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What to Look for When Buying Ground Beef

Large Percentage of Beef Consumed as Ground Beef

University of Arkansas Extension Service

Terrie James
County Extension Agent-
Staff Chair

It is estimated that 40 to 45 percent of beef that is consumed is ground beef, and when beef is prepared for meals eaten at home, ground beef is used 60 percent of the time. There may be many reasons, but I tend to think it is because it is economical as a protein source and it is so versatile.

Beef is nutrient-dense, adding valuable nutrients to our diets. Here is how beef’s nutrients keep your body going:

Protein – nutritionally complete protein containing all eight essential amino acids in ideal proportions to maintain tissues and for energy.
Phosphorus – for strong bone maintenance.
Iron – heme, the most usable form of iron, comprises 60 percent of the iron in beef.
Riboflavin and Thiamin – vitamins which act as part of co-enzymes to release energy from food.
Niacin – for healthy nerves.
Vitamin B6 – a co-enzyme for protein utilization
Vitamin B12 – found only in animal foods. It prevents anemia.
Fats – for energy and to satisfy appetite.
Zinc – trace mineral as part of enzymes. It helps wounds to heal and enhances sense of taste.

To get these great nutrients, know the right ground beef to purchase. It should have a bright, cherry-red color indicating freshness. However, fresh ground beef goes through several color changes during its shelf life.

A darker, purplish-red color is typical of vacuum-packaged ground beef or the interior of packaged ground beef which has not been exposed to oxygen. Once exposed to oxygen, ground beef will turn from darker red to bright red. With extended exposure to oxygen, beef’s cherry-red color will take on a brown color. It’s important to remember that these color changes are normal, and the ground beef remains perfectly wholesome and safe to eat if purchased by the “sell-by” date on the package label.

Ground beef can be kept frozen for 4-6 months when stored at 0-degrees F. Make patties up ahead of time by separating each patty with 2 pieces of waxed paper; place all patties in a plastic freezer bag, or wrap in freezer paper, seal, date and freeze. When ready to use, remove only as many patties as you need and cook without waiting for meat to thaw.

Because ground beef is broken up into tiny particles, it loses quality much faster than steaks and roasts. Handle hamburger as little as possible. Mashing ground beef before or during cooking helps cause dry, hard patties. Cooking patties in the oven will dry them out.

If you need to defrost ground beef, place it in a bowl or pan in the refrigerator. Allow approximately 24 hours to defrost 5 pounds. If you chose to defrost in the microwave, cook immediately.

Never eat ground beef raw. Grinding meat mixes microorganisms found on the surface throughout the meat, so thorough cooking is a must! The USDA recommends cooking it to at least 160 degrees F as tested by a meat thermometer.

If you would like to receive the free handout, “What to Look for When Buying Ground Beef,” contact us at 870-777-5771. We’re online at tjames@uaex.edu, on Facebook at UAEXHempsteadCountyFCS.   

Make a quick meal of Enchilada Lasagna from items you likely have at home already. Add a tossed green salad and dinner is served.

Enchilada Lasagna
1-pound ground beef
One half teaspoon pepper
One-fourth teaspoon salt
One-fourth teaspoon garlic powder
12 (6 or 8-inch) corn tortillas
One-half cup chopped green onions (reserve some for garnish)
2 cups shredded Colby & Monterey jack cheese
1 (15 ounce) can mild enchilada sauce
Three-fourths cup thinly sliced lettuce
1 diced tomato
one-fourth cup sour cream

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Heat a large nonstick saucepan over medium-high heat until hot. Add ground beef and brown 5 to 7 minutes. Pour off drippings. Season beef with pepper, salt, and garlic powder.

Cut tortillas in half. In a greased 8×8-inch square pan, arrange 4 tortillas with the cut sides to edge of pan. Place one whole tortilla in center of pan. Repeat this step to add a second layer. Layer one-half of the ground beef on top. Add half the cheese, half of the chopped onion, and half of the enchilada sauce. Repeat for second layer ending with cheese. Bake for 15 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes. Sprinkle lettuce and tomato on top. Garnish with dollop of sour cream and reserved green onions. Cut into squares and serve. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

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