After chicken, ground beef might just be the most popular food in Canada. A staple ingredient in many classic dishes from our national cuisine, ground beef is both cheap and delicious. And as alternatives like ground pork, ground chicken, and ground turkey have become more available, Canada’s appetite for ground meats has only expanded.
This isn’t just because Canadians love meatloaf and hamburgers: as cuisines from Latin America, southern Europe, the Middle East, and South Asia have reshaped how urban and rural people across the country eat, they have also fed demand for ground meats.
It is also partially due to the ease with which ground meat can be prepared. Unlike a whole roast chicken or a fine steak, which requires careful preparation and attention when cooking, ground meat can easily be added to a whole host of dishes, from chili to keema aloo. But while frying up some ground pork and adding vegetables may be a great way to cook a healthy, tasty meal on the quick, if you really want to get the most out of your ground meats, there are a few things you should know.
To that end, we’ve provided a few general tips that will help you order premium meat online
and cook it to maximize texture and flavour, plus a few recipes that will help you enjoy some of the best dishes that use ground meat from around the world.
What Kinds of Ground Meat Should I Buy?
Ground meat can seem like a kind of ur-ingredient — meat distilled to its essential, mouldable form. But although ground meat doesn’t require the same kind of specific cooking skills as a brisket, that doesn’t mean there is no difference between ground pork, grass-fed ground beef, and ground turkey.
Each of these meats has its own special characteristics, and using those characteristics to your advantage is what cooking is all about.
For example, turkey is naturally a good deal drier than beef, so if you are planning on making turkey burgers, you’ll probably need to add some fat in the form of butter or oil to the recipe.
Similarly, grass-fed beef has much lower fat content than conventional grain-fed beef, so you’ll need to be careful to avoid overcooking it if you want the best results.
Next time you customize a meat box for delivery why not include a selection of all of our different ground meats so you can experiment with cooking techniques and approaches? You can use some of the recipes included below for ideas, and serve your family a new ground meat dish every night of the week.
Not only will it help you master new styles of cooking, but it will also give you a renewed appreciation for the particular characteristics of each kind of meat.
What is the Best Fat Content for Ground Beef?
One of the first questions people who are just starting to cook for themselves often ask is what the difference between different types of ground beef is. Is lean ground beef really that different from regular or extra-lean ground beef?
Fat content is an important but often misunderstood aspect of cooking with ground meat, and while most people with some experience will say that fat content determines how greasy the dish will be, or how long the meat needs to be cooked before drying out, the fact is that different fat contents can be suited to different kinds of cooking.
Here is a short breakdown that can help you determine what fat content to buy based on how you plan on cooking the meat:
- Regular ground beef: Regular ground beef has a maximum of thirty percent fat, making it a good choice for recipes where fat will be drained after cooking (tacos or Bolognese sauce, for example).
- Medium ground beef: Medium ground beef contains a maximum of twenty-three percent fat, and can be a good choice for grilling, as it is more likely to stay moist and juicy. Use it for burgers or kebabs.
- Lean ground beef: Lean ground beef has no more than seventeen percent fat, and for this reason is a good choice for people who want to reduce their fat intake. It is a good option to use when the meat will be basted or used with a sauce.
- Extra-lean ground beef: Containing no more than ten percent fat, extra-lean ground beef is the lightest and driest of the ground beef options. While this makes it very healthy, it also means that it requires more care in cooking, as it can easily dry out. This kind of beef is ideal in sauces or gravies.
While choosing the right beef for the dish you’re cooking is a good way to make cooking easy, it is worth noting that each of these types of meat can easily be modified by adding or removing fat.
For example, regular ground beef can be drained to reduce overall fat content, and extra-lean ground beef can be made fattier with the addition of butter or olive oil. The key thing is to experiment and find the right fat content level for the food you’re cooking.
3 Prep and Cooking Tips for Ground Meat
While there are significant differences between different types of ground meat, they all share a few general characteristics. For example, they are all easy to store, even in flavour and texture, and versatile. You can cook them loose in a sauce, or form them with bread crumbs, egg, and other bonding agents to make meatballs, meatloaf, kebabs, and burgers.
Similarly, there are a few general rules you should follow when cooking with ground meat if you want the best results. Here are three of the most important:
1. Always Defrost Before Cooking
At truLOCAL, we deliver all of our ground meats in individual frozen packages. While this makes storage easy, it also means some cooks might be tempted to move meat straight from the freezer to the frying pan.
This saves time when defrosting, but it can have a negative impact on the flavour. When meat is frozen, the natural juices turn into ice crystals. This means that when you drain the meat, you often end up draining away all that good flavour alongside the water. Instead, let ground meats defrost slowly in your fridge.
2. Beware Shrinkage
The fat profile of a ground meat will also impact the overall mass of the meat when it is finished cooking. Regular ground beef, for example, can be expected to lose about a third of its mass through the cooking process, while extra-lean ground beef will only lose around a tenth of its mass due to its lower fat content.
