The Straight Dope

Go Back   Straight Dope Message Board > Main > Cafe Society

Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #1  
Old 11-18-2006, 05:03 PM
aerodave aerodave is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jul 2000
Location: Ohio
Posts: 1,619
How do I make my ground beef "finer"?

Finer as in texture.

Any time I have to brown some ground beef for use in things like Mexican or lasagna, I would prefer to have it reduced to very small pieces. The filling of an enchilada, for example, ought to be a smooth mixture with finely crumbled meat. Like, say, the size of rice grains. But ground beef just seems to have too much cohesion. As much as I smash and divide with my spatula, there's a minimum practical size for those pieces of meat. We'll call it "Hamburger-Helper size"...more like the size of Cheerios than rice.

So what's the trick? Or is it maybe a good sign that my stuff doesn't come out looking like the mush at Taco Bell?
Reply With Quote
Advertisements  
  #2  
Old 11-18-2006, 05:12 PM
lissener lissener is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jan 2000
Spatula? What on earth would make you think that a spatula would be the tool for further dividing pieces of meat into smaller pieces of meat? You need a frying fork. Aluminum, available in your grocery store's kitchen utensil aisle. Looks like a giant, well, fork. Four tines, each one a downward poiting triangle in cross section, giving you four cutting motions with each downward stroke. There is no other tool for browning ground meat. I can find no picture on the web, but I've always been able to find one when I need one at the grocery store.
Reply With Quote
  #3  
Old 11-18-2006, 05:12 PM
sturmhauke sturmhauke is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Nov 2000
Personally, I think meat shouldn't have as fine a texture as you seem to like. But if you insist on it, you could try running the ground beef through a food processor before you cook it. Or, if your going to do that anyway, you could skip the ground beef and go with a better cut of meat for more flavor - say, a sirloin or tri-tip.
Reply With Quote
  #4  
Old 11-18-2006, 05:15 PM
sturmhauke sturmhauke is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Nov 2000
Quote:
Originally Posted by lissener
You need a frying fork. Aluminum, available in your grocery store's kitchen utensil aisle.
Hmm, I've never heard of such a thing. It sounds like it would be death on a nonstick pan, but then, nonstick pans are less than ideal for browning meat.
Reply With Quote
  #5  
Old 11-18-2006, 05:16 PM
GorillaMan GorillaMan is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Oct 2003
Although I agree with sturmhauke that the meat should be in chunks....take the raw meat, and attack with a chopping knife. Simple as that.
Reply With Quote
  #6  
Old 11-18-2006, 05:26 PM
AuntiePam AuntiePam is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Aug 1999
I like my ground beef extra fine when I'm making tacos and loose meat sammiches.

I don't have a frying fork, but I do have a large fork with wide tines and it does the trick. It works best if the ground beef is fresh, not frozen then thawed, for some reason.

You pretty much have to stir and smoosh continuously until the meat is cooked.
Reply With Quote
  #7  
Old 11-18-2006, 05:55 PM
Frylock Frylock is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2001
I wish to note for the record that the OP did not signify that he believes a spatula is the correct instrument for grinding meat as finely as possible. In fact quite the opposite, the OP signified that he believed some means other than the use of a spatula was called for, and this in fact was the occasion for his posting here.

-FrL-
Reply With Quote
  #8  
Old 11-18-2006, 06:06 PM
Chefguy Chefguy is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jun 2003
Location: Portlandia
Posts: 29,233
Food processor. It's what I use when making turkey stuffing with sausage. Cook the meat first, let it cool, then process briefly. A fine mixture indeed. You could probably also use a blender.
Reply With Quote
  #9  
Old 11-18-2006, 06:07 PM
Chefguy Chefguy is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jun 2003
Location: Portlandia
Posts: 29,233
Oops, missed sturmhauke's post. But cook the meat first. Otherwise you'll have a mushy mess.
Reply With Quote
  #10  
Old 11-18-2006, 06:46 PM
aerodave aerodave is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jul 2000
Location: Ohio
Posts: 1,619
Frylock, thanks for getting my intent.

Thanks to everyone for the helpful responses...but I'm especially inclined to attempt anything suggested by someone named Chefguy. =)
Reply With Quote
  #11  
Old 11-18-2006, 06:54 PM
Sonia Montdore Sonia Montdore is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Sep 2006
Quote:
Originally Posted by aerodave
Frylock, thanks for getting my intent.

