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Ground Beef why Lean is not Low Fat

Ground beef is the most widely eaten type of meat in the United States. It’s easy to see why as ground beef forms the basis of many popular dishes, most notably hamburgers, meatloaf and chili. As well as its versatility, it’s an inexpensive and convenient form of meat to buy. Unfortunately, the majority of red meat is high in fat when compared to poultry, for instance. And high consumption of ground beef is responsible for much of the fat content found in the American diet.

Types of ground beef

Ground beef is mainly produced from the tougher parts of mature cows and the grinding process helps to tenderize it making it easier to cook and eat. Some cuts are less tender than others. For instance, meat labeled chuck, round and flank have a higher fat content but are cheaper. Ground meat from sirloin is the leanest and therefore the most expensive. While the higher fat ground beef is undoubtedly unhealthier, it does tend to have more flavor.

Fat content of ground beef

Regular ground beef can contain anything up to 30 percent fat, which is the maximum amount allowed by the U.S.D.A. For a much lower fat content, ground beef labeled as ‘lean’ or ‘extra lean’ can contain as little as three percent fat. However, just because lean or extra lean ground beef is lower in total fat content, doesn’t mean it is a low fat product. As a guide, any food product which contains 3g of fat or less can be classed as ‘low fat’.

Comparing some typical examples of ground beef, 100g of regular ground beef might contain 17.3g of fat and 7.4g saturated fat. Choosing 100g of extra lean ground beef may reduce the fat content down to around 14.3g of total fat and 5.5g of saturated fat. Looking at these figures, it can be seen that even the extra lean ground beef can’t be considered to be a low fat product since it has more than the 3g of fat per 100g. Of course, fat levels will vary depending on the meat purchased.

How to lower fat content

Fortunately, it is possible to noticeably lower the fat content of ground beef further by using a few creative cooking methods. Regular ground beef can lose as much as 50 percent of its fat content through pan frying or broiling as long as no extra oil is added. Extra lean ground beef, cooked the same way only reduces its fat content by around five percent, mainly because there is far less fat to lose.

It is possible, however, to lower the fat content of extra lean ground beef to a level that just about puts in within the classification of a low fat product. This involves dry frying extra lean ground beef until it’s thoroughly cooked then blotting any excess fat with paper towels. After this the ground beef crumbles have to be rinsed several times with hot water then left to drain. This method can reduce the fat content down to 3g of fat per 100g, making it a low fat product. The downside is that reducing much of the fat content also removes most of the flavor.

Although lean ground beef has a lower fat content than regular ground beef, this doesn’t automatically make it a low fat product. Often, the amount of fat still retained in lean ground beef places it within the medium fat range. However, by using certain cooking methods and adding no extra fat, it is possible to lower the fat content to such an extent that it does indeed become a low fat product.

Sources:

fda.gov
mypyramid.gov
foodsafety.wisc.edu