3. Season Meats Appropriately
One of the nice things about ground meat is that one type can easily be substituted for another. Running low on ground beef for that Bolognese sauce? Why not substitute with lamb or chicken!
While this is a great way to experiment with different flavours and discover new foods, it is important to bear in mind the different flavour profiles that meats from different animals have. Chicken and pork are both milder than beef, buffalo, and lamb, so make sure to increase and decrease seasonings appropriately.
3 Ground Meat Recipes You Need to Try
Now that you have a sense of the things you should watch out for when cooking ground meat, here are a few recipes that can help you start experimenting with the different ground meats available through truLOCAL’s fresh meat boxes.
Lamb Köfte (Turkish Meatballs)
Most fans of Middle Eastern food will be familiar with legendary Turkish kebabs. But köfte, or meatballs, are an equally prominent part of many regional Turkish cuisines. While köfte can be made using a variety of different ground meats, one of the most popular versions uses ground lamb.
Traditionally, köfte are flame-grilled, but if you’ve already packed your barbecue up for the season, here’s a great recipe you can make using your oven and stovetop.
- 2 pounds ground lamb
- ½cup minced fresh mint
- ¼ cup grated onion
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 3 tablespoons paprika
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 1 ½ teaspoons coarse kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
Preheat oven to 300°F, and then gently mix ingredients in a large bowl until they reach an even consistency. Form into oval patties at least one inch thick.
Heat oil in a large skillet, and sear the patties on both sides (should take seven or eight minutes), then transfer to a greased baking sheet. Cook for a further ten minutes, then serve with flatbread and rice.
Minchet Abish (Ethiopan Beef Stew)
Ethiopian cuisine is one of the most ancient and delicious of the Horn of Africa’s many culinary traditions, and if you’ve ever sat down to a table heaping with gravies, stews, and vegetables as well as roll after roll of delicious injera flatbread, you know just how different and surprising each dish can be.
Minchet Abish is a deceptively simple beef stew, meant to be served with injera and greens. The key to a good Minchet Abish is in finding the right ingredients, which is why you should order your organic ground beef online through truLOCAL, and get your spices at an authentic spice traders or African food market.
While there are many variations on this dish, here is a popular recipe that most urban Canadians will be able to source the ingredients for.
- 2 tablespoons ghee1 large diced onion
- 4 cloves garlic, crushed or grated
- 1 heaping tablespoon grated ginger
- 1½ teaspoons sweet paprika
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon each ground coriander, cumin, cinnamon, turmeric, and crushed red pepper flakes
- ¼ teaspoon each ground nutmeg, allspice, cardamom, cloves, fenugreek, and black pepper
- 1½ lbs organic lean ground beef
- 3 to 4 cups water or beef stock
- 6 oz tomato paste
In a large pot, heat the ghee and cook the onions until translucent. Then add the garlic, ginger and spices to create a paste, stirring constantly.
Add the ground beef and cook until brown, stirring every few minutes to break up the meat and create an even consistency. Pour in the water and tomato paste, bring to a boil, then cover the pot, turn the heat down, and simmer for three hours.
During the final hour, stir frequently and remove the pot lid to speed evaporation. Serve with greens and injera, or over rice.
If you’re feeding a crowd, it’s a good idea to err on the side of providing as much meat as possible, so you may want to order our 3 LB packs of ground beef to double the recipe and make sure everyone gets as much as they want.
This deceptively simple stew is one of the best introductions to Cuban cuisine you can get. Its wonderful mix of sweet and sour flavours will surprise and delight anyone you serve it to, and because it is such a straightforward dish, you can prepare it in advance for weekday lunches.
Given how strong the flavours are, grass-fed beef is a smart choice if you want ground meat that will add its own distinctive taste to the dish.
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 1 small onion, diced
- ½ green bell pepper, diced
- 2 cloves pressed garlic
- 1 ½ lbs grass-fed ground beef
- 1 tsp salt
- ½ tsp pepper
- 1 envelope Sazón Goya
- 8 oz tomato sauce
- 1 small can tomato paste
- ¼ cup dry white wine
- 4 tbsp Pimiento-stuffed green olives, sliced
- 1 small box of dark raisins
- ½ tsp cumin
- ½ tsp oregano
In a large saucepan, sauté the onion, green pepper, and garlic until the onion is translucent, then add the ground beef and brown on a medium low heat. Once the meat is brown, add the other ingredients and cook until the meat is tender (around thirty minutes). Serve with white rice.
Ground meat is endlessly versatile, which is one of the reasons it is such a key part of so many cuisines the world over.
If you want to explore how different ground meats can spice up your favourite dishes, make sure to include all our best ground meats in your next truLOCAL fresh meat delivery box!