Standing at the meat counter at a local grocery store, you can be overwhelmed by the sheer variety of choices when it comes to ground beef choices.
To help with you Fourth of July grilling selection, we put some variations of hamburger meat to the test. Specifically, we sought to see which meat packaging provided the best hamburgers.
While beef packaging varies, most beef is sold in traditional, modified atmosphere or vacuum sealed.
The way meat has been purchased for decades – foam or plastic tray with an absorbent liner and saran wrap over the tray. Beef is delivered in bulk (in vacuum-packaged bags) and then portioned into consumer quantities.
The new addition to the grocery case, the case-ready packaging allows stores to forgo a meat department and offers longer shelf life over traditional packaging. These are the ones in often clear plastic trays, sealed with a high-barrier plastic film. At the packing plant air is removed and replaced with a custom blended, purified gas mixture. Surprisingly, the mixture, according to BeefResearch.org, is usually a blend of oxygen (for redness in the meat) and carbon dioxide (to inhibit bacteria grown) or carbon monoxide (for redness) and carbon dioxide plus nitrogen to thin down the mix.
This packaging is just what its name suggests. Beef is placed in a pouch, the air is removed and pouch sealed, then the pouch in placed briefly in warm water to shrink the edges around the product.
The meat takes on a purplish-brown color, so in case-ready ground beef, opaque, bright colored packaging is used.
One more package is the frozen, ready to be cooked, patted hamburger patty.
For this experiment, we sought to find out the differences in how the types cooked, the difference in cost and most importantly, how they taste. These questions are not too far off base. One study in the Journal of Food Protection suggested that vacuum sealed turkey was drier after cooking than its modified atmosphere counterpart, so some differences were expected. (All the science teachers reading this should note that I recognize that there are some pretty big holes in my scientific method, but I’m a writer and a cook, not a scientist.)
For the experiment 80/20 ground beef was used for each type. Our vacuum sealed tube was selected from refrigerated section of the grocery side of the store, a traditional package was purchased at a local meat counter and the modified atmosphere chosen from the grocery with pre-patted burgers. Premium frozen burgers were Bubba Burgers (the lean/fat percentage is not listed for Bubba Burgers, but the nutritional content is similar to that of 75/25 ground beef). Bubba burgers are listed as Choice grade beef.
The recipe was a modified version of Beef. It’s What’s for Dinner’s classic cheeseburger.
Ingredients are the beef and 1/8 teaspoon each salt and pepper.
Combine ground beef and seasoning in large bowl, mixing lightly but thoroughly. Lightly shape into four 1/2-inch thick patties. I pressed a thumbprint into the center to prevent puffing. For the pre patted patties, I sprinkled the salt and pepper on before grilling. Bubba Burgers should be cooked frozen.