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Ground beef is a staple across many households, ours included! It’s the base for hundreds of meals from chili to tacos and everything in between. Most of us probably cook with ground beef once a week if not more, so it’s important to do it the right way! Just because an ingredient or a method is familiar doesn’t mean we shouldn’t go back and evaluate from time to time. This list is here to do just that – make you aware of best practices when selecting and preparing ground beef. Let’s dig in!

Using Improper Freezing Method

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If you’re in the habit of tossing ground beef – package, tray, and all into the freezer and forgetting about it until you need to use it for a recipe, you’re doing it wrong! Not only does this cause freezer burn, but it takes up precious freezer space. Instead, repackage the beef into freezer bags. Once filled, make sure to flatten the bag. This saves space and eliminates air bubbles that cause freezer burn.

Using Unsafe Thawing Method

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First of all, you should always thaw ground beef before cooking with it. Cooking frozen beef causes the ice crystals to melt too quickly, taking the fat along with it, thus giving you flavorless beef. Make sure you’re using one of the following methods for thawing to avoid bland or potentially unsafe meat.

First, you can pop the beef out of the freezer and let thaw in the fridge. The ice crystals melt slowly enough to get absorbed back into the meat. Make sure to use it within 2 days of placing it in the fridge. Another method is to thaw in the microwave, though this option is less than ideal. The preferred method is to submerge the ground beef in a large bowl of cold water and let it sit for about 15 minutes.

Picking Beef Based on Color

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How do you normally decide which package of ground beef to buy? Which one looks the freshest, right? If you’re relying on the color of ground beef to tell you how fresh it is, I’ve got some bad news. According to the American Meat Institute, a lot of meat packers use a system that injects carbon monoxide into the packaging. It acts as a color stabilizer, which means that bright red color stays much longer than it would naturally on its own. The moral of the story is to always check the dates!

Not Buying Fresh Ground Beef

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Better yet, get rid of the packaged ground beef altogether! Or at the very least, get the good, fresh stuff if you’re cooking a nicer dinner. The packaged stuff is fine, but most meat suppliers admit the cuts of meat used for ground beef aren’t the best. That’s not to say they’re bad, but you never know what you’re getting. Instead, go right up to the meat counter and ask about different cuts for your recipe and have them grind it fresh for you!

Cooking Ground Beef the Same for Every Recipe

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Browning ground beef is easy, right? Throw it in a pan on top of the stove and cook until it’s, well…brown. Not so fast. You’ll want to make sure the beef is thawed and not overly cold. Next, go ahead and turn the stove on to warm up the skillet. Now it’s time to consider what you’re using the ground beef for. If it’s for something like chili, keep in mind it will continue to cook. Therefore, you really just need to sear the outside of the beef. The juices will be sealed in and your ground beef will be nice and flavorful!