Cooking lean ground meat

What is the leanest form of ground beef? I love to make meatloaf and grilled hamburgers, but since I’m dieting I want to be sure I’m fixing the leanest possible. And can you make a comparison of fat and calories for ground chuck, ground round and ground sirloin? Thanks for your help!

The leanest form of ground beef is ground eye-of-the-round. And, you won’t find it packaged in any meat case. That’s because butchers love to sell beautiful cuts of lean beef whole, not ground. And, because it is so lean, it won’t deliver a tender, tasty hamburger to your family picnic table. Remember, fat makes burgers tender and flavorful.

If you want ground eye-of-the-round, you should pick a piece of eye-of-the-round from the case, hand it to your butcher and ask her to grind it for you. She will have to put some bread through the grinder to clean out the previous ground beef, which surely has more fat than an eye-of-the-round. This ground beef will be bright red, due to the absence of fat. I would hope the butcher passes-on the price from the whole eye-of-the-round, but I wouldn’t blame her if she tacks-on an extra charge for the grinding and the service. Also, I suspect the meat will lose some weight in the grinding.

Don’t use ground eye-of-the-round for burgers. They will be tough and tasteless. Plain old ground round should work a little better for burgers. (My mother always recommends ground chuck, if you are after taste, and don’t care about high fat.) You can use ground eye-of-the-round for mixture dishes like meatloaf, meatballs or kibbe. A Syrian-American friend’s mom mixes ground round with soaked bulghur (medium grind) to form kibbe, a Middle Eastern meat dish. The bulghur keeps the meat tender. And her secret spices and toasted pine nuts add flavor. The same tenderness and flavor can be accomplished with breadcrumbs and herbs in meatballs or meatloaf. When mixing low-fat ground beef with grain foods, be sure to add a few splashes of water. That keeps the final dish tender.

I did a little research, with USDA references, to answer your question about comparing ground chuck, ground round and ground sirloin. It was next to impossible, using those figures to find a satisfactory answer. So, I’ll give you my take on the subject. USDA measures nutrients in Ground Beef, Lean Ground Beef and Extra Lean Ground Beef. Of course, you know which sample registers the lowest calories and fat — right, Extra Lean Ground Beef. You might find similar labels in your store. But, in all the stores I frequent, ground round, ground sirloin, ground chuck and ground beef are what I find on the labels. I rank them in that order — with ground round the leanest and ground beef with the most fat. The best labeled ratio I’ve found is 90%lean-10%fat. Ground eye-of-the-round might be leaner. And, if you can find a lean percentage higher than 90%, buy it.

If you go seeking leaner ground meat, beware when you turn into the poultry section. Ground turkey is not necessarily leaner than ground round beef. But if you pick a package of ground turkey “breast”, you’ve picked the leanest-of-the-lean. Be careful to cook turkey well done, but do not overcook — it dries easily.

To be on the safe side, cook all your ground meats well done — but not charred. In fact, grill burgers well ahead of serving time and keep them hot in the oven, in a covered baking pan, smothered in onions and broth — Coney Island-Style. It’s not safe to grill burgers to order. And never serve burgers with a pink center.

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