The Basics of Ground Beef

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Whether you use it for hamburgers, meatloaf, stuffed peppers, and galumpkis or for taco night, ground beef is one of the common ways beef is sold.  While it’s inexpensive and usually ideal for a tight budget, it’s the backbone to many classic dishes.   Even just a small amount can add a lot of meaty flavor to your dish.

 

What Is Ground Beef?

Ground beef is essentially beef that’s been ground, and it’s also traditionally been called hamburg since it’s the main component of one of America’s favorite dishes. The grinding process tenderizes the cuts of beef that normally are very tough, and grinding fatty cuts in with lean cuts helps to reduce the dryness and improve the flavor.

 

The Types of Ground Beef

Where the beef is cut from, its fat content, and even the coarseness can vary.  Know your ground beef options before making your ground beef purchase:

  • Regular ground beef: This usually contains the highest fat content, about 25%-30%, as it typically is cut from the trimmings of inexpensive cuts like brisket and shank. Regular ground beef is the least expensive but its packs the most flavor and juice.  It will shrink the most when cooked due to the high fat content. This
  • Ground chuck: Ground chuck contains 15%-20% fat and comes from the shoulder area of the cow. This is a great all-purpose ground beef since it is not as fatty as regular ground beef but still has good flavor.
  • Ground round: This ground beef has about 12% fat and is ground from the lower end of the cow near the tail area. If you’re planning to cook the ground beef into sauce or with vegetables and are being mindful of fat content, ground round is a good choice because its lower fat content.   Since it will be mixed with other ingredients, the less-beefy flavor of ground round won’t make a big difference.
  • Ground sirloin: This is one of the leanest, but also most expensive forms of ground beef. It contains about 10%-14% fat and comes from the mid-section of the cow.  While it may be the healthiest choice, ground sirloin cooks up the driest of all the kinds of ground beef.

Freshness Factor

Color might not be the best indicator of the freshness of ground beef, even though you might think that pink or red meat is freshest.  Sometimes ground beef has been treated with carbon monoxide to retain that color, so the most reliable indicator of freshness is the packaging date.  It is important to know that ground beef can be stored in the refrigerator for up to two days or frozen for up to six months.

Cooking Ground Beef

Ground beef can be cooked up quickly with some onion and spices for a simple taco filling, formed into patties for hamburgers, or slowly cooked into sauces or chili’s. The versatility of ground beef means that it can go in a lot of directions, and a little bit of ground beef can be stretched with other ingredients if you are looking to eat less meat.

 The USDA recommends cooking ground beef to a temperature of 160°F which is considered well-done.   Many people prefer cooking their burger patties to rare or medium-rare because it tends to be juicier and more flavorful.

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