How to Brown Ground Beef on the Stove

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This is the best way to brown ground beef for all those recipes that start by telling you to brown the beef on the stove without explaining how!

Game Day Ground Beef Chili

How many recipes start by saying, “Brown the ground beef”? The answer is…a lot. However, rarely does a recipe actually make clear what that means. How brown does it need to get? What consistency are you looking for? What do you need to do to make it happen?

Despite the lack of clarity on the subject in most recipes, browning ground beef properly — so that it really browns and falls apart into crumbles — is very easy. All you really need is the right-sized pan, a spoon, and the right heat level.

After you lock those elements down, it just takes about 5 minutes to brown up a pound of ground beef — and you’ll be ready to add your perfectly-browned beef to whatever calls for it, from Cheese Ground Beef Quesadillas to Game Day Ground Beef Chili. And if you accidentally-on-purpose end up with leftovers, freeze them, and then make sure to check out 32 Things To Make With Leftover Ground Beef.

Woman stirring ground beef in cast-iron pan.

How to Brown Ground Beef on the Stove: This is the best way to brown ground beef for all those recipes that start by telling you to brown the beef on the stove without explaining how!

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Ingredients and Equipment

  • Ground beef – You can usually buy ground beef in the meat section of your grocery store, or you can get it freshly ground at a butcher counter or a butcher shop. The fresher, the better, of course.
  • Pan – If your pan is nonstick, you’re all set; if not, you may want to give a spray of nonstick cooking spray.
  • Spoon – Just your average, run-of-the-mill spoon. I’m telling you, this recipe is an easy one!

How to Brown Ground Beef on the Stove

  1. Heat pan and add beef: Heat a large skillet or pan over medium-high heat. When the pan is hot, add the beef. Season with salt and pepper. If you are preparing ground beef for a recipe, the recipe may direct you to add other seasonings, or other ingredients, like onions or garlic.
Heat pan over medium high heat and add the ground beef.
  1. Stir periodically: Stir the beef periodically, breaking up the meat into crumbles. Don’t stir it constantly; you want to give the meat a bit of time to sit in contact with the hot pan so that it browns. Keep stirring until it is all browned and crumbly. 
Breaking up ground beef into crumbles as it cooks in cast-iron pan.
  1. Drain the fat: Carefully drain the fat in a colander. Proceed with your recipe! There are all kinds of ways to use ground beef in recipes, from quesadillas to enchiladas.
Draining fat from ground beef into a colander.

FAQs

Can you use the same method to brown ground chicken, ground turkey, and ground pork?

The method is much the same, though you will surely want to give the pan a very good spray of nonstick cooking spray when browning leaner ground meats.

It’s best to heat up a tablespoon of oil in the hot pan before browning chicken and turkey, which are much leaner than beef. Pork is also usually leaner and likewise can benefit from a little oil in the pan to prevent sticking. A nonstick pan is also very useful when browning any kind of ground meat.

Can you freeze browned ground beef?

As long as the meat has not been previously frozen, you can freeze it once it’s cooked. Just allow it to cool in the pan or in a bowl, and when cool, transfer it to a sturdy freezer-proof zipper-top plastic bag. Label the bag with the words browned ground beef and the date, press out any excess air, and seal the bag. This can be frozen for about 4 months.

Defrost in the fridge before using. If you are adding it to a big pot of something, like chili or pasta sauce, you can even add it frozen and stir so that the crumbles break up into the chili or sauce.

Which type of ground beef is the best?

Well, that depends on what you’re looking for. There are four types of ground beef, three of which are source grinds, meaning they’re made from a specific part of the cow: ground round (made from the rump), ground sirloin (made from the loins), and ground chuck (made from the shoulder area). Of these three types, ground round is the leanest, and ground chuck is the fattiest.

Ground beef is the fourth category; it’s made from a mixture of those parts of the cow and others, so its lean-to-fat ratio depends on the particular sample. Some people prefer getting source grinds because they want to control the fat content in their grind, while other people like general ground meat because it’s generally cheaper.

Should I add oil or butter when browning ground beef?

Nope, there is enough fat in the beef so that you don’t have to add additional fat.

How long does it take to brown ground beef?

It takes between 5 and 10 minutes to brown ground beef, depending on the amount of beef and the level of heat.

How do I prevent ground beef from sticking to the pan?

Once the beef starts to cook, the beef will release some of the fat, which will help it unstick from the pan.

Should I drain the fat after browning ground beef?

For the most part, yes, you don’t want that extra fat in your dish. If your meat is very lean, you might not need to drain off the fat, especially if you browned the ground beef with other ingredients or seasonings. See how much liquid the beef releases and how greasy it looks, and it it’s more than you want in your finished dish, drain the beef.

What can I do with leftover browned ground beef?

Check out 32 Things To Make With Leftover Ground Beef!

Tips for Browning Beef

  • Don’t crowd the pan. Make sure the meat is no more than ½-inch thick across the bottom of the pan, or it will steam instead of browning evenly.
  • Start with a hot pan, and keep the heat medium-high. Too low, and the beef will steam; too high, and it will start to become quite brown in spots and toughen before the rest of the meat cooks.
  • Take breaks when stirring; allow the meat a bit of time to sit in contact with the hot pan so that it browns.

What to Make With Browned Ground Beef

Cheesy Ground Beef and Vegetable Quesadillas stacked on grey plate.
Cheesy Ground Beef Quesadillas

More Ground Beef Recipes

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5 from 1 vote

How to Brown Ground Beef on the Stove

This is the best way to brown ground beef for all those recipes that start by telling you to brown the beef on the stove without explaining how!
Prep Time: 0 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes
Servings: 4 People
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Ingredients 

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • Kosher salt and ground pepper (to taste)

Instructions 

  • Heat a large skillet or pan over medium-high heat. When the pan is hot, add the beef. Season with salt and pepper. If you are preparing ground beef for a recipe, the recipe may direct you to add other seasonings, or other ingredients, like onions or garlic.
  • Stir the beef periodically, breaking up the meat into crumbles. Don’t stir it constantly; you want to give the meat a bit of time to sit in contact with the hot pan so that it browns. Keep stirring until it is all browned and crumbly.
  • Carefully drain the fat in a colander. Proceed with your recipe! There are all kind of ways to use ground beef, in recipes from quesadillas to enchiladas.

Video

Notes

  • Don’t crowd the pan. Make sure the meat is no more than ½-inch thick across the bottom of the pan, or it will steam instead of browning evenly.
  • Start with a hot pan, and keep the heat medium high. Too low, and the beef will steam; too high, and it will start to become quite brown in spots and toughen before the rest of the meat cooks.
  • Take breaks when stirring; allow the meat a bit of time to sit in contact with the hot pan so that it browns.

Nutrition

Calories: 288kcal, Protein: 19g, Fat: 23g, Saturated Fat: 9g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 10g, Trans Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 81mg, Sodium: 76mg, Potassium: 306mg, Calcium: 20mg, Iron: 2mg
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About Katie Workman

Katie Workman is a cook, a writer, a mother of two, an activist in hunger issues, and an enthusiastic advocate for family meals, which is the inspiration behind her two beloved cookbooks, Dinner Solved! and The Mom 100 Cookbook.

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