Guide to Ground Beef…
Ground beef is one of the most versatile go-to staples in a Midwest Kansas kitchen. It provides 10 essential nutrients your body needs like zinc, iron, protein and B vitamins. Because it is affordable and easy to prepare, it’s often the base for many casseroles, soups and appetizers. In a busy household, these types of dishes find their way to the table fairly often, so I’m always on the look-out for a new twist!
Understanding the type of ground beef you need for a particular dish is essential. The lowest cost option is typically the 80% lean/20% fat ground beef which is great for making burgers on the grill. One step up is 90% lean/10% fat which I select for meatballs or meatloaf. It holds shape nicely while retaining flavor with some fat content. The 93% lean or leaner ground beef meets government guidelines as a lean cut according to The Beef Checkoff at http://www.BeefItsWhatsForDinner.com. I will choose this percentage for casseroles that are baked in a glass baking dish or for sauces that call for browned ground beef.
I like to buy in bulk, watch for sales and freeze a supply of browned ground beef. I season a batch with onions and a batch with onions and green peppers. Before browning, pat the meat with a paper towel to remove any excess liquid. I add ½ tsp. of salt and ¼ tsp. of ground pepper for each pound of beef once the browning process is complete. My friend, Rachel, prepares a lot of Tex-Mex dishes so she likes to brown her ground beef with taco seasoning before freezing it.
After browning, let it completely cool in the refrigerator and then scoop it into portions in small freezer bags. One pound of ground beef generally serves three to four people. Squeeze out as much air as you can and seal tightly. These will be good for about 4 months. Label each with the contents and date. When I’m ready to use a bag, I defrost it in the microwave but you can also thaw it in the refrigerator overnight. To be safe please reheat it to 165°F.
If you are forming your raw ground beef into a patty or a loaf, handle the meat as little as possible. Add your seasonings and other ingredients and lightly mix them to avoid an end product that is too firm and compact. This is particularly important for meatloaf and meatballs.
Ground beef is a great staple to stockpile as the base for quick-to-the-table meals.