August 5, 2013

Hamburger happiness means just a little more fat

By Dr. Robert Campbell

There is good news! Your hamburger doesn’t have to be the expensive hockey puck which happens if you use ground beef that is too lean. Based on my years of experience as a butcher and some insights I got during my Ph.D. research, I have come to the conclusion that ground beef provides the best hamburger eating experience when you start with 80 % lean (20 % fat) ground beef. Anything leaner tends to have the consistency of a hockey puck. The best part is the edible portion of a burger which starts at 80% lean, is fairly close to the fat level of a leaner burger. During cooking, the fat melts out leaving voids in the patty – these voids make a less dense texture and also leave a place for the other juices and aromas of cooking burger to accumulate. Then when you bite into the burger, you get a “blast of taste and aroma” which improves eating satisfaction.

The really lean patty will shrink into a dense, void-less mass that is tough, and has no place for the juices to stay in-so they all evaporate, and the lean patty is dry as well. Finally, since most of the cooking loss in a lean patty is moisture, you have almost as much fat in the patty you eat as one from a fatter starting point. If math isn’t your thing take my word for it: eating a very lean patty doesn’t improve the nutritional value of the edible portion. However, if you want to understand a little of the science behind my hamburgerology, read the paragraph below.

If we start with (2) 100g (about 3.5 oz) patties, one with 80% lean and 20 % fat and the other with 95 % lean and 5 % fat, and we put both of these patties on the grill to cook, we’ll end up with 2 cooked 80g (2.8 oz) cooked patties – cooking loss is about 20g for each patty. The interesting part is that the 95 % patty loses about 19.5g of water and 0.5g of fat, so it ends up with 4.5g of fat in the 80g cooked portion. Therefore, in the cooked portion, there is 4.5/80 = 0.056 or 5.6 % fat in the finished patty – not bad – except it is tough and tasteless. The 80% lean patty loses about 13g of fat and 7g of moisture, leaving 7g of fat in the cooked portion, or 7/80 = 0.875 or 8.75% fat in the final patty. So for just a little more fat, you have a much tastier hamburger !

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Dr. Robert Campbell

About Dr. Robert Campbell

Bob Campbell has been the meat business for a long time (even before he became a Ph.D.) He has worked for every sized meat plant from the local butcher shop and slaughterhouse in Willington, Connecticut to the largest international meat processors. Along the way from small town Connecticut to international meat processing he has found that people are always interested in how meat is processed, how it fits into healthy and enjoyable eating and how to prepare it safely. Meat can be an important part of the diet for those of us at 6’s and 7’s and showing less experienced folks (like our kids) how to cook and prepare meat so it is safe and tasty is one of the things I’ll talk about here. I started out in this business in the late 60’s as a traditional butcher’s apprentice (mom said I needed a job) and it has turned out to be my profession. When I got to college I discovered that there was something called meat science and that the meat lab need experienced help to help it do research and provide practical experience to the students so I ended up with a degree in agriculture just as the economy hit the skids in the 70’s. So I went off to grad school and got an MS in food science. After that I came back to the east coast and started working for the Howard Johnson restaurant chain – the French chefs would dream up something and give me a recipe for 5 pounds and I had to scale it up to 500 lb at a time which got me deeply involved in the process of making foods and scaling them up to industrial processes. When HJ shut down their commissary department, I got a job with IBP – at the time the largest processor of cattle and pork in the world (IBP was later bought by Tyson and the largest meat company now (2013) is called JBS). After IBP I went back to school and worked for Kansas State for 10 years doing meat research and international outreach so I have processed and tasted meat on or from every continent except Antarctica. I also managed to get a Ph.D. in Food Science. Since receiving my Ph.D. I have worked for companies that canned meat, made pork rind snacks, spent some time consulting in food safety and R and D and currently am Food safety director for Kayem Foods Inc. My fortunate meeting with Dr. Rappaport at a friends’ wedding has led to a long friendship and enduring interest in her projects. Because of the questions I have gotten from people all over the world on how to prepare food that is safe delicious and nutritious, I agreed to be part of 6’s and 7’s. People need a place to go that provides current, clear and correct ideas on how to live healthy and happy. Eating is a major part of that and I trust you will find the information we provide will be useful, understandable and will help you as part of the first generation that makes the active 6’s and 7’s the most interesting and fulfilling part of your lives so far.