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How To: Ground Beef

by Kayce Williamson on July 2, 2012

How To: Ground BeefHow To: Ground Beef

Standing at the meat counter in your local grocery store can be confusing… especially when it comes to choosing the right type of ground beef for your family.  You know all the labels, extra lean, lean, regular…which one is the best for the recipe you are using, and most of all which one is best for your family?

We are going to be looking at the 3 main types of ground beef today and breaking them down to help you decide which one is best for your family and your recipe.  We will also look at proper ways to cook and care for the ground beef once you make it home from the store.

Types of Ground Beef

  • Ground Chuck:  This type of ground beef contains 20% fat, and is 80% lean.  It has a very rich flavor because of the higher fat content.  A 4oz. portion of cooked ground chuck has about 220 calories after cooking.  That is roughly the size of a typical hamburger you would throw on the grill.  Just take into consideration that the caloric content will change depending on any additional ingredients that you add to it.  This type of ground beef makes an excellent choice for hamburgers and meatloaf.
  • Ground Round:  This type of ground beef contains 15% fat and is 85% lean.   You can use this type of meat in hamburgers or meatloaf, but you will most likely need to add an egg or milk because it tends to dry out a bit because of the lower fat content.  A 4 oz. portion of ground round contains around 215 calories after cooking, and before any add ins.  While it is not ideal for burgers or meatloaf, it is a wonderful choice for tacos and shepherd’s pie.
  • Ground Sirloin:  This would be considered some of the leanest beef you could buy.  It normally contains 10% fat and 90% lean.  A 4oz. portion of ground sirloin contains around 170 calories after cooking.   This meat is very lean and does not do well normally for making hamburgers, or dishes that need to have a juicier texture after cooking, because it can dry out easily.  It does work well however in meat sauces for spaghetti and lasagna.
  • Hamburger Meat/Ground Beef:  This meat is the least expensive of all ground beef, but it is also the highest in fat.  It is normally 30% fat and 70% lean meat.  A 4 oz portion of regular hamburger contains around 375 calories.  Because of its high fat content, some people rarely buy this type of ground beef.  It may also be less yummy because of the high fat content, and can get gristly after you cook it.  It is a good choice though if you have a recipe that requires additional fat.


Tips for Storing and Handling Ground Beef

  • When you get home from the store, go ahead and repackage the ground beef in a BPA-Free containter.
  • Wash it if you desire.  While there is no right or wrong opinion on this step, most experts agree that you do not need to wash your beef to “clean” it.  Any germs will be killed in the cooking process.  If you do wash your meat, make sure to sanitize your sink afterward.
  • Handle it safely.  Always wash your hands thoroughly, and clean countertops well after working with raw meat.
  • Cook it thoroughly!  Unlike whole cuts of beef, the ground beef can be contaminated throughout.  Cooking it thoroughly ensures that all bacteria that may be in the meat have been removed.  Also, if it smells funny or is slimy, throw it out.  You always want to be safe not sorry when it comes to ground beef.
  • Another good tip is to think ahead to other recipes you may be making during the next week or two.  Go ahead and brown enough hamburger for your spaghetti while you are browning your taco meat.  If you aren’t sure you’ll use it in a few days, freeze it for use later in the month.

I also wanted to mention something that has come to my attention regarding ground beef crumbles.  While the leaner meat is a healthier choice, the cost can be high.  Our family is on a tight grocery budget each week and but that doesn’t mean we have to eat unhealthfully.  I wondered if there was a way to lower the fat content of the fattier ground beefs, and turns out there is..  It’s called “rinsing and draining browned ground beef.

According to the studies, rinsing crumbled, browned ground beef with hot water can reduce the fat content by 50%!  The study found that 4 oz. of 80% lean ground beef that was crumbled, drained, blotted with paper towels, and rinsed with hot water contained 121 calories and 5 grams of fat.  That is roughly the equivalent of 95% lean ground beef that hasn’t been drained.  They also found that rinsing lower fat meats such as 90% lean provided no significant calorie or fat savings.

Here’s how you drain and rinse your ground beef:

  • Pan fry it in the usual way, breaking it up into small pieces and cooking it until all the pink is gone.
  • Drain your hamburger as you usually would by either using a grease catcher, or just draining into a colander in the sink.  If you do drain directly into the sink make sure you are running HOT water into the sink while you are draining…the grease can harden in your pipes if you don’t .
  • If you drained your fat off into a grease catcher, now would be the time to dump it into a colander in the sink.  Run HOT water into the skillet and pour this water over the meat.  Then do it again.  I normally go ahead and rinse it under the HOT  running tap water one time as well.  I do not always blot my meat with paper towels.  I usually just do the extra rinse.  The purpose of the blotting is to remove any excess fat, and I am comfortable with the extra rinse.  If you desire, you could blot at this point.
  • Allow the beef to drain for a few minutes and then return it to the skillet.  You can then proceed with your recipe as usual.  It is normally best to wait and add any seasonings or vegetables to the meat after it has been cooked, drained, and rinsed.  Just do what you feel is best for your recipe.

While not everyone will want to buy the cheaper ground beef and do the steps required to lower the fat content, it does give a healthier option for those who are on a stricter budget and want to cook with ground beef.

I hope that this information has made it easier for you to choose the option that is right for your family, and to be able to cook the healthy meals that you desire for them to eat!  Enjoy!

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