Ingredient of the Week, August 5: Ground Beef
Ground beef is simply ground up lesser cuts of beef. It is considered accepted theory that the concept of ground beef was a creation of the Mongolian and Turkic tribe. The tribes had access to Asian cattle and they shredded the low quality meat to make it more digestible.
How The Name Ground Beef Became Known As Hamburger
Russian Tartars brought the food to Germany before the 14th century. In Germany the meat was seasoned and cooked or even eaten raw. This gave rise to a food for the commoners of the Hamburg region and the beef was referred to as Hamburg Steak.
The most popular ground beef recipes in the United States are hamburgers, casseroles and chili with an up and coming runner up of ground beef tacos.
Standard Grades Of Ground Beef
|Cut||% of Lean||% Of Fat||Calories per ounce*|
|Ground Beef||70% lean||30% fat||77|
|Ground Chuck||80% lean||20% fat||76|
|Ground Sirloin||85% lean||15% fat||73|
|Ground Round||90% lean||10% fat||65|
|*Crumbled and cooked|
Grass Fed, Organic, and Kobe/Wagyu
In addition to standard grading there are some new varieties on the market you will want to be aware of.
Grass Fed Beef – Grass fed means that for the lifetime of the animal it consumed a diet of forage consisting of grasses, legumes, Brassica). Animals cannot be fed grain or grain byproducts. Mineral and vitamin supplementation is allowed.
Organic Beef – By definition this means that beef must be fed 100% organic feeds that contain no animal parts. Additionally the animals must be allowed access to outdoors, sun, grass and pasture.
Kobe / Wagyu Beef - Kobe beef grown in the U.S. referred to as Wagyu beef. The typical ground beef is “chuck” which offers enough fat to be moist with good flavor. This is the most expensive ground beef available and can be found in some specialty markets as well as online. Wagyu ground beef sells for about $12.50lb.
Buying Ground Beef
Fresh VS Frozen
We strongly encourage you to purchase fresh ground beef from a reputable grocer or butcher who has a high turn-over of products. Small stores with lower sales volume may keep product for longer periods of time.
Even though we now have labeling laws for origins of meat those laws do not apply to processed products such as some “hamburger patties” sold in the frozen food section as well as other processed foods.
When you purchase fresh ground beef there is typically a “use or freeze by” date on the package. You should use fresh ground beef within a day of purchase or package it and put it in your freezer.
Sell By or Expiration Dates – The federal government does not require retailers to put sell by or expiration dates on meat packaging. Primarily it is done by the retailer so that they know when to rotate or remove stock. Clearly it is helpful for the consumer as well. Dating is only as good as storage and handling practices. If the product has been out of refrigeration too long the product could be well beyond it’s prime before a sell by date is exceeded.
What The Meat Should Look Like – Typically packaged or butcher-bulk ground beef will be bright red on the outside. The interior meat may turn a slight grey color and this is normal. However; if you purchase ground beef that is grey in color all-over there is a good chance it is beginning to spoil. If the grayish meat does not have an “off smell” then it should be OK to eat provided it is cooked and used immediately; otherwise discard it.
Have The Ground Beef Made For You
If you shop at a butcher or a grocery store with a butcher you can have them grind the beef for you. I typically pick out a piece of chuck roast (or sirloin, depending on what I need) and I ask the butcher to put it though their grinder. Although we don't know how clean the grinders are at least we know the meat that went into our ground beef.
Use or Freeze – Ground beef should be used or frozen within 2 days of purchase (or less if labeling advises).
Freeze – Don’t freeze meats in butcher wrappings or store packaging. Work on a clean work surface. Repackage portion-size beef in freezer paper or plastic freezer bags. Remove as much air from the packaging as possible to reduce freezer burn. Date the package and use within 6 months.
Wash all surfaces well after packaging.
Cooking – Ground beef should be cooked to an internal temperature of 160F. This temperature will kill potential E.coli bacteria. Undercooked ground beef is one of the primary sources for this food-borne illness. Don't be misguided by the color of the meat. When in doubt use an instant read meat thermometer to check the internal temperature. This is especially critical when feeding children or any adults with an immune deficiency problems.
Handling - Wash Your Hands & Works Surfaces
E.coli can be transferred from your hands, dishes or work surfaces. Wash your hands well for a minimum for 20 seconds using warm soapy water. Do this before and after handling meat. Wash all dishes, work surfaces, cutting boards, and utensils that come in contact with the raw meat.
What are your favorite ways to use ground beef?