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Cooking Tips

Does the Percentage of Fat In Your Ground Beef Really Make a Difference?

The fat in your ground beef could be the difference between a juicy or greasy meal.

Packaged ground beef can be a bit mysterious, right? 

What percentage of fat is ideal, and why does the meat so often look like a pink block of instant ramen noodles?

Well, I can’t help with the last question, but let’s talk about the first. When shopping for ground beef, the most important consideration is usually the percentage of fat; most of our recipes call for ground beef that’s 85 percent lean (15 percent fat) for the best balance of beefy flavor and tender texture without too much greasiness. 

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We’ll sometimes call for 80 percent lean beef for extra juiciness in foods that are prone to drying out, like a well-done hamburger. Conversely, we’ll use 90 percent lean beef in recipes with other sources of fat or moisture added, or where we want to minimize grease. 

Our Sesame-Glazed Meatballs and Broccoli, for example, use 90 percent lean beef so that the baking sheet doesn’t turn into a swimming pool of rendered beef fat, allowing the broccoli to get nice and roasty alongside the meatballs.

Another thing to consider is that a patty made with a higher percentage fat ground beef will be more likely to cause flare-ups on the grill, so always be sure to carefully consider the kind of beef you’re going to be grilling.

If the ground beef at your supermarket is labeled with the cut of beef instead of fat percentages, look for ground chuck (usually 80 to 85 percent lean) or ground sirloin (usually about 90 percent lean) for the best flavor and texture, and avoid ground round (which ranges from 80 to 90 percent lean), which can be tough and gristly.

All in all, what you’re cooking will determine the ideal fat content for your ground beef. Remember to consider the level of moisture that will be present while cooking, and account for more greasiness with a higher level of fat.