Thanks to everyone for the helpful responses...but I'm especially inclined to attempt anything suggested by someone named Chefguy. =)
IANAC (I am not a chef) but if you don't have a food processor or a meat grinder, you can push raw ground meat through a sieve or a collander that has fine holes. This will give you a fine-textured meat that's suitable for pate. That's what I was taught to do in a cooking course I took in Paris.
Reply With Quote
  #12  
Old 11-18-2006, 07:48 PM
Shoeless Shoeless is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Location: The Sunflower State
Posts: 3,751
I have flat wooden, um... I don't know what you call it, it came in a package of wooden spoons, but it works great for busting up ground beef while it's cooking.
Reply With Quote
  #13  
Old 11-18-2006, 08:08 PM
levdrakon levdrakon is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Apr 2002
If an even, fine "grade" of ground beef is what I'm after, I usually cook it in the wok (on a lower flame than usual for a wok) and use the two wooden spoons I'd regularly use while stir-frying to stir and mix it around. Using two hands helps break it all up. Plus, maybe adding some water to it while browning it and letting the water gradually cook off while stirring it. Seems to help create a more even slurry. Actually, you probably don't need to use a wok. Just stirring with both hands does the trick.

Putting it through a blender never occurred to me. That doesn't turn it into meat slush?
Reply With Quote
  #14  
Old 11-18-2006, 09:15 PM
YWalker YWalker is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Feb 2001
Location: NC
Posts: 1,126
My granny's hot dog chili recipe has very fine ground beef in it. To achieve this, she would smoosh the raw hamburger in some warm water between her fingers before cooking. Since your meat then has a high water content, it is better for an application like chili where it's okay to simmer it directly and skip the browning step when you saute it.

You have to drain the grease off the liquid, and it helps to use a lower fat content ground beef to do this. You also lose off on the browning effect that you get in sauteing. That's fine for the chili, but may not work as well for you in other dishes.
Reply With Quote
  #15  
Old 11-18-2006, 09:27 PM
Chefguy Chefguy is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jun 2003
Location: Portlandia
Posts: 29,233
Quote:
Originally Posted by levdrakon
Putting it through a blender never occurred to me. That doesn't turn it into meat slush?
If it's raw, it will become sausage. Cooked, it's fine; one just has to be careful not to turn on the blender and walk away. Pulse is your friend.

The other methods mentioned here are fine, as well.
Reply With Quote
  #16  
Old 11-18-2006, 09:40 PM
Lissa Lissa is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 1999
Quote:
Originally Posted by AuntiePam
I like my ground beef extra fine when I'm making tacos and loose meat sammiches.
I have the same preference, but what I do is stand there and chop it with a wooden spatula while it's frying. By the time the meat is done, it's in very tiny pieces. (BB sized.)
__________________
Quid quid latine dictum sit, altum videtur.
Reply With Quote
  #17  
Old 11-18-2006, 10:49 PM
Malienation Malienation is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: May 2006
Simple. Grind your own beef (much easier and cheaper than it sounds) with a meat grinder and run it through multiple times. The Washington Post food section did an article a couple of years ago and mentioned that the taste difference between freshly ground beef and the ground beef that you buy in the supermarket was very conspicuous. BTW, you don't necessarily need an electric one; the hand ones are less work than you would think, and can be thrown in the dishwasher. For that matter, so can the meat grinder attachment for a KitchenAid mixer.
__________________
As far as society is concerned, men don't really have feelings. Now, women, they have feelings, and men pay heavy penalties for not respecting those feelings. On the other hand, men have insecurities, and women collect substantial rewards for learning how to exploit them.
Reply With Quote
  #18  
Old 11-18-2006, 11:10 PM
Gorgonzola Gorgonzola is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Aug 2000
A good butcher should be able to help you in this regard. The butcher I frequent makes a finely ground beef with a very low fat content that browns rice-sized or smaller with very little effort on my part. He's good-looking, too. The butcher. Just so you can feel a little pang of envy.
Reply With Quote
  #19  
Old 11-18-2006, 11:15 PM
devilsknew devilsknew is offline
BANNED
 
Join Date: Nov 2003
Location: The Great Black Swamp
Posts: 9,178
Quote:
Originally Posted by YWalker
My granny's hot dog chili recipe has very fine ground beef in it. To achieve this, she would smoosh the raw hamburger in some warm water between her fingers before cooking. Since your meat then has a high water content, it is better for an application like chili where it's okay to simmer it directly and skip the browning step when you saute it.

You have to drain the grease off the liquid, and it helps to use a lower fat content ground beef to do this. You also lose off on the browning effect that you get in sauteing. That's fine for the chili, but may not work as well for you in other dishes.

