The Best Cuts of Beef to Grind Your Own Burgers

When you buy pre-made burger patties or make your own burgers from store-bought ground beef, the prevailing wisdom is to cook it all the way through to well done. This is to kill any suspect bacteria or other microbes that might have been in the trim meat.

Though this also kills a lot of the natural beef flavor. Not to mention drying out the juiciest of the beef.

Yet when you order a steak, the interior can be pink, succulent, and juicy. You can even get it rare, to the point that it’s nearly red in the middle.

This is because steaks are whole cuts from a primal like the loin, sirloin, or rib primal. If you have your own meat grinder and a little know-how, you can safely grind other beef primal cuts to create your own burger patties. Since you control the quality and food safety from A to B you can safely grill them to still be pink and juicy in the middle.

Taking this approach, lets you blend meat from different cuts, and different die sizes to create burger patties with superior flavor and texture.

Understanding the Lean-to-Fat Ratio

When grinding your own burger patties, you need to keep a vigilant eye on the lean-to-fat ratio of every cut of beef you add. Fat brings flavor, as well as juiciness. It also has a little bit of a binder effect, which matters when you’re dealing with fresh burger patties instead of frozen ones.

If you don’t have enough Fat in the patties you grind, the final burger will be dry, and a little weak in flavor. They’ll also fall apart easily on the grill grates, or have a mealy, gravel-like mouth feel.

If you have too much fat, the burger patties can be unappealingly greasy. In the extreme, all the fat can even cause the burgers to also be loose and fall apart easily.

The happy medium tends to be a ratio of 80% lean beef and 20% fat. You can go as lean as 10 to 15% fat, but any lower and you’ll have dry gravel burgers. You can go as high as 25% fat, but if you push it to 30% the burgers will be so greasy and loose that they’ll be frustrating to work with.

Doing the Math

When you start getting technical with grinding your own burger patties, it helps to do a little math.

Let’s say you’ve got a 10-pound chuck roast, which is 80/20. This means you’ve got 8 pounds of lean meat and 2 pounds of fat.

If you want to have a burger that’s a little leaner, you might want to turn to a top sirloin that’s 10% fat. If you have a 5-pound cut. Then you know that you’ve got half a pound of fat and 4.5 pounds of lean.

Doing some simple weighing and ratios before blending the two different types of ground beef will give you a good ballpark figure on the final lean-to-fat ratio of your self-ground burger patties.

Different Grind Temperatures & Die Sizes for Certain Cuts of Beef

Temperature matters when you’re grinding you’re grinding your own meat. Fattier cuts of meat like beef chuck need to be chilled to firm them up. Otherwise, the fat gets soft in the heat of the grinder and causes problems.

Also the fattier, and colder the meat you grind, the larger you’ll want the initial die size to be. Too small of a die can jam up the auger, cause heat and leave you with inconsistently ground meat that’s fatty in some sections and lean in others.

So, for ground chuck, it helps to cut the roast into quarters and put it in the freezer for a solid 20 minutes. Then cut it into 1-inch cubes and run it through your biggest die. Then switch to a finer die size on the grinder. Chill the coarse ground meat for 10 minutes in the freezer and grind it again to get the final texture you want.

Whereas for a lean cut of beef, like top sirloin, it’s still wise to chill it for 15 to 20 minutes, but you can probably get the 1-inch cubes to pass through the final die on the first grind!

Cuts of Beef & Their Characteristics

The following are some of the more common and interesting cuts of beef, along with their general characteristics and tips for grinding them easily.

Chuck Roast

Lean-to-Fat ratio of 80/20

Grind with a large and medium/fine die

Chuck roast is the most common cut of beef used for grinding your own burgers. I think you’ll find the final patties have more beefy flavor than premade burger patties made from trim that you find in a lot of grocery stores.


Lean-to-Fat ratio of roughly 86/14

Grind twice through a medium die

Tri-tip is relatively lean and very flavorful. It’s a great way to grind your own low-fat burger patties with the same beefy flavor you’ll appreciate from a chuck roast. Depending on how the processor trimmed it, you might need to trim off any connective tissue before grinding.


Lean-to-Fat ratio of roughly 83/17

Grind twice through a medium die

Sirloin steaks can be a great addition to add lean, beefy flavor to your burgers. They have a slightly lower fat content than ground chuck, and you usually get a perfect texture by passing it through a medium die twice, with a 10-minute chill session in between.


Lean-to-Fat ratio of 78/22

Grind with a large and medium/fine die

Brisket adds a hint of grassy flavor that really accents a high-end self-ground burger patty. Though brisket’s fat marbling is inconsistent, which can be a real challenge when grinding. So, be rigorous with your trimming, clear away any connective tissue, and be prepared to pass the chilled chunks of brisket twice through a coarse grind before moving to a medium one.

Beef Round

Lean-to-Fat ratio of roughly 85/15

Grind twice through a medium die

Ground round is one of the more economical and lean cuts of beef you can grind into flavorful burgers. This is pushing the limits of a lean burger pattie that will hold together of its own accord. Some people will add three of four strips of frozen bacon to a ground round to add some fat and enhance the flavor. Though if you’re looking for a lean burger that you can grill medium in the middle, then ground round should be toward the top of your list.

Beef Short Rib

Lean-to-Fat ratio of roughly 70/30

Grind twice through a medium die

Depending on how much it’s trimmed in advance beef short rib can have as much as 30% or more fat content. This pushes the other end of the spectrum when it comes to ground beef patties that can stick together of their own accord. Though with some judicious trimming of larger pieces of fat and connective tissues, beef short rib is a great addition to add flavor and juiciness to leaner cuts of beef.

Skirt Steak

Lean-to-Fat ratio varies based on the degree of trimming

Grind twice through a medium die

Skirt steak has an impressive amount of flavor that makes it great for grinding your own burger patties. Though there’s a lot of attached fat and connective tissues that can affect the final lean-to-fat percentage of the meat.

Untrimmed, it might have too much fat for the final burger patty to hold together confidently and would be better as an accent meat for a leaner grind. Judiciously trimmed skirt steak can be an incredibly flavorful standalone cut of beef for grinding your own burger patties.

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