Ground beef is a versatile ingredient that is protein-packed and easy to use in many recipes, making it a great choice for Canadians. Here are some guidelines for cooking with ground beef.
Cook to a safe temperature
According to Health Canada, Canadian ground beef must be cooked thoroughly to a temperature of 160˚F (71˚C). This kills any harmful organisms (like bacteria and parasites). Ground meat is cooked to a higher temperature than steaks and other cuts because it is handled more and the grinding process creates more surface area within the meat and can distribute bacteria (if present) throughout the batch. Cooking to 160°F (71°C) ensures the meat is safe to consume.
You can check your meat with a digital instant-read food thermometer to know when it is done. This is a relatively inexpensive but indispensable kitchen tool that will ensure you reach safe cooking temperatures, and it also helps prevent the dreaded overcooked holiday turkey.
Here is a list of the safe cooking temperatures for meat outlined by Health Canada.
But it’s still pink?
Colour is not a reliable indicator of whether your ground beef is cooked or not. Sometimes, chemical reactions between heat and myoglobin, a naturally occurring pigment in meat, can cause the beef to stay pink, even though a temperature of 160°F (71°C) has been reached. This can also happen if the ground beef is cooked in the presence of foods containing nitrates or nitrites. This includes cured foods like ham, bacon and sausage. Naturally occurring nitrates can also be found in water sources and vegetables like celery, cabbage, radishes, turnips, spinach and parsley.
Always wash your hands with soap and water before and after handling raw meat. Also be sure to clean any surfaces, utensils and dishes the raw meat came into contact with to avoid ingesting any harmful organisms.
Use separate dishes and utensils to handle raw meat and clean utensils and plates when switching between raw and cooked meat. That means you need to have a separate spoon or spatula on hand for the final stirring of your chilli or pasta sauce. Using the one you originally broke up that pound of raw beef with could contaminate your finished dish and make people sick.
Build on foundational recipes
Familiarizing yourself with a few simple ground beef recipes will give you the opportunity to adapt, improve and expand on them as you get more comfortable in the kitchen. Here are three of our favourite basic applications for ground beef.
Ground beef that has been pan-fried to a temperature of 160°F (71°C), drained and seasoned to taste can be consumed as is or added to pasta sauces and chilli, soups, casseroles or tacos.
Take your basic ground beef up a notch with our Big Batch Beef recipe. This is a great way to fill your freezer with cooked protein that can be added to numerous recipes for a hassle-free weeknight dinner.
Meat loaf, meatballs and burgers
The following is a basic ground beef recipe that can form the basis of any number of delicious creations – use your imagination! Tuck it away in your recipe folder for the nights you need quick inspiration.
- 1lb (500 g) ground beef
- 1/4 cup (60 mL) dry breadcrumbs
- 1/4 cup (60 mL) minced onion
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 1 Tbsp (15 mL) Worcestershire sauce
- Salt and pepper to taste
Combine all ingredients for the basic recipe to make 30 meatballs, 1 meatloaf or 4 burgers:
Master Meat Loaf: Add 1/4 cup (60 mL) ketchup and another 1/2 lb (250 g) of ground beef to the above mixture. Form into a loaf shape and top with more ketchup or barbecue sauce and bake in a 325°F (160°C) oven for 55 to 70 minutes, testing for doneness at 160°F (71°C) with your instant-read thermometer.
Oven-Baked Meatballs: Roll mixture into 1-inch (2.5 cm) balls and bake on a foil-lined baking sheet in 375˚F (190°C) oven for 15 – 20 minutes. Test several meatballs with your digital instant-read thermometer to check for doneness of 160°F (71°C).
Perfect Burgers: Form mixture into four 3/4 inch (2 cm) thick patties and cook using medium-high heat on a lightly oiled grill or skillet for 10 to 14 minutes. Turn twice and test each patty for the doneness temperature of 160°F (71°C) using your digital read thermometer.