The Best Ground Beef Trick I Just Learned After 25 Years of Cooking

We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image
Credit: Joe Lingeman

I love a good kitchen hack as much as the next person, but after more than 25 years of working in kitchens — both private and professional, and with chefs far more knowledgeable than myself — I thought I’d heard all the best ones. I was wrong. I recently had a lightbulb moment when I stumbled over a tip on a BBQ forum about ground meat.

You see, I can’t think of a better comfort food than something savory wrapped in dough. I’m a big fan of stuffed foods: empanadas, dumplings, shells. (With food, as with fashion, if it’s got pockets I’m sold — especially if those pockets can be filled with delicious ground meat, vegetables, and spices.) Getting the dough right is usually the hard part, but over the years I’ve refined that process. Still, there was something about my homemade versions of these foods that never quite measured up to the tender, mouthwatering kinds I’d eaten out. And now I finally know what.

Credit: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Barrett Washburne

For More Tender Ground Meat, Grind It After Cooking Too

It’s the meat — not the quality or the flavor, but the texture. Ground meat, even when you grind it yourself, tends to be a bit larger and more crumbly, which is great when you want  chunky marinara or sloppy Joes. But for filling delicate pockets of dough, you want a finer grind. And it’s easy enough to get: Just cook your meat with seasonings as you usually would, then cool the mixture and transfer it to a food processor. Pulse it together to your desired consistency and you’ll have a much more tender and homogenous filling. 

When I stumbled across this ingenious tip, I had to test it out, so I split a batch of empanadas in half, using the traditional larger filling in some and the more finely ground meat in the rest. The results were unanimous: Everyone preferred the empanadas made with the finer grind, even if they didn’t know exactly why. 

It’s a small extra step to take for quality, and if, like me, you prefer to make your filling ahead of time to let the flavors meld better, you can pulse the mixture before refrigerating or freezing it. And if you don’t eat meat, it works with vegetarian crumbles as well. 

Across the board, the finer consistency of the filling distributes the seasonings and flavors more evenly, and makes each bite more tender and delectable. This trick works virtually anywhere you use ground meat: eggrolls and wontons, stuffed peppers and cabbage, shepherd’s pie, lasagna — even quesadillas. Use it wisely.