Maxing Out the Flavor of Ground Beef

Getting the most flavor out of your home cooked meals requires two things: high-quality, flavorful ingredients and cooking techniques that bring out the flavors of those ingredients.

When it comes to ground beef, we feel like we have some of the most flavorful you will find. We raise and handle our dairy steers with care and provide them a low-stress life. This, along with a high forage diet, leads to flavorful beef that we know you will love.

We also enjoy sharing cooking methods that maximize flavor. So if you are making spaghetti, tacos, or sloppy joes, follow the steps below to get the most out of your ground beef.

How to Maximize Flavor

One way to increase flavor is to add ingredients that mask bitterness and allow our tongues and noses to detect more flavors. Salt and acidic ingredients are the most common additions, and, as you will find out below, the timing of adding these is important for maximizing the flavor of your ground beef.

Another way to bring out flavor is to pair ingredients that compliment and bring out each other’s flavors. Ground beef is flexible and can be paired with many flavors. We provide three seasoning mixes that can accent flavor in our Ground Beef Cheat Sheet, available at the bottom of this post.

The last way to increase flavor in food is to chemically transform the food through the addition of heat (and, you know, make it safe to eat!). For ground beef, heat can create a rich brown crust that adds new and complex flavors.

In meat, this browning is the result of a chemical process called the Maillard Reaction, which restructures the sugars and amino acids to add new flavors to the food.

Let’s get cooking!

Sweating Vegetables (optional)

Some recipes will have you cook vegetables, such as onions, celery, carrots, peppers, or garlic, with or after you cook the ground beef. We recommend cooking them before you brown the beef. This gives you better control over temperature and leaves flavor in the cooking fat that will find its way into the ground beef.

How to Sweat Vegetables

  1. Chop vegetables into desired sizes.
  2. Heat skillet on medium low and add 1 tablespoon of cooking fat such as butter or olive oil.
  3. Add vegetables to pan, starting with slowest cooking first (like onions) and adding faster cooking later (like garlic). Add salt to vegetables as you put them in the pan.
  4. Stir frequently to release moisture and avoid burning. Cook until desired level of softness is reached, usually around 5 minutes.
  5. Move vegetables to a dish to reserve for adding to ground beef later.

Browning Ground Beef

To get a nice browned crust through the Maillard Reaction, the surface of the meat must reach into the temperature range of 280 to 330 degrees Fahrenheit.

This requires the surface to be in contact with heat for enough time to reach temperature and for minimal steam be produced. Moisture turns into steam at 212 degrees Fahrenheit and prevents the surface of the meat from reaching temperature required for browning.

The following process maximizes the opportunity for browning. It may be different from how you’ve learned to cook ground beef, but don’t worry, it actually requires less effort. Being patient and keeping the meat in contact with the pan long enough to develop a crust, rather than constantly moving the meat, will maximize your flavor.

One important note about adding salt and seasonings: wait until after the beef is flipped. This will limit the amount of moisture the salt draws out of the meat, leaving you with juicer meat and less chance of creating steam.

How to Brown Ground Beef

  1. Heat skillet on medium high. Add a short tablespoon of cooking fat if none had been added prior for sweating vegetables.
  2. Add thawed ground beef to heated pan. Spread out to cover pan, leaving open pockets to allow any steam to escape.
  3. Leave ground beef untouched in pan for 4 to 5 minutes. Be patient!
  4. Using a spatula, carefully flip over ground beef one portion at a time. Leave ground beef to brown for another 3 to 4 minutes.
  5. Spread salt and seasoning over meat. Return vegetables to pan.
  6. Break up and mix ground beef to incorporate seasonings and finish cooking any pink pieces.

Adding a Sauce (optional)

Once your ground beef is browned, it is ready to eat or use in your dish.

You can also add sauce to increase the flavor and moisture of your ground beef. 1/2 to 1 cup of sauce can be added into the pan and simmered down until it reduces and coats the beef. For instance, adding 1/2 cup of picante sauce to your taco meat can give it an extra depth of flavor.

1 to 2 cups of sauce can be added to and simmered for a few minutes to create a more saucy ground beef dish such as sloppy joes.

For dishes like spaghetti, 2 to 4 cups of sauce can be added. A thickened sauce can also be created using the following process:

Creating a thickened sauce

  1. After browning ground beef, add 2 to 3 tablespoons of flour and mix into meat.
  2. Stir constantly for 30 seconds to 1 minute to cook flour.
  3. Add sauce liquid such as milk or broth starting with 1/2 cup.
  4. Stir constantly until sauce thickens and starts bubbling, then slowly add remainder of up to 2 to 3 cups of liquid, stirring continuously.
  5. Once sauce comes to a boil and thickens, shredded cheese can be mixed in if desired to create a cheese sauce.
  6. When sauce is thickened, it can be combined with a starch such as pasta or potatoes and vegetables to create your meal.

Need help remembering these steps?

Get our printable Ground Beef Cheat Sheet below. It includes the steps needed to max out the flavor of your ground beef.

Also included are three seasoning blends that are easy to put together and boost the flavor of your ground beef dishes.

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