5 Useful Things to Know About Ground Meat

updated May 1, 2019
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Chicken lettuce wraps, garnished with scallions, on a plate
(Image credit: Emma Christensen)

Whether you grind it yourself, or let your butcher or grocer do the heavy lifting for you, ground meat is quite possibly one the most useful and versatile ingredients in the kitchen. It’s a relatively inexpensive cut that works as the backbone to a laundry list of recipes, and just a little bit can stretch a meal a long way.

1. Even if there’s color change, ground meat is still okay to eat.

While it might not look visually appealing, ground meat that has changed color is still perfectly fine to eat as long as it’s been stored properly and consumed within a safe period of time.

2. Partially freeze meat before grinding it yourself.

The key to grinding meat at home in a food processor is keeping everything very cool. Freeze one-inch cubes of meat for 20 to 30 minutes — just long enough so the edges and corners of the cubes feel stiff, but the middles are still pliable.

3. Salt meat just before it hits the heat.

Salt has a big influence on the texture of ground beef. When used too soon, it breaks down the proteins in the beef, resulting in a tougher end product. When ground beef is salted just before going on the heat, you’re more likely to get a tender, loose crumble.

4. Avoid too much handling to keep meat tender.

Whether you’re using ground meat to make burgers, meatloaf, or meatballs, be sure not to overwork the meat. When overworked, all types of ground meat become more tough as they cook. Keep the handling to a minimum for the most tender results.

5. Keep ground meat in the fridge no more than two days before cooking.

Whether recently purchased and stored in the fridge or defrosted straight from the freezer, be sure to cook all varieties of ground meat within two days.