What Are the Different Types of Ground Beef?
Learn how to choose the right type of ground beef for the job
Most people don’t spend a lot of time thinking about ground beef. It’s a staple after all. It’s included in so many simple classic recipes that we don’t take time to consider it in the same way we’d carefully choose what cut of steak to get for a fancy dinner.
But while there are some times when getting the quickest, easiest option is actually the best choice, that won’t always be the case. Believe it or not, there are differences between the types of ground beef. Knowing what the main types of ground beef are will help you make informed decisions about the best meat to buy, whether you’re making burgers, tacos, meatloaf, or pasta.
The four main types to consider are regular ground beef, ground chuck, ground round, and ground sirloin. These will all look quite similar in a grocery store or butcher's shop, and they may be labeled under a variety of names as well. Don't worry, though, this article will walk you through what to consider when you're choosing a type of ground beef to buy.
What to Look for When Choosing Ground Beef
Before we jump into the types of ground beef themselves, it's important to know what sets them apart. There are three primary factors you should look for:
- The cut
- The fat content
- The grade
This is partially because the cut helps determine the fat content of the beef. Higher fat content can lead to tasty, juicy, marbled meat. Leaner meat is less greasy, though, and some of the most premium cuts are lean. While more fat often means more flavor, fattier meats are not the best choice for every dish, especially if you're buying cheaper, lower-grade ground beef.
The grade of ground beef is essentially a certification of its quality. Graded beef is sold with a sticker on the front of its packaging letting you know exactly what quality of meat you'll be buying.
- Prime beef is highly marbled meat from young, well-fed cows.
- Choice beef doesn't quite match the high standards of prime beef but it's the next best choice for tender and flavorful meat.
- Select beef is leaner and less marbled than either prime or choice beef. It's still quality, but its flavor won't be up to the same level.
- Ungraded beef is perfectly fine to eat, despite how sketchy its name may make it seem. It's far from high-quality meat, though. It's most likely the generic bargain stuff you buy at grocery stores for quick, no-fuss meals.
Four Major Types of Ground Beef
Regular Ground Beef
- Cut: varies (usually brisket and shank)
- Fat content: high - 25-30%
- Cut: shoulder
- Fat content: lean - 20%
- Cut: back, rump
- Fat content: extra lean - 10-14%
- Cut: back, near hip
- Fat content: extra lean - 10%
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What Else to Look Out For
You're now armed with the knowledge to make an informed decision about what ground beef to buy, but there are a few more things to keep in mind. For one, not every store and butcher shop will label their meat the same way. If you're not sure exactly what you're looking at, your best bet is to pay attention to the fat content. It should give you a good idea of what cut you're dealing with.
And, of course, if you're looking for the highest quality meat, your best option is probably not going to be some pre-packaged bunch of hamburger patties, even if the cut is good. Getting your meat from a deli or butcher shop is the best way to ensure it will be fresh and high-quality.