How to Brown Ground Beef

Browning ground beef is an essential bridge to mastering many recipes, including tacos, chili, sloppy joes, and lasagna. Follow these simple steps and tips to master this basic cooking skill.

How to Buy and Store Ground Beef

Grocery stores carry a variety of ground beef options (sometimes also labeled as hamburger beef). Most stores label ground beef either with the percentage of fat it contains, the percentage of lean meat it contains, or the lean/fat ratio. For example, beef that contains 20 percent fat would be listed as 20 percent fat, 80 percent lean, or 80 percent/20 percent.

Ground beef with a higher amount of fat costs less, swaying consumers into thinking that it is the more budget-friendly option. However, keep in mind that ground beef with a high amount of fat results in a lot of shrinking during the cooking process and less overall meat. So what's the best choice? There's no right answer, but rather a trade-off between flavor and health. People watching their waistlines will want to go with leaner meat, but they'll be sacrificing some of the flavor. The general recommendation is using ground beef that is 85 percent lean/15 percent fat, which will bring plenty of beef flavor without being overly fatty or result in excess shrinking during cooking.

Ground beef may also be labeled based on the cut of beef from which it originated. The three most common cuts used for ground beef, ranging from leanest to fattiest, are round, sirloin, and chuck. After purchasing ground beef, you can store it in the refrigerator for up to 2 days; otherwise, wrap it tightly with plastic wrap or in a freezer bag, and store in the freezer for up to 3 months.

How to Brown Ground Beef

Browning ground beef is an easy process. Place the ground meat in a skillet (preferably a nonstick skillet) and cook over medium-high heat. The most important part to browning ground beef is using a wooden spoon or heatproof spatula to break up the ground beef into equal-size pieces as it cooks. This ensures that all the ground beef pieces cook evenly.

  •  Tip: If your ground meat is very lean, and especially if your skillet isn't nonstick, you may want to heat a small amount of cooking oil -- about 1 to 2 teaspoons -- in the skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the ground meat. This will help to keep the meat from sticking.

Check out these family-friendly recipes that star ground beef!

Fully Cooking Ground Beef

On most stove tops, browning ground beef should take approximately 7 to 10 minutes for 1 pound of meat. It's important to continue stirring and breaking the pieces into the same size with the wooden spoon or heatproof spatula so the ground beef cooks evenly. It's easy to tell when your meat is ready -- it should all be brown with no apparent pinkish pieces.

Draining the Fat from Cooked Ground Beef

When the ground beef is fully browned, the final step is to drain the fat. Remember to be careful because you're working with hot fat. Carefully tilt the pan so the liquid fat falls to one side. Using a slotted spoon, push the meat to the other side of the pan and scoop it out onto a paper-towel-lined plate. Once the paper towels have absorbed any remaining fat, the beef is ready to be used in your favorite recipes. The remaining fat should be cooled entirely and properly discarded into the garbage. You can also cool the fat slightly, then carefully pour it into a can or glass jar and let it solidify before discarding. Do not pour the fat down the drain of your kitchen sink -- it can clog the drain.

Popular Ground Beef Recipes to Try:

Sloppy Joes

One-Pot Spaghetti

Chili

Salsa Mac & Beef


How to Brown Ground Beef
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