Pasture Perfect

The skinny on grass-fed beef

To make the perfect grass-fed beef burger, you need three things: an understanding of grass-fed beef, an instant-read thermometer, and some quality ground grass-fed beef.

Grass-fed beef is a very different product from the corn-fed, feedlot, “conventional” beef available in grocery stores. Grass-fed beef comes from cows fed a diet of foraged grasses, raised in a wholesome environment, and allowed to pasture-roam. This creates a healthier animal, and therefore healthier meat.

Grass-fed beef is leaner, has fewer calories, boasts up to four times more healthy omega-3 fatty acids, and is higher in Vitamin E than conventional beef. It is also a rich source of conjugated linoleic acid—a “good fat” that has been touted as one the most potent cancer-fighters.

These differences in composition need to be considered when preparing the beef. Being leaner, grass-fed beef cooks faster than conventional beef. Omega-3s have a lower melting point than omega-6s (the insular fat in conventional beef), so grass-fed beef should be cooked at a lower temperature. Grass-fed beef is the most juicy and tender when cooked rare (120 degrees) or medium rare (125-130 degrees).

Meat continues to cook even when removed from the heat source, so stop cooking 10 degrees short of the desired temperature.

Note: USDA recommends a minimum internal temperature of 145 degrees, which is based on the composition of conventional beef. If you cook grass-fed beef to these temperatures, the result will be a dry, tough, and overcooked burger.

Perfect Grass-Fed Beef Burger Recipe

Serves four


  • 1 1/2 lbs. ground grass-fed beef
  • 1/2 onion, any variety, coarsely grated
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt; more after beef is on the grill
  • 1/2 tsp. fresh ground black pepper; more after beef is on the grill 

Grate the onion, then place in mesh strainer and run under water for 30-60 seconds. Adding onion keeps the burger moist, and running the onion under water will mellow the oniony bite. Mix all ingredients in a bowl by hand. Gently form four, 1 1/2-inch-thick patties. Making the patties thick will prevent them from cooking too fast and drying out. Use your thumb to create a slight depression on the top of the patty—this will prevent it from puffing up like a baseball while it cooks. Preheat grill to medium-high.

Place patties on the grill and reduce heat to medium. Sprinkle with more kosher salt and ground black pepper; cook 4-6 minutes per side. Use instant-read thermometer to cook to desired temperature. Use your favorite bun and add toppings. Go easy; grass-fed beef is flavorful and doesn’t require as much seasoning or sauce as conventional beef. Bon appétit!

Elizabeth Barnett works at Yellowstone Grassfed Beef in Bozeman. Look for their products at the Co-op and Town & Country, and on menus at area restaurants. Visit for more info.