Ground Beef vs Ground Chuck: Which is Better and When to Use Each

When browsing the meat section at the grocery store, you’ll likely come across both ground beef and ground chuck. But what’s the difference, and which one is better for different recipes?

Ground beef and ground chuck both come from cattle, but they are made from different cuts of meat. Understanding how they differ in fat content, texture, flavor, and price will help you determine when to use each.

Ground Beef vs Ground Chuck: Key Differences

Here are the main ways that ground chuck differs from regular ground beef:

  • Cut of meat – Ground chuck comes from the chuck roast only. Ground beef can contain meat from various primal cuts.

  • Fat content – Ground chuck has a higher fat content, around 20%. Ground beef is typically 90-95% lean.

  • Texture – The extra fat makes ground chuck more cohesive when cooked. Ground beef crumbles more easily.

  • Flavor – Ground chuck has a richer, beefier flavor compared to lean ground beef.

  • Price – Ground chuck costs more per pound than regular ground beef.

  • Uses – Ground chuck is better for burgers and shaped meats. Lean ground beef works well in tacos or pasta sauce.

Understanding these key differences will help you decide when to use each type of ground meat.

Ground Chuck vs Ground Beef for Burgers

For making juicy, flavorful burgers, ground chuck is usually the better choice over regular ground beef. Here’s why:

  • The higher fat content (around 20%) gives ground chuck burgers more moisture and beefy flavor.

  • Ground chuck holds together better on the grill because of its fat content, preventing crumbling.

  • The tender, marbled chuck roast makes exceptionally juicy, satisfying burger patties.

  • You can form thinner patties with ground chuck without drying out during cooking.

Of course, personal taste plays a role. Some people prefer a leaner burger, in which case 90-95% lean ground beef is a better option. For a classic burger with big, beefy flavor, ground chuck can’t be beat.

Ground Beef vs Ground Chuck for Meatballs

Similar to burgers, ground chuck makes excellent meatballs compared to lean ground beef:

  • The higher fat content keeps meatballs tender and adds richness.

  • Ground chuck adheres together better than ground beef thanks to its fat marbling.

  • Meatballs hold their shape better when made with ground chuck.

  • You get a juicier interior and more flavor development.

However, you can still achieve great meatballs with 90-95% lean ground beef. For lighter meatballs, use ground sirloin. But for the ultimate hearty, beefy meatballs, choose ground chuck.

Ground Beef vs Ground Chuck for Meatloaf

Ground chuck makes a superior meatloaf compared to leaner ground beef:

  • It remains moist and tender rather than drying out.

  • The meatloaf holds its shape better without cracking or falling apart.

  • You get a perfect balance of fat marbling for flavor without too much greasiness.

  • It gives a classic, old-fashioned meatloaf texture.

Lean ground beef (90-95% lean) can still make good meatloaf, but expect it to be a bit drier. For the best of both worlds, do a 50/50 blend of ground chuck and lean ground beef.

Ground Beef vs Ground Chuck for Chili

When making chili, lean ground beef is usually preferable over ground chuck:

  • The lower fat content is better since chili cooks for a long time. Too much fat from ground chuck can make chili greasy.

  • Lean ground beef blends into the sauce better, adding thickness.

  • You can control fat content and calories by choosing 96-99% lean ground beef.

  • The loose texture of very lean ground beef is perfect for chili.

That said, a blend of half ground chuck and half lean ground beef makes a good compromise for chili.

Cost Comparison

Due to coming from a premium cut of meat, ground chuck does cost more than regular ground beef. Here are some average prices:

  • Ground chuck: $6-$9 per pound
  • 90-95% lean ground beef: $5-$7 per pound
  • 96-99% lean ground beef: $7-$8 per pound

So you can expect to pay $1-2 more per pound for ground chuck. It’s worth the splurge for burgers and meatballs, but lean ground beef keeps costs lower for recipes like chili, pasta sauce, etc.


While it costs a bit more, the rich flavor and tender texture of ground chuck makes it the prime choice for burgers, meatballs and meatloaf. For a healthier option, lean ground beef is great for chili, tacos, pasta sauce and other dishes where you want a meat crumble. Consider the recipe and your taste preferences when choosing between ground chuck and regular ground beef.

Difference between Ground Beef and Ground Chuck


Is ground beef better than ground chuck?

Ground chuck has a richer, beefier flavor and juicier texture than ground beef made from leaner cuts, like ground round or ground sirloin. This is due to the higher marbling in the chuck roast, which adds more fat and flavour to the beef if you’re looking for a beefier taste and juicer meat in your dishes.

What ground meat is the healthiest?

The Bottom Line If you’re eating for a healthy heart, lean ground turkey—which is lower in saturated fat—is the better pick for you. Of course, you can still enjoy ground beef from time to time, but choosing lean ground turkey more often will help your heart in the long run.

Is 80 20 ground beef the same as ground chuck?

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.

What is the best cut of meat for ground beef?

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.

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