What Are the Best Tips for Cooking Ground Beef? (with pictures)

Lori Kilchermann
Lori Kilchermann
A cookbook and utensils.
A cookbook and utensils.

Many of the best tips for cooking ground beef focus on improving the taste and quality of the meat. Tips on reducing fat content, freezing and cooking recommendations are also helpful to some cooks. Other tips are concerned with the different grades of meat and the effect the grades have on cooking ground beef for different types of recipes. Some of the tips for cooking ground beef concentrate on health and clean-up when using raw meat, methods to prevent misshaped final products and methods of producing the juiciest meats possible.

Ground beef should be rinsed after cooking to eliminate the excess grease.
Ground beef should be rinsed after cooking to eliminate the excess grease.

Cooking ground beef often produces an excess of grease and unwanted calories. One tip that deals with the elimination of many of these unwanted fat calories is to rinse off any cooked ground beef with hot water after cooking. This removes much of the unwanted fat from the beef and results in a much leaner final product. By using hot tap water, the grease is easily flushed down a drain without forming a clog, in most instances. The con to doing this is that much of the flavor of the meat will be lost in the rinse water.

One tip that addresses freezing ground beef is to avoid placing frozen meat into a pan to begin a recipe. The juices that add flavor and taste appeal to the meat are turned into ice crystals when the meat is frozen. Thus, when cooking frozen ground beef, the ice crystals are melted and evaporated away as the meat thaws, resulting in dry, tough and reduced flavor in the finished product. When cooking ground beef, it is best to use fresh meat whenever possible and to completely thaw any frozen meat prior to placing the meat into a hot pan. When cooking ground beef patties, one tip is to use the best grade of meat available to reduce shrinkage when cooked.

Just as a higher fat content will shrink much more than a leaner type of meat, heat is also a factor in shrinking when cooking ground beef. The higher the heat, the greater the amount of shrinkage when finished cooking, in most cases. Tips to avoid this commonly recommend using a medium heat to cook ground beef. It is also recommended that the pan be thoroughly heated prior to placing the meat into the pan. This aids in searing the outside of the meat when cooking ground beef and sealing in all of the natural juices in the meat.

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Discussion Comments


@jcraig - Keeping ground beef together is a problem that a lot of people have. Although you didn't mention it, one of the biggest mistakes I think people make is that they use crackers thinking that they will hold the meat together. In my experience, all crackers do is absorb the fat from the meat, and fat is what actually keeps the ground beef together. Breadcrumbs can have the same effect, but it is usually not as dramatic.

There are a couple other approaches you can take. First off, you may need beef that is a little fattier. The 80-20 combination typically works the best. After you have all of the spices and everything mixed and are ready to form the meat, roll it in your hands for a minute or two before shaping it. This will warm up the fats and act like glue for the meat.

My final suggestion would be not to combine too much liquid with the meat. A few splashes of Worcestershire or ketchup are fine, but if you add too much nothing will save the beef.


The problem I always have when I am cooking ground beef for hamburgers or something is that it ends up falling apart. Last night I was trying to make Salisbury steak, and the meat just wouldn't stick together. The final product ended up being more like Salisbury hash.

I added everything that the recipe called for. I had the beef mixed with an egg, some breadcrumbs, Worcestershire sauce, and various spices. I have always had a problem cooking with ground beef, and I don't know what the problem is. If anyone has any suggestions, I would really appreciate it.


@Emilski - I agree. I think I would definitely avoid putting the meat through water. I think having the fat is just part of buying ground beef. There is a reason it is cheaper than other types of meat. I think a good alternative for people who want to avoid as much fat is to substitute ground beef with ground turkey. The recipe that I use to make my burgers combines 75% beef and 25% turkey. By using the beef, you still get exactly the same flavor with enough fat to keep the burgers together while cooking. The turkey gives a very subtle taste and makes the burgers a little healthier.

The other option to making ground beef healthier is just to buy meat with less fat to begin with. Anywhere I have ever shopped has something like an 80/20 combination which is perfect for burgers. If you're going to be using the meat for a recipe, though, it might be better to go with 93/7 or something.


There are a lot of really good tips here. I will have to try some of them out next time I am using ground beef.

I have never heard of rinsing the beef under hot tap water before, though. The article talks about this reducing the flavor, which I would agree with. I would think that adding the water would also make the meat hard to cook with afterwards. I don't know a lot of people who just eat ground beef by itself. If you were making something like a casserole or burgers or something, you would have to drain all of the water out of the meat before using it again.

To get rid of fat, I usually just try to blot the meat on some paper towels after it is done cooking. This is easier to do with something like hamburgers than beef that has been broken up and sauteed.

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    • A cookbook and utensils.
      A cookbook and utensils.
    • Ground beef should be rinsed after cooking to eliminate the excess grease.
      Ground beef should be rinsed after cooking to eliminate the excess grease.