About Ground Beef

About Ground Beef

Do you ever feel confused as to what type of ground beef you should be using in a recipe that simply calls for “ground beef”? The first step is to understand what the options are.

In the U.S.A., ground beef is generally sold based on the lean to fat ratio. This can be found stated on the package ranging from 73% lean/27% fat to 96% lean/4% fat.  Also commonly sold, is ground beef from specific cuts; chuck (commonly 80% lean/20% fat), round (commonly 85% lean/15% fat) and sirloin (commonly 90% lean/10% fat).

In Canada, ground beef is primarily sold under 4 classifications based on the maximum percentage of fat.

Extra Lean: Maximum 10% fat (90% lean or greater).
Lean: Maximum 17% fat (83% lean or greater)
Medium: Maximum 23% fat (77% lean or greater)
Regular: Maximum 30% fat (70% lean or greater)

73% lean/27% fat (“regular” in Canada): Suitable for recipes where you brown the meat into crumbles, such as, chili, tacos, spaghetti meat sauce, etc. Why? Because you can drain, blot and rinse the cooked meat to reduce the amount of fat.* It also works well for hamburger patties that are cooked on a grill so that the fat can drip off while cooking. And, if you blot the cooked patties with paper towels you can remove more fat.

80% lean/20% fat (“medium” in Canada): Pretty much the same as above.

85% lean/15% fat (“lean” in Canada): This is, in my opinion, the most versatile ground beef. It’s not too fatty and not too lean. It really works well for any recipe calling for ground beef. When possible, drain, blot and rinse this meat as well to reduce the amount of fat.*

90% lean/10% fat (“extra lean” in Canada): Good to use in recipes where draining the fat may be difficult, such as meatloaf. Because it is fairly lean, it also works well if it is used in a sauce or other form of liquid.

Of course, in the end, the ground beef that is on sale may influence my decision as well. But, keep in mind, the fattier the meat the less there is after it is cooked. So, you may just be further ahead to use a leaner product even if it’s a tad more expensive.


• Starting with cooked (160°F) ground beef crumbles, use a slotted spoon to remove the beef and place it on a baking sheet that is lined with 2 or 3 layers of paper towels.
• Blot top of beef with more paper towels.
• Place beef crumbles in a small holed strainer over a large bowl and pour very, very hot water (not boiling) over the crumbles.
• Allow crumbles to drain for several minutes.
• Note: Pour fat into a container, let cool and place in garbage.