What is Extra Lean Ground Beef? A Guide to Understanding This Healthy Meat

Ground beef is a kitchen staple used in countless dishes from burgers to tacos. But with labels like “extra lean,” the different types of ground beef at the grocery store can be confusing. If you’ve wondered what exactly distinguishes extra lean ground beef and how it compares to other options, this guide covers everything you need to know.

Defining Extra Lean Ground Beef

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) sets specific guidelines for meat labeling terms like “extra lean.” For ground beef to qualify as extra lean, it must meet these requirements:

  • Contain less than 5g of total fat per 100g serving
  • Have less than 2g of saturated fat per 100g
  • Have less than 95mg of cholesterol per 100g

To put those numbers into perspective, here is how 100g of extra lean ground beef compares nutritionally to 100g of regular lean ground beef:

| Extra Lean | Lean |
| Total Fat | < 5g | < 10g |
| Saturated Fat | < 2g | < 4.5g |
| Cholesterol | < 95mg | < 95mg |

This makes extra lean ground beef an excellent choice for health-conscious consumers looking to reduce fat and calories without sacrificing flavor.

How Is Extra Lean Ground Beef Made?

Extra lean ground beef starts with trimmings from very lean cuts of cattle. Popular sources include the round, loin, and chuck. These lean trimmings have minimal fat and marbling to begin with.

To turn them into extra lean ground beef, the trimmings are put through additional defatting processes. This removes any visible fat chunks and further reduces overall fat content.

The beef is then ground as usual, resulting in a very low-fat finished product. No fillers, extenders, or additives are used to make extra lean ground beef. It is 100% pure beef, just with less fat.

Benefits of Extra Lean vs. Regular Ground Beef

Choosing extra lean ground beef over regular has several advantages:

  • Fewer calories – Less fat means fewer calories. Per 100g, extra lean ground beef has around 130 calories vs. 210 calories for regular lean.

  • Less saturated fat – Reducing saturated fat intake lowers risk of heart disease. Extra lean contains tiny amounts.

  • More protein – With less space taken up by fat, extra lean beef packs in more protein – about 23g per 100g.

  • Versatility – The milder taste won’t compete with seasonings, making it perfect for tacos, chili, meatloaf, etc.

  • Nutrient density – You still get all the iron, zinc, and B-vitamins of beef without the extra fat.

For health, calorie-counting, or fat-restricted diets, extra lean ground beef is clearly the best option over regular lean ground.

Downsides to Consider

The ultra-low fat content does mean extra lean ground beef has some drawbacks:

  • Less juicy – The natural fat in beef keeps it tender and moist. Removing this fat makes extra lean drier.

  • Less flavor – Beef fat carries and distributes flavor. Trimming it away reduces the meaty taste of extra lean.

  • Cooks faster – Lower fat content causes the meat to cook more rapidly. Extra care must be taken not to overcook.

  • Not for burgers – Burgers require a fat ratio of about 20% for structure and moistness. Extra lean is too lean.

  • More expensive – The extra processing makes extra lean beef cost about $1-2 more per pound than regular lean ground.

For recipes where moisture and fat are important for flavor and texture, regular lean ground may be the better choice over extremely lean.

Buying and Storing Extra Lean Beef

When purchasing extra lean ground beef:

  • Check for the USDA seal indicating “extra lean.” Unlabeled beef may not meet requirements.

  • Look for a pinkish-red color without brown or gray spots. This indicates freshness.

  • Avoid pre-packaged or frozen extra lean beef, which tends to lack flavor. Buy fresh when possible.

  • For maximum freshness and nutrient retention, use within 2 days of purchase. Freeze for longer storage.

  • If frozen, defrost overnight in the fridge. Do not refreeze previously frozen extra lean beef.

Follow proper cold storage practices to retain quality and prevent bacterial growth. Raw ground beef only keeps 1-2 days in the fridge.

How to Cook Extra Lean Ground Beef

The lower fat content of extra lean beef impacts cooking methods and times. Follow these tips:

  • Choose pan-frying, grilling, or broiling to avoid drying out the meat. Simmering will make it tough.

  • Use a meat thermometer and cook to 160°F minimum internal temperature for food safety.

  • Avoid overcooking! Cook just until no longer pink since extra lean dries out easily.

  • Add moisture through measures like combining with fatty ground pork or using a marinade.

  • Baste cooked crumbles with olive oil or mix with an egg yolk to impart richness.

  • Balance any blandness by amping up seasonings, spices, sauces and ingredients like cheese or avocado.

With the right techniques, extra lean ground beef can still be flavorful, juicy and pleasantly textured. A bit more effort is needed compared to regular ground beef.

Extra Lean Ground Beef Recipes

Here are some tasty ways to use this healthy meat:

  • Tacos – Spice up with bold seasoning and top with avocado, cheese, etc. The beef filling stays light.

  • Meatballs – Mix in some breadcrumbs and parmesan for moisture. Bake instead of frying.

  • Meatloaf – Blend with ground turkey or pork. Bake topped with tomato sauce or gravy.

  • Lasagna – Combine with ricotta and mozzarella for a protein and fiber-packed lighter version.

  • Chili – Sauté aromatics to layer flavor. Finish with lime juice and cilantro.

  • Burgers – Go for mini sizes. Add aioli or toppings for fat and moisture.

  • Stuffed peppers – Mix extra lean beef with rice and seasonings. Keep covered when baking.

With a bit of cooking finesse, extra lean ground beef can be just as tasty and satisfying as fattier meat. Give it a try for a healthier take on familiar recipes.

Is Extra Lean Ground Beef Right for You?

Extra lean ground beef lives up to its name by delivering all the protein and nutrients of beef with a fraction of the fat and calories. For those monitoring their fat intake, it can be the perfect substitute for fattier ground meats. However, the ultra-low fat content does impact moisture and flavor.

If you wish to reap the benefits of extra lean beef, your best bet is choosing it selectively in recipes where additional fat and moisture can augment the meat, such as tacos, pasta sauces, or cooked crumbles. For burgers and meatloaf, stick with regular lean ground which has enough fat for proper texture.

With its impressive nutritional stats and versatility, extra lean ground beef can be a smart addition to any healthy eater’s repertoire. Just keep proper cooking methods in mind. When prepared with care, this ultra-trim beef lets you enjoy timeless flavor and satisfaction minus the excess fat.

MEAT PERCENTAGES % – how to choose the right ground beef | Jess Pryles


Is extra lean ground beef 90 10?

Here’s a breakdown of the fat content of ground meat as regulated by CFIA: Extra Lean – maximum fat content of 10% (90% lean) Lean – maximum fat content of 17% (83% lean) Medium – maximum fat content 23% (77% lean)

Is extra lean beef healthy?

The choice between lean, extra lean, or medium ground beef depends on your dietary preferences and cooking needs. Lean and extra lean options have lower fat content, making them healthier choices, while medium ground beef may be preferred for certain recipes where a bit more fat is desirable for flavor and moisture.

What are the 3 types of ground beef?

In the grocery store, the four major varieties of ground beef (a.k.a. “hamburger meat”) are Ground Round, Ground Sirloin, Ground Chuck and Ground Beef.

What part of the cow is extra lean ground beef?

The meat from the loin primal is very lean, so it produces ground beef with the healthiest lean point. You will often hear ground sirloin called extra-lean ground beef. If you want to create a healthy menu and limit the saturated fat in your dishes, then ground sirloin is the best choice.

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