Ground Beef

Monday, 21 September 2009 | Tags:

A versatile ingredient, ground beef can be used for old favourites like hamburgers, or incorporated as flavour and texture into many dishes, like casseroles, sauces, and more. Here are buying tips for ground beef...

The Basics

  • Ground beef comes mostly from the chuck, sirloin, and round cuts, though the taste depends more on the amount of fat than on the cut of origin. 

  • The fat content of ground beef varies, so it’s important to check the label for this information. A higher fat content makes for a juicy hamburger.

    • Regular ground beef usually contains 25% fat by weight.

    • Lean ground beef usually contains 10% fat by weight.

    • Extra-lean ground beef usually contains 5% fat by weight

  • Bison (often mislabeled as buffalo) is increasingly available in grocery stores and restaurants. Bison sirloin has less than 3 grams of fat, which makes it extra lean, while beef sirloin has close to 9 per 3 oz portion.

  • Lean beef is rich in essential nutrients, including high quality protein, zinc, vitamin B-12, selenium, phosphorus, niacin, iron and more.

Shopping Tips

  • Shop for ground beef at the grocery store so that it stays cold as long as possible.

    • Choose a package that is not torn and that feels cold.

    • The colour should be bright red. If the outside is grey, brown or yellow, or has the look of an oily slime, it’s not fresh and has likely gone bad.

    • The ground beef should also smell fresh, meaning that it won’t really have much of an odour. If you can smell an “off” odour, it’s not fresh. (Don’t go opening the packages though!)

    • Enclose your package in a plastic bag so leaking juices won’t drip on other foods.

  • In most cases, the price of ground beef is directly related to the fat content. Generally, the lower the fat content, the higher the cost per pound. Regular ground beef has the most fat. Extra lean ground beef has the least fat.

  • Extra lean ground beef should have a fat content of no more than 10%, compared to compared to 17% for lean ground beef and 30% for regular.

Storage Tips

  • Ground beef can be refrigerated or frozen in its original packaging if you plan to use it soon. If refrigerated, keep at 4°C or below and use within 1 or 2 days.

  • For longer freezer storage, wrap in heavy-duty plastic wrap, aluminum foil, freezer paper, or plastic bags made for freezing to help prevent freezer burn.

    • Ground beef is safe indefinitely if kept frozen, but will lose quality over time. It is best if used within 4 months.

Cooking Tips

  • Cook leaner burgers over medium heat for a juicier, evenly-browned burger with an added health benefit of a lower risk from carcinogens that are formed at higher heats. 

  • For extra lean burgers, add an egg white and some soft bread crumbs. This makes up for the lower fat content and keeps the burger tasting moist and delicious.

Interesting Facts

Curious why your beef is red on the outside and grey in the middle of the package? The reason is that the natural pigment in meat (what causes it to be red), called myoglobin, reacts with air (oxygen specifically) to create the red colour. But oxygen isn’t able to penetrate deeper into the package, so the inner layers of ground beef turn grey due to the lack of oxygen.


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