Beef at Ground Level

PETER TAYLOR
A burger at Corkbuzz.

GROUND BEEF IS a workhorse of a protein and an affordable staple for meat eaters. From burgers and meatloaf to tacos and spaghetti Bolognese, its versatility is practically endless.

Simply put, ground beef is the meat gleaned and ground from the trimmings of other, larger cuts of beef. Typically, it’s labeled according to the part of the cow from which it was sourced. Common cuts include chuck, sirloin, round, and brisket. Ground beef is further categorized based on its percentage of lean meat to fat called, naturally, the “lean-to-fat ratio.” Understanding this ratio will help you navigate the taste and texture of each cut, so you can score the best blend for a juicy burger or the ideal crumble for your taco meat.

70/30: Regular ground beef is a mix of scraps and trimmings from the cow. Fat equals flavor, and this ground beef maintains the highest fat content—juicy, flavorful, “beefy” meat perfect for mixing into burgers and rendering down into crumbly, crisp taco meat. 

80/20: The grocery store will label this ratio as “lean ground beef.” It is usually ground chuck, scraps ground from the chuck roast found behind the shoulder of the cow. Ground chuck is ideal for blending into burgers, meatballs, and meatloaf. 

85/15: Ground round fits into this category of “extra lean ground beef,” and is cut from the hind part of the cow, near the tail. It is tender, but not as juicy because of its reduced fat content. Use this meat cooked into a chili or any dish that calls for sauce. 

90/10: Ground sirloin, typically used for this type of “extra lean ground beef,” contains less than five grams of fat per 100 grams of beef. It is the least juicy of these blends. Use this in a flavorful stir-fry doctored up with plenty of spices. If you don’t mind a little fat, add some cooking oil to the pan when cooking. 


TIPS: 

Remember, fat equals flavor. For the juiciest burger, shoot for a mix of 70 percent lean meat to 30 percent fat. Think 50/50 sirloin and chuck, or a blend of chuck, brisket, and bottom round. 

Use ground beef within one to two days of purchase. 

Unused beef can be easily frozen and kept up to six months. Wrap it in plastic or foil and place inside a large plastic zip-top bag to prevent it from freezer burn. 

All ground beef should be cooked to an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Find a great local butcher who can grind your meat to order and preference. The beef found at a quality butcher is often from just a few animals, while meat from a grocery store can be from hundreds of cows. 

If knowing the source is important to you, the farmers’ market is an even better place to purchase ground beef. You will probably buy directly from the person who raised the beef. 

It’s easy and gratifying to grind your own beef at home and doing so usually produces better results than store-bought ground beef. Use a mixer with a grinder attachment and grind your favorite cuts of meat. Remember to keep all components well-chilled.  

You don’t have to use fancy cuts like wagyu and dry-aged beef. A good lean-to-fat ratio is what counts. Practical cuts of quality beef will produce excellent flavor.