I've seen recipes for our local, greek style, coney sauces that use a similar method-- however, the utensil of choice is a potato masher. So, I would suggest a simple potato masher...although the mashing action might not be good for your non-stick pans
Reply With Quote
  #20  
Old 11-18-2006, 11:17 PM
WhyNot WhyNot is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Jul 2004
Location: Sweet Home Chicago
Posts: 30,545
Does anyone know of a different name for the utensil lissener is talking about? Frying fork doesn't google anything useful. I've never heard of it, and all I can picture is a carving fork, but that can't be it.

I don't want my meat as fine as the OP, but I do get an achy shoulder smooshing the meat around with a wooden spoon for sloppy joes or red gravy. What he describes sounds like what I might be looking for.
Reply With Quote
  #21  
Old 11-19-2006, 12:45 AM
lissener lissener is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jan 2000
Quote:
Originally Posted by WhyNot
Does anyone know of a different name for the utensil lissener is talking about? Frying fork doesn't google anything useful. I've never heard of it, and all I can picture is a carving fork, but that can't be it.

I don't want my meat as fine as the OP, but I do get an achy shoulder smooshing the meat around with a wooden spoon for sloppy joes or red gravy. What he describes sounds like what I might be looking for.
Next time you're at a grocery store, find the aisle were they hang the tea strainers and cheese graters. Somewhere among all the shiny things will be a Hagrid-sized fork. Cheap, like under $5. Utterly invaluable kitchen tool. It's the only thing for stir frying in an iron frypan, for scrambling eggs, for fluffing potatoes; works well as a poor man's wire whisk, and of course I promise you will never use anything else for browning ground meat.
Reply With Quote
  #22  
Old 11-19-2006, 07:24 AM
aruvqan aruvqan is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Feb 2004
Location: Eastern Connecticut
Posts: 15,482
Well, a very large mortar and pestle are great for reducing raw meat to a fine pulp that will cook up sort of like a good liverwurst texture [you know, no really distinguishable grain to it] or mulltiple runs through a hand cranked meat grinder.

Another suggestion is to cook and crumble the meat, then add water and recook it until the water evaporates off. This isnt bad, but is time consuming ... but oddly enough you can regrind cooked meat.

For the pastelike meat for enchiladas you need to request meat paste from the grinder [2x through the extra fine blades] or pound the raw meat in a mortar and pestle. This will leave it with no discernable 'grain' which seems to be what you are asking for.

Personally, for enchiladas, we follow this tamale recipe for cooking the meat, and then make regular enchiladas. We love this salsa along with this traditional pico de gallo

i think we need to go shopping, and make this next saturday!
Reply With Quote
  #23  
Old 11-19-2006, 07:56 AM
Cheesesteak Cheesesteak is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jan 2001
Lissener, could it also be called a blending fork?

For me, I'd always just mash the meat up while cooking with a wooden spatula.
Reply With Quote
  #24  
Old 11-19-2006, 08:19 AM
CBEscapee CBEscapee is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Apr 2001
When you buy your ground beef ask the store buther to double grind it then you don't have to mess with it in the skillet.
Reply With Quote
  #25  
Old 11-19-2006, 11:19 PM
sj2 sj2 is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: May 2002
I use the whip-stick for my ravioli filling--it must be super fine else the dough will tear. If it is tacos or such, I will slap the whisk attachment on my KitchenAid and blend it to my will.
Reply With Quote
  #26  
Old 11-19-2006, 11:45 PM
BrainGlutton BrainGlutton is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Never mind a "frying fork," you need a meat grinder. You can get a hand-cranked one at many kitchenware stores; and there are meat-grinder attachments to many food processors and/or mixers. If it's still not fine enough, even using the plate with the smallest holes -- run it through the grinder twice.
Reply With Quote
  #27  
Old 11-20-2006, 01:56 AM
lissener lissener is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jan 2000
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cheesesteak
Lissener, could it also be called a blending fork?

For me, I'd always just mash the meat up while cooking with a wooden spatula.
That is absolutely what it is. My mom used it to brown ground meat, despite its apparent intended usage, and that's what I use it for primarily as well. It's one of my most essential kitchen tools.
Reply With Quote
Reply



Bookmarks

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -5. The time now is 11:32 PM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2014, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.

Send questions for Cecil Adams to: cecil@chicagoreader.com

Send comments about this website to: webmaster@straightdope.com

Terms of Use / Privacy Policy

Advertise on the Straight Dope!
(Your direct line to thousands of the smartest, hippest people on the planet, plus a few total dipsticks.)

Publishers - interested in subscribing to the Straight Dope?
Write to: sdsubscriptions@chicagoreader.com.

Copyright 2013 Sun-Times Media, LLC.