How much fat drips off your burger?

May 21, 2013 | By | Comments (1)

GrillingEvery cook knows about grill shrinkage—the tendency of burgers to lose juice and fat as they approach perfection. But we wondered: Do fattier cuts lose a higher percentage of their fat over heat, since fat melts and combusts easily? And if so, does a fattier grind of beef—say, the usually cheaper 80/20—end up close to the 90/10 grind that we usually recommend?

To find out, we sent samples, raw and grilled, to the lab for analysis. From the raw samples, we wanted to know if the fat-ratio labels were even accurate. The answer there was “sort of.” All grinds had slightly less fat than labeled; our 90/10 was actually 93/7. From the grilled samples, we wanted to know: How much gets lost over a fire? See answers below.

80/20 fattiest grind
Raw (4 ounces): 21.2g total fat, 9g sat fat
Grilled (2.6 ounces): 14.2g total fat, 6.1g sat fat
Shrinkage: 34% weight loss, 33% fat loss

This grade indeed lost the most fat, but the resulting burger was still left with almost double the fat of the leanest grind.

Raw (4 ounces): 16.8g total fat, 6.9g sat fat
Grilled (2.7 ounces): 12.4g total fat, 5.1g sat fat
Shrinkage: 33% weight loss (wow!), 26% fat loss

90/10 leanest grind
Raw (4 ounces): 8.3g total fat, 3.5g sat fat
Grilled (3.1 ounces): 7.5g total fat, 3.2g sat fat
Shrinkage: 22% weight loss, 10% fat loss

* Still our recommended grade—just as tasty but with much less fat. Less shrinkage, too.

What the Ratios Mean: The ratio is percentage by weight. Fat is higher in calories than protein, so a 4-ounce raw 80/20 beef patty has 285 calories, versus a 90/10 patty, which has 200 calories. And the 90/10 has 12.9 fewer grams of total fat.

Photo: Francesco Tonelli/Philippa Brathwaite


  1. Jim

    Why didn’t you tell us the finished calories of the grilled burgers at the end rather than the raw hamburger calories? Those of us watching calories want to know what we consume, not what buy.

    May 26, 2014 at 2:39 pm

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