How Long to Cook Ground Beef for Optimal Flavor, Texture and Food Safety

Ground beef is a kitchen staple used in countless dishes from tacos to meatloaf. But improperly cooked ground beef can result in a dry, crumbly texture and questionable food safety. Follow this guide to learn exactly how long to cook ground beef to get the best results every time.

What is Ground Beef?

Ground beef is made from beef cuts that are minced or chopped into small pieces then combined together. It’s available in different fat-to-lean ratios like 80/20 or 90/10. The leaner the beef, the less time it needs for cooking.

Ground beef is quite versatile. It can be formed into patties and grilled as burgers or crumbled and used in casseroles, tacos, pasta sauce, and many other recipes.

Why Cook Time Matters

Cooking ground beef thoroughly is important for food safety, to kill any bacteria that may be present. Undercooked ground beef can potentially cause foodborne illness.

But properly cooking ground beef isn’t just about safety. Taking the time to brown the meat well develops more complex, beefy flavor through the Maillard reaction. Allowing time for the juices to redistribute also ensures a moist, tender texture.

How Long to Cook Ground Beef on the Stovetop

For stovetop cooking in a skillet, pan frying ground beef takes about 7-10 minutes total to cook 1 pound. Here are more details on the process:

  • Break up meat – After adding to the hot pan, break up the meat into small crumbles using a wooden spoon. Continue stirring occasionally.

  • Brown the meat – Cook about 5 minutes, letting the meat brown without stirring constantly.

  • Cook through – Keep cooking and stirring another 2-5 minutes until no pink remains.

  • Drain fat – Drain grease then use as desired.

If using leaner ground beef with little fat, add 1-2 teaspoons oil to the skillet before the meat to prevent sticking.

Cook an additional 1-2 minutes if cooking more than 1 pound of ground beef.

How Long to Cook Ground Beef in the Oven

Using the oven is an easy hands-off way to cook a larger batch of ground beef. Here is the process:

  • Preheat oven to 400°F.

  • Crumble meat onto a foil-lined sheet pan. Break into 1-inch pieces.

  • Cover pan with more foil and bake 15 minutes.

  • Uncover, stir/break up meat, and bake 10 more minutes.

  • Let rest 1-2 minutes before draining fat.

This method takes about 25-30 minutes total for 1-2 pounds of ground beef. Add 5 minutes more for each additional pound.

How Long to Cook Ground Beef in a Slow Cooker

For hands-off slow cooker cooking, add 1-2 pounds of raw ground beef to the cooker and cook on low for 7-8 hours or high for 3-4 hours.

Stir a few times throughout cooking if possible. Drain fat before using cooked ground beef.

How Long to Cook Ground Beef in an Instant Pot

Pressure cooking makes quick work of ground beef with minimal hands-on effort.

  • Add 1 cup water and use a trivet to elevate meat above water.
  • Cook at high pressure 6 minutes per pound (10 minutes for 2 pounds).
  • Allow pressure to release naturally before opening lid.

The meat may still look slightly pink but should reach a safe internal temperature. Check with a meat thermometer if concerned.

How to Tell When Ground Beef is Done

The best way to confirm ground beef is thoroughly cooked is to use an instant-read thermometer. Check the internal temperature in the thickest part:

  • 160°F for ground beef – This temperature ensures safety and proper doneness.

  • 155°F for burgers – Burgers can be safely eaten at 155°F since the meat continues cooking after removed from heat.

If you don’t have a thermometer, look for these visual signs of doneness:

  • No pink color – The meat should be fully browned throughout with no traces of pink.

  • Texture change – Properly cooked meat will be firm and will easily break into crumbles.

  • Browned exterior – The meat should have nice caramelization on the exterior.

Undercooked ground beef will still have a raw red or pink appearance in the center and a mushy, wet texture.

Tips for Perfectly Cooked Ground Beef

Follow these tips for flavorful, tender ground beef every time:

  • Use 80/20 or 85/15 meat – This ratio provides enough fat for great flavor and moisture.

  • Partially freeze meat – Chilled meat crumbles easier and cooks more evenly.

  • Don’t overmix – Gently handling the meat avoids a dense, rubbery texture.

  • Sear properly – Develop flavor by allowing the meat to brown before stirring.

  • Check temperature – Use a thermometer to eliminate any guesswork on doneness.

  • Let rest briefly – This allows juices to redistribute so meat stays moist.

  • Add salt later – Salting early can draw out moisture, so season at the end.

With the proper cooking time and these helpful tips, you’ll be able to achieve the ultimate ground beef texture and flavor. Just be sure to allow enough time for the meat to cook through fully for maximum safety and enjoyment.

How To Cook Ground Beef


How long does ground beef take to cook?

How long does it take to cook ground beef? Once the water has come to a boil, cover the pot with a lid and let it simmer. It should only take about 15 minutes for the beef to fully cook through. The meat will turn brown when it’s done, so keep an eye on it.

How do you know when ground beef is fully cooked?

To be sure all harmful bacteria are destroyed, cook all ground beef products to an internal temperature of 160 °F throughout. Ground beef can be pink inside after it is safely cooked. The pink color can be due to a reaction between the oven heat and myoglobin, which causes a red or pink color.

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