Should You Rinse Ground Beef? Here’s the Final Verdict

TikTok is buzzing with loyal defendants on both sides. Our Test Kitchen experts have your final verdict.

During BHG’s 100+ years, we’ve seen a lot of food trends come and go. Some things remain perennially popular, though, including ground beef recipes. We totally understand why: Start by browning a pound of ground beef and you have millions of possibilities. In addition to being versatile, it’s affordable. Apparently, it’s also controversial. Several TikTok users are in heated debates over the answer to, “should you wash ground beef after browning it?” The short answer is no, you shouldn't wash ground beef.

While some steer clear of certain or all animal proteins as vegans, pescatarians, or otherwise, the average American consumes 83 pounds of beef per year, according to University of Illinois estimates—a good chunk of that being by way of ground beef. Seriously, search “ground beef recipes” and you’ll uncover 265 million options!

Rather than getting caught in the culinary combat, we turned to our team of culinary pros for the final answer to this ongoing debate.

cooked ground beef in metal strainer

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Should You Rinse Ground Beef?

We’ll cut to the chase: Better Homes & Gardens Test Kitchen director Lynn Blanchard says, “we do not recommend rinsing ground beef after cooking it. When you do so, you rinse off all of the flavor,” which is imparted by the rendered fat that you’d be washing away. 

Some internet threads have also inquired about rinsing raw ground beef, and that’s a hard pass, too. There’s no time or place where you need to give your ground beef a bath, Blanchard says.

Just like you should never rinse a turkey, “we do not recommend rinsing beef before cooking. This is in line with food safety experts and the USDA,” she explains. “Rinsing raw meat can spread bacteria on the kitchen surface which you want to avoid.”

Beyond being either unsanitary (when raw) or a flavor-dampener (when cooked), rinsing ground beef can also do some serious damage to your sink. Hot grease is liquid, true. But once it cools off, it will harden and potentially block your plumbing. 

If you decide to discard it, “fat should be discarded in your trash and not sent down your drain,” Blanchard advises.

Related: 10 Creative Ways to Use Ground Beef Beyond Tacos and Burgers 

What You Should Do Instead of Rinsing Ground Beef

If you’re aiming to consume less fat or notice excessive grease pooling in your pan, you have two options that are far better than rinsing ground beef, Blanchard says: 

  • Drain and dispose. Place a colander over a bowl large enough to hold it, then transfer the ground beef to the colander. This will allow the extra grease to drip off the meat and into the bowl. Let the strained grease harden, then dispose of it in the trash. No colander? No sweat; simply line a plate or tray with a double layer of paper towels. Transfer the cooked ground beef to the paper towels and pat the surface with additional paper towels to remove excess greate. Return beef to pan; discard paper towels .
  • Go lean. If you prefer, purchase leaner ground beef to use in your ground beef recipe. This will naturally emit less grease. The Test Kitchen tests recipes calling for “ground beef” using 85% lean ground beef recipes (AKA 85/15 beef), “lean ground beef” using 90% lean ground beef, and “extra-lean ground beef” using 93% to 95% lean ground beef. 

The Bottom Line

So should you rinse ground beef? Please don’t! You’ll wash away the flavor, our Test Kitchen experts explain, and might also do damage to your plumbing. 

Now that you’re well-versed in the basics of how to brown ground beef the best way, you’re all set to make your most flavorful beef casserole, takeout-style taco, and chili recipes yet.

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