Simple Tips for Buying Ground Beef & How to Understand the Differences

steak tartare tips for buying ground beef
Taken by Call Me Fred via [Public Domain].

Nothing is more American than a backyard barbeque with friends and a hamburger fresh off the grill.

But many choices you may not have thought about went into making that burger. Knowing the different options when you’re buying the meat for your meals will make selecting the right kind of ground beef much easier.

Here are some simple tips for buying ground beef that can turn up the flavor on any dish.

Different Options

When you’re preparing a meal with ground beef, you always want to consider the specific variety that would benefit the flavor profile you need. The biggest distinguisher between the types of ground beef is the cut of beef from which the meat comes.

Ground Beef (70/30)

Ground beef is any beef that has been ground, but it’s also a particular cut of meat. This meat is usually made up of the trimmings from the brisket or the shank, and it can contain up to 30% fat. Because of the elevated fat content, it’s the most economical choice, and it has the most flavor.

This variety will also shrink the most while being cooked because of its high fat content. This meat is particularly good for making hamburgers with.

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Ground Chuck (80/20)

Ground chuck is another ground meat that makes the best burgers. Like ground beef, ground chuck has a high fat content in the 15 to 20% range, so it will also shrink when cooked, but not as much as ground beef. Ground chuck comes from the shoulder area, which has meat that’s especially rich and tender.

Ground Round (85/15)

Ground round comes from the back end near the tail. This particular cut of beef is very lean, with a fat content of only around 10 to 14%. This means it’s tough and less flavorful. Because it has less flavor, this beef is best used as an ingredient where other flavors are the rock stars of the meal.

Ground Sirloin (90/10)

Ground sirloin is also extra-lean, with a fat content that ranges between eight and 10%. However, the sirloin of the beef is known for being very flavorful, even if it is drier than other areas. It’s a great burger alternative to ground beef or ground chuck for people who are more health-conscious. Because ground sirloin is low in fat while remaining very flavorful, it’s very popular, but it costs more as a result.

Making the Grade

The second of the simple tips for buying ground beef is to know the different USDA-quality grades. This is when it can help to go to a butcher shop, where they can answer these questions more easily than an associate at a grocery store. There are three grades of beef from the USDA: prime, choice, and select. Prime-grade is the highest grade, coming from young, well-fed cows.

Choice doesn’t meet the same standards as prime, but the meat is still tender and flavorful. Select is next—it doesn’t meet the high standards of the other two grades, but it’s still a good quality. Ungraded is an even lower rating for any meat the doesn’t measure up to the other three.

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