Ground beef is a popular protein choice for creating delicious comfort foods. However, understanding the labels on ground beef packages can be a bit confusing. Whether you’re buying ground beef in bulk or grinding fresh meat for your butcher shop, it’s important to know the different types of ground beef and what their labels mean. In this article, we’ll explain which types of hamburger meat are best for your recipes and how the fat percentage on the label affects the outcome of your dish.
What Is Ground Beef?
Ground beef is meat sourced from cattle that has been finely ground to tenderize tougher cuts. It’s a versatile and affordable protein that can be used to make a variety of dishes, from tacos to bolognese sauce.
When it comes to labeling, there are different types of ground beef with varying fat percentages. Some ground beef comes from specific cuts of beef, such as chuck, round, or sirloin. Other packages may simply be labeled “ground beef” or “ground hamburger,” which means they are a blend of beef from different parts of the steer, sometimes with added fatty cuts to increase the fat content.
Ground Beef Percentages
The fat percentage listed on a package of ground beef indicates the lean-to-fat ratio of the meat, also known as the “lean point.” For example, if the lean point is listed as 70/30, it means the ground beef is 70% lean and 30% fat. This means that one serving of 70/30 ground beef will contain 30% fat by weight.
What Is the Leanest Ground Beef?
The leanest type of ground beef is ground sirloin, with a lean point of 90% lean and 10% fat (90/10). Some ground beef blends can be even leaner, with a ratio of 96% lean to 4% fat (96/4). If you’re looking for a lean alternative to ground beef, certain types of game meat like ground bison are also very lean.
Types of Ground Beef
Ground beef can be classified by its source or by its lean point. Often, these two classifications overlap. Let’s explore the four types of ground beef based on their source.
1. Ground Beef (70/30)
The term “ground beef” can be a bit confusing because it represents two different products. First, it is a general term for any ground beef product, which may include ground sirloin or ground round. Second, if a package is simply labeled “ground beef” or “ground hamburger” without specifying the source, it is a blend made from inexpensive trimmings.
You can find ground beef blends with various fat percentages, but 70/30 is a common ratio. The higher fat content makes this ground beef ideal for juicy burgers, but keep in mind that the meat will shrink considerably as the fat melts.
- Ground Beef Fat Content: 70% lean 30% fat (70/30)
- Ground Beef Source: A blend of leftover beef trimmings
- How to Use Ground Beef: Juicy burgers cooked on the grill
- Other Names for Ground Beef: Ground hamburger, hamburger meat
2. Ground Chuck (80/20)
Ground chuck is labeled as such when it comes from the chuck portion of the cow, which includes the neck and shoulder region. This area is considered a primal source and contains a high amount of fat, making ground chuck flavorful and juicy. However, it also has a lot of connective tissue, which can make the meat tough. Grinding chuck meat is a popular way to tenderize this cut.
Ground chuck has the second-highest fat content, with a ratio of 80% lean to 20% fat (80/20) per serving. This makes it a great option for burger patties and meatballs that benefit from the flavor of the fat without becoming too greasy.
- Ground Chuck Fat Content: 80% lean 20% fat (80/20)
- Ground Chuck Source: Neck and shoulders
- How to Use Ground Chuck: Burgers, meatballs
- Other Names for Ground Chuck: Ground beef chuck
Ground Beef vs Ground Chuck
It’s important to note that any product labeled ground chuck comes exclusively from the primal chuck portion (neck and shoulders), while ground beef is a blend. Ground chuck (80/20) is leaner than ground beef (70/30). Additionally, ground beef can be used as a general term, where ground chuck is a specific type of ground beef.
3. Ground Round (85/15)
Ground round beef comes from the round portion of the cow, which includes the rump, hips, hind legs, and knees. Similar to the chuck region, this part of the cow contains tough muscle and connective tissue. Grinding beef round into hamburger meat makes it more tender, but it can dry out when overcooked.
