Knowing how to cook ground beef is something every home cook needs to know because it’s a staple in so many recipes. In this post, we’ll start at the beginning about what is ground beef, and work our way to how to cook ground beef and easy ground beef recipes.
How often do you cook with ground beef?
Once a week? Twice a week? More?
It’s a staple in so many home kitchens, and for good reason too.
What is ground beef?
Ground beef is chopped-up beef that only comes from primal cuts and trimmings. It’s often called hamburger because of the juicy burgers we all love.
However, if you asked a butcher or meat aficionado, they’ll say that technically there’s a difference between hamburger and ground beef. All ground beef can only be made using meat, trimmings and fat from primal cuts (there’s no additional fat added), but hamburger can add fat to reach the appropriate fat content, if desired.
What part of the cow does ground beef come from?
Generally, ground beef is made from the less tender and less popular cuts of beef — round, chuck and sirloin. Sometimes the label at the grocery store will identify specifically what primal cut the ground beef is from by saying ground round, ground chuck, or ground sirloin. When you cook ground beef, you’ll find that ground sirloin is the leanest of all.
How to read a ground beef label:
Another thing you’ll notice on grocery store labels is a ratio such as 80/20, 85/15, and 90/10. The top number of the ratio indicates the leanness and the bottom number is the fat. So, beef with a label that says 85/15 is 85 percent lean and 15 percent fat.
Which is best? It’s entirely up to you. The thing to keep in mind is that fat equals flavor. If you want less fat in your burger so that it’s even healthier, it will also be less flavorful.
If you purchase beef from us, it won’t have ratio on the label. That’s something large beef slaughter houses do, but we’re a small family farm. What we can tell you is that based on how we raise our cattle, our ground beef is 85-90% lean.
How to cook ground beef:
- Heat a skillet over medium to medium-high heat.
- Use a paper towel and pat dry and excess moisture on meat.
- Add the meat to the hot skillet and let it sear for 1-2 minutes on both sides. Let it sear before you chop it up.
- Use a spatula and chop up the meat into smaller and smaller pieces while continuing to brown. Your goal is to break them into equal-size pieces so that the beef cooks evenly.
- You’ll know you’re done when there are no signs of pink in the beef.
- Use the ground beef in recipes immediately, or you can also refrigerate cooked ground beef for 3-4 days.
How to remove fat from ground beef:
Once you cook ground beef, you’ll likely need to remove some of the fat. Our ground beef is lean, but we still do this step. Here are a few options:
- Drain skillet: When the beef is done browning, place the skillet’s lid over the beef. Then, carefully tilt the skillet so that the liquid pours out. We recommend draining the fat into a can that you plan to throw away. Don’t pour the fat into your kitchen sink because it will eventually clog the drain – oops!
- Paper Towels and Slotted Spoon: Line a plate with paper towels. Then, use a slotted spoon to scoop out the ground beef and place the ground beef on the paper towel. As you’re doing this, you’ll see the fat drip through the spoon’s slots into the skillet. When you have all of the ground beef out, you can dispose of the fat that’s in the skillet.
- Spoon: Push all of the ground beef to one side of the pan, and tilt the pan so that the fat moves to the opposite side. Then, use a spoon to scoop out the fat, and discard the fat.
- Hot water: Place the ground beef into a strainer and rinse off the meat. This is the method we use the least, but it does work.
How to store ground beef:
According to the USDA’s food safety division, raw ground beef can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 days and it can be stored for 3-4 days once cooked.
Food science & cooking ground beef:
Now that we’ve covered all of the basic of how to cook ground beef, here’s some science-y stuff you may not know.
Browning beef occurs thanks to a process known as the Maillard reaction. The Maillard reaction was discovered in the early 1900s by a French chemist named Maillard, and is a chemical reaction that occurs between carbohydrates (sugar) and proteins.
The Maillard reaction is responsible for changes in color to food. It occurs when you brown and cook ground beef, brown bread into toast, fry French Fries into that golden color, make caramel from milk and sugar…you get the idea.
This process won’t occur until the surface moisture is gone – that one of the reasons why we always recommend to pat steaks dry before cooking. It’s also why we recommend searing ground beef for 1-2 minutes on both sides before chopping it into small pieces. You’re giving the beef time for the Maillard reaction (browning) to take place.
Easy Ground Beef Recipes
As you’d expect, we eat a lot of beef. The majority of it is ground beef. Here are a few favorites that we regularly cook or customers have shared with us:
- BBQ Bacon Hamburger
- Cranberry Meatballs (appetizer)
- Egg Muffin Cup (breakfast)
- Italian Meatballs
- Lasagna Soup
- Mango Salsa Hamburgers
- Maple Meatballs (appetizer or main dish)
- Meat Manicotti
- Mexican Lasagna
- Nachos Supreme Dip (one skillet appetizer)
- Sloppy Joes
- Smashed burgers (a.k.a. diner burgers)
- Stuffed Bell Peppers
- Taco Soup (crock pot or stove top)
- Vegetable Soup with Ground Beef
Favorite kitchen tools
- Cast Iron Skillet
- Non-stick Skillet
- Instant read thermometer (this one is our favorite)
- Slow Cooker
One more thing!
Do you want to learn more about beef? Here are a few other beef posts and recipes you may like. Plus, we have an entire ebook about beef that goes through purchasing and preparing beef from a farmers perspective.
- 10 Best Beef Rub Recipes
- How to Buy a Cow From a Farmer
- What Everybody Ought to Know About Beef Cuts
- 27 Amazing Facts About Cows That Will Impress Your Friends
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