Ground beef is one of those things that we pick up at the grocery store for recipes that we’ve made for years. We don’t have to think about it. We head to the butcher or the market and ask for what we need or grab a pre-packaged pound or two and head home to make dinner.
In recent years, as we have all become more health conscious, it’s tempting to substitute the leaner ground beef for the fattier versions in our standard recipes, like hamburgers, chili, or tacos, but is that really a good idea? Are the health benefits significant? Are we really only substituting flavor, juiciness and tenderness or is it really better for us and our family members to opt for the lower fat content beef?
We’ll start with a little background on the different types of ground meat that are typically available to any consumer.
Ground Beef is the fattiest option and it typically prepared at a mix of 73% lean and 27% fat. The next option is Ground Chuck, which is an 80/20 mix. Ground Sirloin is close to Ground Chuck at 85/15 and finally we have Ground Round which only has 10% fat.
In reality, even with the variance in fat content, all of these options are very similar in tenderness, the main difference is going to be how juicy vs dry the leaner vs fattier options are. This of course will also affect the flavor because the juice and fat has a very significant role is flavoring the meat.
As mentioned, when trying to stick to a diet or eat healthy, you might think that’s it’s always best to just go with Ground Round or the Ground Sirloin, but you are definitely going to sacrifice taste. Because of this, from our experience and discussion with a panel of experts, the best option is to follow this rule.
If you are using the beef in a recipe that includes plenty of spices, herbs or other ingredients – think pasta sauce like spaghetti, chili, goulash or sloppy joes, you should go with the leaner options. Spaghetti prepared with Ground Round is still delicious. The flavors from the other ingredients in the recipe will make up for the lesser flavor of the beef. Alternately, if the beef is the primary ingredient and it’s really the star of the show, you don’t want to sacrifice the flavor, texture and juiciness. Using Ground Round or even Ground Sirloin for things like grilled burgers or even meatloaf is going to leave you with dry, crumbly, and flavorless food that may end up in your kids napkins or be shoveled onto the floor for Fido to snatch up. The benefit of a few less calories is not worth your hard work in the kitchen, even if it’s only for 1/2 hour, to end like that.
If you still need to be talked into shying away from Chuck or Round in your burgers, remember that a lot of the juice (which is actually melted fat) will actually drip off or leak out of the patties. The same can be said for meatloaf if you drain off the liquefied fat after pulling it out of the hot oven. Trust us, it’s not worth the savings here*.
*In a 4 oz serving (1/4 pound), the savings in Sirloin vs Chuck is only 29 calories. The fat difference is 3.86 grams.