The most common lean point associated with ground round is 85/15, meaning it contains 85% lean meat and 15% fat. This makes it a healthier option, but it has less flavor compared to fattier products. The lean-to-fat ratio is best suited for seasoned meat mixtures or dishes that require additional ingredients for binding.
- Ground Round Fat Content: 85% lean 15% fat (85/15)
- Ground Round Source: Hind portion of the cow
- How to Use Ground Round: Taco meat, seasoned crumbles, meatloaf
- Other Names for Ground Round: Ground beef round
Ground Round vs Ground Beef
Ground round is a specific type of ground beef sourced only from the round primal, while ground beef or ground hamburger indicates a blend of trimmings. Ground round is a better choice for dishes where you don’t want excess grease, while ground hamburger is ideal for juicy hamburgers cooked on the grill.
4. Ground Sirloin (90/10)
Ground sirloin is considered the leanest type of ground beef. It comes from the sirloin primal, which is located in the mid-back region of the steer. Cuts from this area, such as tri-tip steak, top sirloin, and tenderloin (filet mignon), are more expensive. Ground sirloin is created using the lean meat from this area, resulting in the healthiest lean point for ground beef. It is often referred to as extra-lean ground beef.
If you’re looking to create a healthy menu and minimize saturated fat in your dishes, ground sirloin is the best choice. However, due to the low fat content, it can easily dry out when cooked. It is recommended to use ground sirloin in dishes that have added liquid, such as chili or meat sauce.
- Ground Sirloin Fat Content: 90% lean 10% fat (90/10)
- Ground Sirloin Source: Sirloin subprimal (mid-back)
- How to Use Ground Sirloin: Meat sauces, chili, lasagna, hamburger steak
- Other Names for Ground Sirloin: Extra-lean ground beef
Ground Sirloin vs Ground Beef
Ground sirloin is the leanest type of ground beef, making it a healthier protein option. Ground beef, with a higher fat content, is better suited for hamburger patties. To distinguish between the two on labels, ground meat sourced from the sirloin portion will always be labeled ground sirloin, while any product labeled ground beef or ground hamburger is a blend of leftover trimmings.
Ground Beef FAQ
Understanding ground beef can raise some questions due to the variety of labels. Here are answers to a few common questions:
What’s in Ground Beef?
If a package is simply labeled ground beef, it contains a blend of leftover trimmings. These are the pieces of lean meat and fat left after portioning the cow, which are then put through a meat grinder to produce ground hamburger. If the package is labeled ground sirloin, ground round, or ground chuck, the meat comes from those specific portions.
Is Ground Sirloin the Same as Ground Beef?
No, ground sirloin is not the same as ground beef. Ground beef is a blend of different trimmings, while ground sirloin comes only from the loin cut.
Is Ground Sirloin Good for Burgers?
No, ground sirloin has very little fat, making it a poor choice for burgers. Instead, try ground chuck (80/20) or ground beef (70/30).
What Is Ground Round?
Ground round is a type of ground beef that comes from the round portion of the cow, specifically the hind quarters. It typically has a lean point of 85% lean and 15% fat. Ground round is best used in seasoned meat mixtures as it has less flavor than fattier grinds.
What Is Ground Chuck Used For?
Ground chuck contains a good amount of fatty tissue from the neck and shoulders, making it a great option for hamburger patties or meatballs.
What’s the Difference between Ground Round and Ground Chuck?
Ground round comes from the hind quarters and contains less fat than ground chuck, which comes from the neck and shoulders. Ground chuck has more flavor, but ground round is slightly healthier.
Now that you’re familiar with the types of ground beef and the meaning of fat percentages, you can confidently choose and label your ground meats correctly. Fattier grinds like ground hamburger and ground chuck are perfect for juicy burgers, while leaner grinds like ground round and ground sirloin work well in dishes with added liquid or seasoning. Remember to experiment and find the perfect ground beef for your favorite recipes!