice for hamburger patties is ground round. This cut comes from the cow’s rump area and has an average fat content between 10 - 15%. The reason most people don’t like rump in a hamburger patty is its rough texture. Instead, most people recommend using ground round in dishes with a lot of liquid, such as soups or pasta sauces.
How Do You Choose The Best Ground Beef For Hamburgers?
Choosing the ideal ground beef for your burger depends on your taste preferences and health goals. If you’re looking for maximum flavor, you should go with a higher fat content like chuck. However, if you want to limit your exposure to fat without sacrificing too much flavor, it’s best to look into ground sirloin.
Better yet, you could buy sirloin or chuck steaks and grind them at home. Grinding your preferred ratios of beef at home gives you complete control over the fat and flavor of your burger.
To learn more about the science of grinding meat at home, be sure to watch this quick video:
For even more info on getting the right grind in your homemade burgers, please read our previous post, “How To Keep Hamburgers From Falling Apart.”
So, What Does “Ground Beef” Mean?
The label “ground beef” might as well be called “mystery beef!” Unless you know your butcher very well, it’s tough to say which parts of which cows made their way into these burger blends.
Although most “ground beef” packets won’t say the exact cuts in their formula, they should show the lean-to-fat ratio. Since ground beef could come from anywhere on the cow, it could have fat content as high as 30%. According to the USDA, 30% is the cutoff for fat in ground meat products.
While ground beef is the staple meat for traditional hamburgers, there are dozens of other options you could use to spice up burger night.
Two of the more popular “alt cow” options are bison and elk. Both of these cuts are leaner than ground beef, so prepare yourself for a drier texture. Fans of these meats claim they have a clean taste with higher traces of healthful compounds. However, if you’re not used to these meats, you may find them a bit gamey without extra toppings.
Here’s a great recipe you could use to make your first bison burger at home:
Why not consider ground turkey or ground chicken if you’d like to make a “poultry patty”? Just remember these meats are leaner than beef—which accounts for their super dry taste. To remedy this, add loads of herbs, sauces, and spices when working with ground chicken or turkey. For instance, check out this flavor-packed chicken patty recipe:
Another fantastic beef alternative to consider is ground lamb. Although lamb isn’t too popular in theU.S., it's a staple in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisine. Here’s how chef Robert Irvine likes to prepare his delicious lamb burger:
For a quick review of the most popular ground meats, be sure to watch this helpful recap:
What’s The Best Vegetarian Burger?
If you’ve got a non-meat-eater at home, there are plenty of ways to create a hearty veggie burger on the grill. Arguably, the most popular veggie burger idea is to cook a portobello mushroom. Mushrooms are naturally savory, which accounts for their fascinating similarities to beef.
Watch this YouTube video for a tutorial on making a portobello mushroom burger:
If you don’t like portobello mushrooms, here are a few recipes suggestions for awesome meatless patties:
How To Choose The Best Hamburger Buns?
Like choosing the best meat for a burger, everyone has a different opinion on the perfect hamburger buns. However, many surveys suggest brioche buns are the preferred choice nowadays. These buns have a higher egg and butter content, which accounts for their rich flavor—the perfect complement to a juicy burger!
However, that doesn’t mean brioche is the only solid choice for a burger bun. For instance, some people love the crunchier texture of ciabatta or pretzel rolls. Both of these popular options can be tough to chew, but they do an excellent job retaining juices in your hamburger.
If you’d like the "best of both buns," then you could always go with traditional potato rolls. While not as chewy as ciabatta or as buttery as brioche, potato buns offer plenty of spring and starch for a good middle-of-the-road burger experience.
FYI: If you're wondering whether to butter your burger buns, you've got to check out our previous post, "Should You Butter Hamburger Buns?"
How Many Kinds Of Hamburger Helper Are There?
Currently, General Mills’ Hamburger Helper has 24 flavors in its product line. Just keep in mind that not all of these flavors are specifically for ground beef. In fact, Hamburger Helper is technically known as “Helper” to emphasize its tuna and chicken products.
According to most food surveys, the best-selling Helper products are Cheeseburger Macaroni and Beef Stroganoff. However, plenty of variety packs are now available that can help you (literally) spice up your burger routine.
What’s Included In Hamburger Helper?
Although every Hamburger Helper has slightly different ingredients, most contain one starch and a sachet with pre-measured seasonings. In most cases, these packets contain either macaroni or rice. No matter which Helper you get, all you have to do is brown your beef, mix in the Helper and some water or milk, and simmer till it’s cooked.
If you’ve never used this product before, check out this tutorial:
Whatever Patty You Choose, Be Sure It’s Cooked Through!
It’s easy to feel bewildered when you’re building burgers for the first time. However, if you’re sticking with regular beef, the best options are usually ground chuck and ground sirloin. It also helps to ground your meat at home for a more tender and flavorful experience. Just be sure your beef registers 165°F before serving.