When the news broke that Ripken Gourmet Burgers — yes, branded with the Hall of Famer’s name — would become available in local Giant stores, the Internet collectively sighed in expectation of a bite of those dry-aged Roseda Beef patties.
Last week, All We Can Eat detailed what goes into these six-ounce, Black Angus burgers ($9.99 for a box of four), but now we can tell you how they actually taste.
But first, I guess I should admit that, as much as I admire Cal Ripken and the way he played the game of baseball, I’m not a fan of using his name to sell products. What’s the shelf life of an athlete’s good name? Ten years if he doesn’t go all Tiger Woods? Twenty years if he doesn’t get dragged in front of some federal jury a la Roger Clemens? I worry that, 25 years down the line, if Ripken Gourmet Burgers are still going strong, they might seem as quaint as Babe Ruth Pinch-Hit Chewing Tobacco.
Regardless of the branding — not to mention the bookending of photos on the package: ground beef on one side, Ripken on the other (the other red meat?) — the product itself is rather impressive. The four frozen patties come stored in a resealable plastic bag, in case you don’t feel like grilling the quartet all at once. (Good luck with such forbearance.)
I appreciate that Roseda Beef understands the importance of loosely packed patties. One look at these disks, and you can see that each has been frozen with the beef threads barely compressed into an individual puck. You can see actual air pockets, which will help prevent your burger from turning into a little rubber ball during high-heat cooking. .
The main issue I have with the Ripken Gourmet Burgers is their fat content, which stands at about 12 percent. They’re not quite lean (usually 7 to 10 percent fat), and they’re nowhere near the old burger standard of 80 percent muscle and 20 percent fat. On my blazing hot grill, the patties rendered much of their fat very quickly, leaving behind a nicely charred specimen with only a trace of the richness I like in a burger.
With that said, I thought the burgers were exceedingly tasty, particularly for a frozen-food product. The dry-aging process no doubt contributes to the concentrated beef flavor; a decided benefit when, as I did, you push the burgers past medium-rare and more into medium territory.
But a fellow tester made an interesting comment to me as she sampled a burger: She thought it tasted like cheese had been injected into the patty, as if this were some Ripken-branded Jucy Lucy. For the most part, I didn’t share the same experience, save for one bite, when I could taste what she was talking about: a mild richness on the back of the palate.
Could it be an uneven distribution of fat? Who knows.
I do believe one thing, though: Roseda needs more quality control over its patties. Despite being well formed, there were clear inequities between these ground-beef pucks. This leads me to think the company still hasn’t worked out a consistent burger blend.
Did it stop me from devouring my first burger and making a mad dash for seconds? Nope. I felt like the couch-potato version of Cal Ripken: stretching what should have been a single (serving) into a double, hearing applause only in my own head.