What Cut of Beef is Used for Ground Beef?

Ground beef is a kitchen staple used in recipes like burgers, meatballs, tacos, chili, and so much more. But have you ever wondered what cut of beef is used to make ground beef? There are a few common cuts that get ground up for the versatile, budget-friendly ground beef we buy at the grocery store.

Understanding Beef Cuts

Beef is divided into large sections called primal cuts. These primal cuts are then broken down into subprimal cuts which are further divided into individual retail cuts that you find at the butcher counter.

The three main primal cuts are:

  • Chuck – Shoulder region
  • Rib – Upper rib cage
  • Loin – Lower rib cage back behind the ribs

There are additional primal cuts from the round, flank, brisket, shank, and plate regions.

When it comes to ground beef, cuts from the chuck, round, and occasionally sirloin are typically used. The exact blend depends on the fat percentage.

Ground Beef Fat Percentages

Ground beef is available in different fat percentages. Labels indicate the maximum fat content by weight:

  • 90/10 – 90% lean meat, 10% fat
  • 85/15 – 85% lean meat, 15% fat
  • 80/20 – 80% lean meat, 20% fat
  • 73/27 – 73% lean meat, 27% fat

The higher the fat percentage, the more flavorful and moist the ground beef. But lower fat percentages are a healthier choice.

Popular Cuts for Ground Beef

The cuts of beef used depends on the desired fat content. Fattier cuts like chuck are blended with leaner cuts from the round or sirloin.

Chuck – With marbling throughout, chuck comes from the shoulder region. Chuck makes the richest, most flavorful ground beef. Up to 25% of lower fat beef may be added to chuck to make 85/15 or 80/20 ground beef.

Round – Round primal cuts like top round, bottom round, and eye of round are very lean. They are often blended with chuck for a better fat ratio.

Sirloin – Blended with round or chuck to make 90/10 ground beef.

Brisket – Also used, brisket has good marbling for flavor.

Flank – Very lean so it’s always combined with higher fat beef cuts.

Shank – Cut from the leg, it makes flavorful ground beef.

Why Use Less Tender Cuts for Ground Beef?

Tough, less tender cuts naturally have more connective tissue and fat. Connective tissue breaks down into gelatin when cooked slowly with moisture, leaving you with tender, juicy ground beef. The fat bastes the meat during cooking keeping it from drying out.

Using ground beef instead of whole cuts also tenderizes the meat through the grinding process.

More expensive, naturally tender cuts would be a waste to grind up. Their premium flavor and tenderness shines when cooked as steaks or roasts.

Typical Cut Composition by Fat Percentage

Here’s a more detailed breakdown of the typical beef cuts used for various fat percentages:

90/10 Ground Beef

  • 90% sirloin and/or round
  • 10% fat trimmings

Great for health but can dry out when cooking. Use for chili, tacos, meatloaf.

85/15 Ground Beef

  • 75% round
  • 10% sirloin
  • 15% brisket and/or chuck

Lean yet retains moisture and flavor. Good for burgers, Bolognese, and meatballs.

80/20 Ground Beef

  • 60% chuck
  • 20% round
  • 20% fat trimmings

The most popular ground beef. Flavorful and juicy. Use for burgers, meatloaf, pasta sauce.

73/27 Ground Beef

  • 50% chuck
  • 23% brisket
  • 27% fat trimmings

Very moist and flavorful. Great for burgers and meatballs. Higher fat content.

Buying Quality Ground Beef

For the best quality ground beef:

  • Choose fresh ground beef over frozen whenever possible
  • Check the use or freeze by date
  • Make sure the meat is bright red without brown or gray spots
  • Avoid packages that are torn or leaking

Ground beef is very perishable. Use within 1-2 days or freeze for later use.

Grind Your Own for Maximum Freshness

For the true beef lover, grind your own meat from high quality beef cuts. This ensures maximum freshness and control over the fat ratio. Grind chuck, sirloin, or brisket coarsely for burgers. For a finer texture, double grind the meat.

The Takeaway

While we often take ground beef for granted, there’s a science to making the best ground meat. Knowing what cuts are used, and blending fattier and leaner beef, results in the versatile, budget-friendly product we use to make so many delicious meals. Understand the cuts and quality cues, and you’ll pick the perfect ground beef every time.

Secret to Saving Money On Ground Beef? Grind Your Own!


What cut of meat is used for ground beef?

Chuck is the most commonly used cut of beef in burger blends. Marbled throughout and well-balanced in flavor with a decent lean-to-fat ratio, chuck steak is generally the primary cut used in burger blends and is supplemented with one or two other cuts of meat. Sirloin or Tri-Tip.

What parts of the cow is ground beef?

Regular ground beef can contain meat from the chuck roast but usually consists of less marbled, less juicy cuts like the round steak and the sirloin in a mix. It can even contain organ tissue from the heart and other offal.

What cuts are in store bought ground beef?

Ground beef generally consists of the leftover trimmings from steaks, roasts and other beef cuts. At the store, labels will further specify what you’re getting. “Ground chuck” is made only with chuck trimmings, “ground round” with trimmings from the round and “ground sirloin” with sirloin bits and pieces.

Is ground chuck 80 20?

Ground chuck is made from the chuck primal, the shoulder area of the animal. It is preferred by many for its rich, beefy flavor and higher fat content. Most ground chuck is frequently listed as 80/20, meaning 80% lean meat and 20% fat.

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