Buying, Storing & Cooking Ground Beef
Ground Beef Label
You may see packages labeled as ground chuck, ground sirloin or ground round, but more commonly the label will indicate the percentage of lean to fat. 95% lean/5% fat ground beef qualifies as lean, one of the 29 cuts of lean beef. 70% lean/30% fat is the minimum amount of lean to meet the definition for ground beef. Although all types of ground beef are versatile and nutrient-rich, the easiest way to minimize fat in recipes is to start with at least a 90% lean/10% fat ratio.
What to Look For
- Select beef with a bright cherry-red color.
- Choose beef that is fi rm to the touch.
- Make sure the package is cold with no holes or tears.
- Choose packages without excessive liquid.
- Purchase beef before the sell-by date.
- Refrigerate or freeze as soon as possible after purchase.
- Label each package with the date and weight.
- Store ground beef in the refrigerator (35°- 40°F) for 1 to 2 days or the freezer (0°F or below) for 3 to 4 months.
- Freeze beef in its original transparent wrap up to two weeks. For longer storage, wrap in heavy-duty aluminum foil or place in plastic freezer bags, removing the air.
- Cooked ground beef can be stored in the refrigerator 3 to 4 days or in the freezer for 2 to 3 months.
- Use a gentle touch. Over mixing ground beef will result in burgers, meatloaves or meatballs with a firm, compact texture.
- Turn ground beef patties with a spatula. Do not press. Pressing causes the loss of juices and results in a dry burger.
- Recipe cooking times are for fresh or thoroughly thawed ground beef. Ground beef should be cooked to an internal temperature of 160° F. Color is not a reliable indicator of ground beef doneness. Due to the natural nitrate content of ingredients often used in meatloaf, such as onions, celery and bell peppers; meatloaf may remain pink even when a 160° F internal temperature has been reached.
- Insert an instant-read thermometer into the center or thickest part of the meatloaf or meatball, or horizontally from the side into the center for patties.