About Ground Beef

What is Ground Beef?

In order to be labeled “Ground Beef,” ground beef production must be 100% beef but cannot contain more than 30% fat or other meat sources. The lean to fat ratio is expressed on the label as follows: 80% lean/20% fat. Ground Beef does not contain water, phosphates or other additives.

Packages may indicate the primal cut of beef that has been ground, such as Ground Chuck, Ground Round or Ground Sirloin. Most Ground Beef is not graded; however, operators or retailers wishing to make a quality claim may do so provided the raw materials meet quality standards.

Why is Ground Beef So Popular?

Ground Beef continues to be a consumer favorite. Decades ago it was one of the very first convenience foods sold in supermarkets. Today, Ground Beef is very much in demand with both retail shoppers and food-service patrons for its versatility and high comfort-food factor. In fact, Ground Beef is the number one selling beef item in both foodservice and retail, totaling over 7.5 billion tons sold in 2012.  

Performs well under many different cooking methods

Suits a variety of recipes across day parts and cuisine types

Available for sale in a variety of pack sizes and price points

Easy to prepare at home; less intimidating to retail shoppers

The Better Burger Boom: Ground Beef at Food-service

Ground Beef is the dominant force in food-service for beef, comprising 64% of total volume sales*

75% of beef dishes at food-service are Ground Beef entrees and hamburgers

Large portion of Ground Beef sales increase due to the “Better Burger” boom of recent years and continued growth of quick-service and fast casual operations

Types of Ground Beef

In addition to price and personal preference, Ground Beef purchases should be based on the application. Ground Beef is available in regular grind, used for burgers, meatballs and meatloaves, and coarse grind, typically used for chili.

70% Lean
Not less than 70% lean (usually a 73/27 or 75/25 lean-to-fat ratio). Used for burgers and in recipes calling for browning (crumbles) and pouring off drippings, such as chili, tacos and spaghetti sauce.
When properly cooked, it is moist and juicy.

80-85% Lean
Holds its shape well during cooking, therefore ideal for meatloaf, meatballs and Salisbury steak.
When properly cooked, it is moist, juicy and has a slightly firm texture.

95% Lean
Meets government guidelines for lean, with only 149 calories per 3-ounce serving. If used for burgers, do not over-handle the beef or overcook.
When properly cooked, it has a firm, dense texture. Best for recipes in which the drippings are not drained, such as stuffed peppers or stuffed shells.

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Purchasing, Storage and Handling

Purchasing

Look for Ground Beef with a bright, cherry red color.

A darker, purplish-red color is typical of vacuum-packed Ground Beef or the interior of packaged Ground Beef. Once exposed to air it will turn bright red.

Storage

Store fresh ground beef under refrigeration for 1 to 2 days

Store frozen ground beef in the freezer for 3 to 4 months

Handling

Always defrost frozen ground beef slowly under refrigeration

Handle ground beef gently when making burgers or meatloaf

Optimum Storage

Refrigerator Storage: (35° F to 40° F)
Store Packed: 1 to 2 Days
Fresh Vacuum Packed: (unopened) Up to 14 Days

Freezer Storage: 0° F or Colder 3 to 4 Months

Yield/Servings
1 pound yield: 4 (3-ounce) cooked servings or 2 cups cooked crumbles

Handling Guidelines

· Always defrost Ground Beef slowly under refrigeration

· Handle Ground Beef gently when making burgers or meatloaf

Determining Doneness

· Insert an instant read thermometer into the center or thickest part of a meatloaf or meatball or horizontally from the side into the center for patties

· Ground beef should be cooked to an internal temperature of 160°F (medium doneness)

· The color of cooked ground beef is not a reliable indicator of doneness.

Labeling

The official USDA requirements of beef ingredients and labeling for different types of ground beef products are established in Chapter 9, Part 319 of the Code of Federal Regulations (9CFR319), entitled, “Definitions and Standards of Identity or Composition.”

In some cases, these definitions are supplemented in various USDA/FSIS manuals and directives. However, the following table summarizes the ingredient and labeling requirements approved for ground beef products by the USDA.

X = Ingredients1 allowed in these products that are not required to be listed on the label.

P = Ingredients1 allowed in these products that must be listed on the label.

Cooking Methods

Burgers — Charcoal Grill
Grill, uncovered, over medium, ash-covered coals according to chart until instant-read thermometer inserted horizontally into center registers 160°F, turning occasionally.

½ inch thick (4 oz.): 8 to 10 minutes

¾ inch thick (6 oz.): 11 to 15 minutes

Burgers — Gas Grill
Grill, covered, over medium heat according to chart until instant-read thermometer inserted horizontally into center registers 160°F, turning occasionally.

½ inch thick (4 oz.): 7 to 9 minutes

¾ inch thick (4 oz.): 13 to 14 minutes

Burgers — Broil
Broil on rack in broiler pan 3 to 4 inches from heat according to chart until instant-read thermometer inserted horizontally into center registers 160°F, turning once.

½ inch thick (4 oz.): 10 to 12 minutes

¾ inch thick (6 oz.): 12 to 14 minutes

Burgers — Skillet
Heat large nonstick skillet over medium heat until hot. Place patties in skillet; Cook, uncovered, according to chart until instant-read thermometer inserted horizontally into center registers 160°F, turning occasionally.

½ inch thick (4 oz.): 12 to 13 minutes at a distance of 2-3 inches from heat

¾ inch thick (6 oz.): 12 to 14 minutes at a distance of 3-4 inches from heat

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Meatloaf
Bake in 350°F oven 1 hour and 10 minutes. Brush meatloaf with barbecue sauce; continue baking 10 to 15 minutes until instant-read thermometer inserted into center registers 160°F. Crumbles

Brown 1 to 1½ pounds Ground Beef in large nonstick skillet over medium heat 8 to 10 minutes, breaking into crumbles and stirring occasionally. Remove from skillet with slotted spoon or pour off drippings. (Note: The color of cooked Ground Beef is not a reliable indicator of doneness. All Ground Beef should be cooked to 160°F.)

Meatballs — Oven
Heat oven to 350°F. Place 2-inch meatballs on rack in broiler pan. Bake 25 to 30 minutes until centers are 160°F.

Meatballs — Skillet
Heat large nonstick skillet over medium heat until hot. Place meatballs in skillet; cook, uncovered, until centers are 160°F, turning occasionally.

Preparation Pointers

Burgers

Handle Ground Beef lightly. Mix and shape burgers gently but thoroughly to keep them juicy.

Don’t press burgers during cooking in order to retain flavorful juices.

Meatloaves

Use a gentle touch when mixing and shaping; over mixing can cause meatloaf to be firm and compact after cooking.

For added flavor and to glaze meatloaf, brush with ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce or barbecue sauce during the last 10 to 15 minutes of cooking time.

For easy shaping of meatloaf, line an 8×4 or 9×5 bread pan with plastic wrap. Firmly press beef mixture into lined pan; invert onto rack in broiler pan. Remove pan and plastic wrap. Use an 8-inch round or square pan for a thinner pizza-style meatloaf that usually cooks more quickly than the traditional-shaped loaf.

Crumbles

Season crumbles with salt after cooking.

Cook extra crumbles and freeze for even quicker last-minute meals.

Meatballs

Use a gentle touch when mixing and shaping; over mixing can cause meatballs to be firm and compact after cooking.

To save time, bake in a 350°F oven instead of browning in a skillet.
Content Courtesy of the Beef Checkoff Program.

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