Recipe Review

I Can’t Believe How Well This One-Ingredient Trick Works for Cooking Ground Beef

published Mar 4, 2021
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Credit: Sara Tane

When I caught wind that there were some videos going around on TikTok offering their two cents on how to cook ground beef, my immediate reaction was to cover my ears and run the other way. Why? Because the last time someone on TikTok decided they had some ground meat cookery advice, they were suggesting that you drain and wash your cooked meat under water. I’m surprised my phone screen didn’t shatter after playing this video. The HORROR!

Luckily, this most recent ground beef cooking tip has nothing to do with the previous nonsense that my virgin eyes had to endure. In fact, the hack is merely a simple addition of a pantry ingredient for seriously improved ground beef results. Ground Beef TikTok™ was a place on the internet that I swore I’d never return to, but after this hack, it looks like I’m here to stay.


Why haven’t you started adding baking soda to your ground beef yet? ##food ##foodtiktok ##beef ##fyp ##foryoupage

♬ Hadal Ahbek – قرآن

TikTok Wants You to Add Baking Soda to Your Ground Beef

Here’s the tip: For every pound of ground beef, a good rule of thumb is to add about 1/4 teaspoon baking soda and to let the meat sit for about 15 minutes before cooking. From there, you can throw the ground beef in a hot, dry pan and cook it up.

Why would you want to do this? The main quarrel with cooking ground beef is that it expels so much moisture while cooking that it’s hard to achieve nice caramelization and browning due to all the liquid in the pan.

Some cooks get around this difficulty by cooking the ground meat in smaller batches so that less moisture is expelled, but this baking soda hack solves this issue with science! Since TikTok is a place where your brain cells go to die, the video doesn’t really delve too far into the reasoning behind why this works, but basically (punny) the high pH of the baking soda prevents the proteins in the beef from bonding. These strong bonds are what forces moisture out of the beef and leaves you with a pool of water in the pan, so by keeping these bonds from happening, you’re going to see way less moisture while you’re cooking. 

Will this work with other meat? Since we understand the science, we can make an educated guess that this will hold up across all ground meats, but give it a try and let me know how it goes with turkey, chicken, lamb, or even sausage. Same goes for the fat content of your ground beef — based on the science, we can assume this hack works with your preferred fat content. The fattier the beef, the more rendered fat you might see in the pan, but it shouldn’t affect the success of your golden brown beef.

Credit: Sara Tane

My Honest Review of Adding Baking Soda to Ground Beef

SMH, TikTok, you’ve done it again. I largely avoid cooking ground beef because it’s not my favorite flavor-wise, and on top of that, you have to throw in the agony of the fatty beef liquid that you’re left with when you cook it. Sorry, but I’ll respectfully pass. The baking soda not only prevented a large pool of moisture from accumulating, but it helped brown the ground beef bits and kept the meat juicy and tender. Forget that rubbery texture you might be used to with your ground beef — this was anything but that. 

Don’t get me wrong, there was a minor amount of liquid that accumulated, but most of it was rendered fat and it did not impede the meat from achieving glorious, caramelized results. Is this hack going to make me a weeknight ground beef consumer? Probably not, but next time I’m throwing together tacos or a stir-fry, this is certainly going to be a trick that I keep in mind. I knew that baking soda could take your boiled and roasted potatoes to the next level, but now I know that it can also greatly improve your ground meat.

Credit: Sara Tane

My Tips for Trying This Tip at Home

  1. Embrace the hot, dry pan. There are not many meat cookery applications where you’ve got a hot, oil-less pan, but this is definitely one of them. The beef will render some fat which it can cook in, and you will achieve better results with as little oil and moisture in the pan as possible.
  2. Let the meat cook undisturbed. Letting food cook without fussing with it is an extremely underrated cooking skill. I know it’s tempting to want to get in there with your spatula and constantly stir. Instead, you will have better results if you just barely break up the meat and let heat and science do its thing. The caramelization will be deeper and darker, and the meat is less likely to be overcooked.
  3. Season! The video doesn’t address seasoning but that’s equally important. Don’t be afraid to add in your favorite ground spices (smoked paprika, cumin, and cayenne are all great with beef) and some salt and pepper to your taste.