How to Cook Ground Beef

Browned, juicy ground beef crumbles are the secret to steller chili, sloppy joes and beyond.

May 03, 2023
Delicious spicy and low carb pan dish with low fat ground beef and mediterranean vegetables served hot in a rustic cast iron pan on table background. Closeup view


Delicious spicy and low carb pan dish with low fat ground beef and mediterranean vegetables served hot in a rustic cast iron pan on table background. Closeup view

Photo by: Angelika Heine/Getty Images

Angelika Heine/Getty Images

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By Sheela Prakash for Food Network Kitchen

Sheela is a cookbook author, recipe developer, food and wine writer and registered dietician.

Ground beef is an affordable and versatile protein that’s also incredibly family-friendly. It can be used in chili, tacos, sloppy joes, lasagna and beyond! Cooking it is fairly straight-forward. All you need is a skillet, a bit of oil and salt to turn ground beef into browned, juicy crumbles to use in dinner recipes.

What to Know About Buying Ground Beef

Most packages of ground beef will list their fat-to-lean content on the label. This label can range from 70/30 (the fattiest) all the way to 96/4 (the leanest).

80/20 and 85/15: These are great all-purpose ground beef choices as they are lean but not too lean, which means they still contain some fat and therefore flavor.

70/30: Fattier ground beef will be the most juicy and flavorful, but will shrink the most when cooked due to its high fat content.

96/4: Extra lean ground beef will contain the least calories, but it will also be the least flavorful and most prone to drying out when cooked.

Homemade American Soft Shell Beef Tacos with Lettuce Tomato Cheese


Homemade American Soft Shell Beef Tacos with Lettuce Tomato Cheese

Photo by: bhofack2/Getty Images

bhofack2/Getty Images

How to Cook Ground Beef

The best way to cook ground beef is to brown it. This is done by sautéing the ground beef in a skillet on the stovetop until it’s cooked through.

How to Brown Ground Beef

1. Select the Right Skillet: To cook 1 pound of ground beef, use a 10- to 12-inch skillet. If you have a cast iron skillet, that’s an especially good choice as the strong, consistent heat of cast iron will help brown ground beef exceptionally well.

2. Heat the Oil: Heat 1 teaspoon of olive oil or your vegetable oil of choice in the skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering.

3. Cook the Browned Beef Without Disturbing: Add the ground beef to the skillet and use a wooden spoon to break it up into a few large pieces. Brown the meat, without touching it, for about 5 minutes.

4. Season the Ground Beef: Season the ground beef with 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and any additional spices (more on that below).

5. Break Up the Ground Beef While Cooking: Then start breaking it into smaller pieces with the wooden spoon. Continue to cook, stirring and breaking up the beef into small crumbles, until any moisture from the beef has evaporated and the beef is evenly browned and no longer pink.

Temperature to Cook Ground Beef

The USDA recommends cooking ground beef to an internal temperature of 160 degrees F to destroy any potentially harmful bacteria. This temperature equates to cooking the ground beef to well-done. However, if you're using the ground beef in hamburgers, many people prefer to cook their patties to medium rare (130 to 135 degrees F) or medium (135 to 140 degrees F) to ensure it's juicy.

Seasonings for Ground Beef

When browning ground beef, you don’t need to season it with much more than salt and pepper. However, ground beef takes well to many additional spices, so you can add them if you choose. If you're using the ground beef in tacos or chili, chili powder, ground cumin or even smoked paprika are great options. Garlic powder and onion powder are two other versatile seasonings that work well with ground beef no matter how you plan to use it. Or if you're using it in lasagna or a pasta casserole, try dried oregano or Italian seasoning.

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