What is the Best Ground Beef? A Guide to Finding the Right Grind

Ground beef is a kitchen staple used in everything from burger patties to meatballs to chili. But with the many different types and grinds available, how do you know what the best ground beef is for your recipe?

Here, we’ll break down the major categories of ground beef and provide tips on choosing the right grind for burgers, tacos, meatloaf and more.

An Overview of Ground Beef Types

First, let’s cover the basics. Ground beef is made by passing beef trimmings from various cuts through a meat grinder. Legally, it can only contain beef – no fillers, extenders or added water.

The main factors that vary are:

  • Cut – Ground beef may come from trimmings of various primal cuts. Specialty grinds use trimmings from one specific cut.

  • Fat content – Ranges from 15% to 30% fat. More fat means more flavor and moisture.

  • Grind size – Finer grinds have a smoother texture. Coarser grinds are chunkier.

  • Freshness – Freshly ground beef has the best flavor and texture.

When buying ground beef, check the label for fat percentage, production date and use or freeze by date.

Specialty Ground Beef Grinds

These types come from trimmings of specific primal cuts, giving them distinctive fat content and flavor profiles:

80/20 Ground Chuck

  • 80-85% lean, 15-20% fat
  • From the shoulder primal
  • Tender and juicy with robust flavor
  • Best for burgers and meatballs

85/15 Ground Round

  • 85-90% lean, 10-15% fat
  • From the round primal
  • Lean, mildly flavored
  • Best for tacos, soups, casseroles

90/10 Ground Sirloin

  • 90-92% lean, 8-10% fat
  • From the loin primal
  • Very lean, needs added flavor
  • Best for chili, stuffed peppers

Fat Percentages Explained

The fat content makes a big difference in moisture, flavor and texture:

  • 15-20% fat – Juiciest option. Provides rich flavor and tender texture.

  • 10-15% fat – Balanced moisture and flavor. Less tender than fattier grinds.

  • 8-10% fat – Leanest option. Can dry out if overcooked. Needs added moisture.

Higher fat grinds are ideal for burgers and meatballs. Lower fat works better in casseroles, tacos and soups.

Grind Sizes

The coarseness of the grind also affects the final texture:

  • Fine – Smooth, almost paste-like texture. Most common.

  • Medium – Smaller pieces of meat and fat. Meatier, chunkier texture.

  • Coarse – Irregularly shaped pieces. Chunky texture stays intact. Best for chili.

Finer grinds work well for burgers, meatloaf and meatballs. Coarser grinds excel in soups, stews and pasta sauce.

Identifying Fresh, Quality Ground Beef

To get the best results, choose fresh, high-quality ground beef:

  • Bright red color – Signifies beef was recently ground. Avoid ground beef with a brown or gray cast.

  • Visible flecks of fat – Indicates beef wasn’t over-ground into a paste.

  • Production date – Look for beef ground no more than 2 days ago.

  • Use or freeze by date – Consume within 1-2 days or freeze for later.

  • No off odors – Should have a fresh, beefy smell. Avoid sour, metallic or ammonia scents.

For ultimate freshness and the exact grind you want, ask your butcher to grind beef to order.

How to Store Ground Beef

Because ground meat has more exposed surface area, it’s highly perishable:

  • Refrigerate below 40°F – Store ground beef on the bottom shelf of the fridge.

  • Use within 1-2 days – For best quality and safety, cook raw ground beef within 48 hours of grinding.

  • Freeze for 3-4 months – For longer storage, tightly wrap beef and freeze.

  • Thaw in fridge – Avoid thawing at room temp. Thaw frozen ground beef overnight in the refrigerator.

Proper, rapid chilling and brief storage keeps ground beef fresh.

Best Ground Beef for Burgers

For juicy, robust burgers, look for:

  • 80/20 ground chuck – Higher fat content keeps burgers moist. Strong beefy flavor.

  • Freshly ground – Fresh grinding avoids a dense, paste-like texture.

  • Medium grind – Provides nice texture without falling apart on the grill.

  • Bright red color – Indicator of quality meat with no oxidation.

Choose chuck or ground beef with about 80% lean meat to 20% fat. Aim for the freshest grind possible.

Best Ground Beef for Tacos

When making taco filling and similar dishes, opt for:

  • 85/15 ground sirloin – Leaner grind won’t get greasy with taco toppings.

  • Fine texture – Mixes well with spices and breaks into small crumbles.

  • 90/10 ground round – Very lean yet still juicy. Allows spices to shine.

The leaner grinds make great carriers for the zippy taco seasonings without extra grease.

Best Ground Beef for Meatloaf

For tender, moist meatloaf, look for:

  • 70/30 ground beef – Higher fat content keeps meatloaf from drying out.

  • Freshly ground – Avoid pre-ground beef that may be pasty.

  • Fine grind – Helps meatloaf hold together and gives smooth texture.

Fattier grinds ensure a tender, moist meatloaf even with extended baking. Fresh grinding provides the best bind and texture.

Best Ground Beef for Meatballs

To make the most flavorful meatballs, use:

  • 80/20 ground chuck – Provides nice beefy flavor and sufficient fat.

  • Medium grind – Gives tender yet slightly chunky texture.

  • Freshly ground – Pre-ground beef may over-bind and get dense.

Medium grind chuck offers the right fat content and texture for moist, tasty meatballs.

Tips for Buying Ground Beef

  • Check labels – Look for details on fat percentage, grind size, use by dates.

  • Know your recipes – Pick grind types that match the dish you’re making.

  • Request fresh grinds – Ask your butcher to grind cuts to order if possible.

  • Use quickly – Cook within 1-2 days for best flavor and food safety.

  • **Consider fat

How to Buy the Best Possible Ground Beef at the Grocery Store (Second to Grinding Your Own)


What type of ground beef is best?

80% lean ground chuck (shoulder) will be the juiciest and most flavorful. It’s also the grind I recommend for making burgers for the grill. It has the perfect fat-to-meat ratio. These burgers will still be juicy when grilled to the recommended internal temperature of 160 degrees.

What’s the healthiest ground meat?

Ground beef and turkey are both nutritious meats that provide protein, fat, and a variety of vitamins and minerals. Turkey is generally lower in saturated fat than beef. As such, it may be a better choice for heart health. Fat-free turkey is also the lowest calorie option if you’re interested in weight loss.

What should I look for when buying ground beef?

Look for package labels with as much information as possible, like those that specify the cut of meat or poultry used, and its lean-to-fat ratio. If possible, avoid buying meat with generic labels like “hamburger” or “ground beef,” as they often come from unspecified cuts.

What is a good brand of ground beef?

Dakota Grass-Fed Organic 90/10 Ground Beef was just ranked as the Best Beef Product of 2021 by the world’s #1 nutrition website, “Eat This, Not That!” Dakota Grass-Fed and Grass-Finished Organic Ground Beef is raised with no added hormones or antibiotics ever and is naturally gluten-free.

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