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5 Tips for Choosing the Best Ground Beef for Your Recipes

Ground beef is a staple for most families. Whether it’s for chili, meatloaf, or tacos, there are some essential things to consider when selecting your ground beef.

Look for packages with a nice cherry red color. Anything darker may have been exposed to oxygen and could have been spoiled. Also, avoid buying ground beef that looks dry or pasty.

Look for the USDA Quality Grade

When it comes to choosing ground beef for recipes like meatloaf, tacos, or burgers, shoppers may find themselves comparing packages of ground beef that look very similar in the grocery store. While the packaging might say “ground chuck,” “ground round,” or “ground sirloin,” it’s important to know what these terms mean.

The quality grade system evaluates meat for traits that predict tenderness, juiciness, and flavor. The highest grade, Prime, is reserved for carcasses with a high level of marbling and is very tender. The two highest grades are Choice and Select, both very delicate. The lowest three grades are Utility, Commercial, and Canner, and these are typically used for really cheap ground beef and other processed meat products such as hot dogs and dog food.

While the higher-grade ground beef will cost more than cheaper options, it’s well worth the extra expense if you’re looking for the best possible meat for your family. The taste of the heart is far better than what you’d get from a low-grade cut labeled as hamburger or ground beef.

Look for the Lean-to-Fat Ratio

Many ground beef packages list the meat’s quality grade and lean-to-fat ratio. The fat content varies depending on the grind of the beef and its intended use.

The lean-to-fat ratio is usually listed on the package in a slashed number format, with the amount of lean meat before and the fat content after. For example, a box of 80/20 ground beef has a high level of lean meat and a low-fat group, making it ideal for burgers and other recipes that call for a formable patty that won’t fall apart or dry out.

Other types of ground beef are more suited to stews and soups as they contain more fat. One popular choice is ground round, which has a lower fat level but isn’t as juicy as other types of ground beef. It is often used in recipes of moist cooking methods, such as casseroles and stuffed peppers. It can also add moisture and richness to a dish without much fat.

Look for Freshness

Ground beef is one of the most perishable items in the meat case. So it’s important to choose new packages. A bright cherry-red color is a good sign, meaning the meat hasn’t gone bad. Also, be sure to smell the box, as foul odors can tell you a lot about the quality of the heart.

Ideally, it would help you to look for a source grind label, which tells you what part of the animal’s body the meat came from. This makes a difference when cooking, as the fattier cuts are more flavorful and tender.

In addition, choose packages with a “use by” date that is as close to your recipe’s window of opportunity as possible. And be sure to keep raw ground beef and other foods separated in the fridge, as cross-contamination can spread illness-causing bacteria from the meat to ready-to-eat foods. For longer shelf life, Underly likes the little plastic or foam packages (called trays) you sometimes find in the meat case, which can be stored in the refrigerator for about 2-3 days and frozen for up to three months. 

Look for the Meat’s Color

From the basic burger to meatloaf and chili, ground beef is the cornerstone of many dinner recipes. But have you ever considered what kind of ground meat you’re grabbing off that shrink-wrapped tray in the supermarket?

Those bright red packages of ground beef may look the same at a glance, but they each have a unique lean-to-fat ratio and come from different cuts of meat. Choose one that suits your cooking needs and goals, and opt for a high-quality cut of meat whenever possible.

To make the best choice, select a “source grind” that specifies which cut of meat is used in the mix. Canal House recommends selecting ground chuck (from the neck and shoulder) for casseroles and meatloaf and 80 percent lean ground sirloin for hamburgers.

Look for ground beef that is a rosy pink with defined white flecks of fat to ensure that the meat is fresh. Ground grayish or brown beef is a sign of spoilage and should be thrown away immediately for food safety reasons. The color change is due to the meat’s myoglobin changing to oxymyoglobin as it is exposed to oxygen.

Look for the Butcher’s Mark

Ground beef is a staple in many meals. It’s convenient, inexpensive, and delicious. However, not all ground beef is created equal. The quality of ground beef can make or break your recipe. This is why you should always buy the best ground beef you can afford. Whether you are making burgers, meatloaf, or casseroles, you want ground beef that is tender and flavorful. The best way to achieve this is to get your ground beef from a butcher or deli.

At the supermarket, look for packages that say what kind of cuts were used to produce the ground beef you are purchasing. For example, you will see boxes that indicate ground chuck, ground round, or ground sirloin. This will tell you what fat percentage was used and show its quality.

Always store your ground beef properly and avoid raw meats or ready-to-eat foods. Raw ground beef can spread illness-causing bacteria to those foods and utensils that come into contact with it. Also, never pour its liquified fat down the drain when cooking ground beef. This can cause clogs and lead to future plumbing problems.


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