Hamburgers Were Better When People Ground Their Own MeatS

There's a scene in The Adventures of Augie March where Augie is sitting on the side of the road (or is it a railroad track?) with a group of hobos eating hamburgers. Saul Bellow describes the burgers as burnt on the outside and so rare as to be ice-cold in the middle. It's probably because of how young and impressionable I was when I read that book that this is the platonic ideal of a hamburger to me.

But I never order them this way, and I rarely make them this way, because I'd probably get sick.

It's the ground beef: chopped up at some filthy meat-processing plant or skeevy supermarket backroom by a guy whose hand was probably up his own asshole not five minutes ago, you can't trust the meat to be clean. Nose-picking fingers might be all over your meat. Someone might have sneezed on your pile of 85-percent lean and then instantly slapped a tight wrap of plastic over the whole thing, trapping germs inside to worm their way into the innumerable nooks and crannies provided by 1.37 pounds of grade-A bovine pitri dish. Yech.

Call me paranoid, but that does not inspire me to prepare a cold-in-the-middle burger. This is why meat grinders are awesome: You can grind your own well-washed meat in your own sparkling-clean grinder and be confident that your patty is pathogen-free. I have to believe that everyone used to eat charred-rare burgers back in the day.

And it gets better! You can get frisky with your meat blend. Chuck the chuck out the window. No more settling for simply sirloin. No sir; blend in some short rib. Hell, you could grind up some bacon and throw it in. Bacon is magic! You could have magic burgers! Meat grinders give you power.

To be completely honest, I don't know much about meat grinders. Are they like coffee grinders, where it's better to squeeze the meat apart than to chop it apart? I dunno! Is there an advantage to hand-grinding as opposed to one of those fancy electric models? No idea, but I'm assigning a story on meat grinders right now to find out. Because I want one. I want burgers cooked cold-on-the-inside rare.

Image by Flickr user Rocketlass, used under Creative Commons license