Learn how to cook ground beef to achieve juicy browned ground beef that everyone loves. NO more dry, gray, tasteless ground beef here! Use this method in your favorite recipes using ground beef as a base.
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Ground beef is a staple in so many frugal recipes. It is generally inexpensive compared to other cuts of beef and it is extremely versatile.
Personally I always have ground beef stocked in my freezer for quick meals like spaghetti sauce, taco meat, or sloppy Joes.
The problems when cooking ground beef
Most people "know" how to cook ground beef. It's not that complicated to put a hunk of ground meat in a skillet and cook until it's no longer pink. Truthfully there is no right way or wrong way to cook ground beef as long as it gets the job done.
There could, however, be some problems that arise when cooking ground beef that you may have experienced.
- dry meat
- gray colored meat with no brown coloring
- flavorless meat
- too much fat or liquid coming from the meat
Tips for perfect browned ground beef
There are a few simple tweaks we can make to kick it up a notch when cooking ground beef to encourage browning that will give any recipe extra flavor. We love that extra flavor, baby!
Use a high quality ground beef
Good browned ground beef starts with good meat. I purchase my ground beef from Butcher Box (use my link for $30 off your first box) once a month. It is high quality grass fed beef that is lean but not dry. If you are purchasing conventional meat from the grocery store, I would at least purchase an 85% lean beef. If you go with a higher fat content, your meat will be swimming in extra fat as you cook it.
Look for fresh ground beef that is pink and not gray in color. The meat should have a nice fresh beef smell and not emitting any off smell.
I also like to pat dry my completely thawed ground beef to remove excess moisture. Liquid is the enemy of browning.
Use a large stainless steel skillet
Using a large skillet allows for you to spread out the meat more. This means more surface area and more browning. Your meat will essentially steam if it is cooked in a small skillet. Steamed meat does not brown. The more pounds of ground beef you have, the bigger your skillet should be.
I also prefer to not use a non-stick skillet here to again achieve that browning that happens easier with stainless steel or cast iron.
Preheat your skillet
Get that skillet nice and hot for several minutes before adding the meat. A hot pan will help you achieve that browning that builds depth of flavor. I like to preheat my skillet over medium heat for about five minutes.
Leave the meat alone
After spreading out your meat, leave it alone to develop that brown crust. Once it starts getting nice and brown, then you can flip the meat and start breaking it into smaller pieces.
Season your beef
Every time you cook, it's best to season each layer to build flavor. While you don't have to season your meat while it cooks, it definitely adds more flavor and builds a good flavor base. I typically just stick to a little salt and pepper.
Steps for cooking ground beef
Follow these simple steps when cooking ground beef.
- Pre-heat a large skillet over medium heat for 3-5 minutes.
- Pat dry the thawed raw ground beef with a paper towel or tea towel to remove excess moisture.
- Add beef to the hot sauté pan and spread out using a spatula or wooden spoon.
- Break into large pieces.
- Leave alone for several minutes until it has developed a nice brown crust.
- Season meat with a little salt and pepper.
- Flip over beef using a spatula and continue breaking into smaller pieces, scraping up bits off of skillet if necessary.
- Continue to brown for a few more minutes until all pieces are no longer pink and have developed a nice golden color.
- Drain any excess fat and use your cooked ground beef in your favorite recipe.
Freezing ground beef
Cooking large batches of ground beef is a great way to meal prep. It is such a time saver having pre-cooked meat at the ready to throw in a slow cooker soup, meat sauce, quick casserole or chili.
Simply cook several pounds of meat and divide into one pound portions.
Freeze in an airtight container or in a freezer bag. Don't forget to label with the date you cooked it along with the amount in the bag.
According to Still Tasty, frozen ground beef will maintain best quality for 3 months. Beyond that you run the risk of freezer burn, but it will still be safe to eat.
Easy Ground Beef Recipes
All of these are delicious family friendly recipes that start with browning ground beef on the stovetop. Give them a try and you won't be disappointed.
How to cook ground beef
A foolproof method of cooking ground beef that results in browned coloring and juicy meat.
- 1 lb ground beef completely thawed
- ¼ tsp salt
- ⅛ tsp pepper
Pre-heat a large skillet over medium heat for 3-5 minutes.
Pat dry the thawed raw ground beef with a paper towel or tea towel to remove excess moisture.
Add beef to the hot sauté pan and spread out using a spatula or wooden spoon. Break into large pieces.
Leave alone for several minutes until it has developed a nice brown crust.
Season meat with a little salt and pepper.
Flip over beef using a spatula and continue breaking into smaller pieces, scraping up bits off of skillet if necessary.
Continue to brown for a few more minutes until all pieces are no longer pink and have developed a nice golden color.
Drain any excess fat and use your cooked ground beef in your favorite recipe.
If your meat is super lean, you may need a little oil in the pan to encourage browning. I never find it necessary though even with fairly lean meat as long as your skillet is hot.