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At the grocery store, they've got different types of ground beef: ground round, ground chuck, ground sirloin, etc. They each have different fat percentages. Anything from 70/30 (30% fat content) to the extra lean 90/10. The less fat content, the more expensive per pound.

I have heard that you can get the fattiest type, drain the grease as normal, and then rinse the meat with water in a colander to make it equivalent to the extra lean fat content. I'm not sure I buy that, and it seems this would rinse off any seasonings used also.

From a health perspective, the extra lean would be best, however, it can be double the price per pound compared to the cheapest / most fat content. If I am going to be using the meat crumbled in a casserole or for tacos, and drain the grease after browning the meat in a skillet, how much does the fat content matter? Is getting the cheapest and then rinsing it with water truly equivalent? Is there a better method that would enable me to save money with the cheapest or perhaps 80/20 but still get the low fat content of the meat I actually eat?

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up vote 16 down vote accepted

I have heard that you can get the fattiest type, drain the grease as normal, and then rinse the meat with water in a colander to make it equivalent to the extra lean fat content. I'm not sure I buy that, and it seems this would rinse off any seasonings used also.

That sounds terrible. Cooked ground beef should be drained if necessary, but not rinsed. It will rinse away a lot of flavor, and I doubt it makes it the equivalent of having bought lean meat in the first place. There is still plenty of fat present in the meat itself.

If you want low fat get extra lean. If you want flavor get 80/20 or 70/30 and drain thoroughly for as little fat as possible. Do yourself a favor though and don't rinse it with water.

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That's gotta be right. – Michael at Herbivoracious Sep 7 '10 at 2:23
you might be able to get more fat out if you pressed it out with the meat in a sieve and some pressure applied to the top, but like hobodave says, don't rinse. – Sam Holder Sep 7 '10 at 10:37
I agree - I always drain my ground beef after cooking but only tried rinsing it when I was young. I quickly stopped because it didn't help whatsoever. Just drain and, if necessary, push against the strainer with large spoon to remove extra fat. – nicorellius Sep 7 '10 at 17:58
Yeah, rinsing it probably won't help unless you use a strong detergent ;-) – Jay Sep 7 '10 at 20:36
To know for sure how much fat you're eliminating by draining (and pressing, per Sam Holder's suggestion with which I concur), weigh the drained fat. It will have some water, so it wont be exact, but it will be close. – Jolenealaska May 21 '14 at 20:14

Regarding rinsing, using water will remove water soluble flavors (as hobodave mentions) so this is not advised. Use good beef for recipes where the flavor of the meat comes through more and use more fatty, lower quality meat when the meat is less to the forefront in the dish.

For example, a casserole with lots of other flavors could use a lower quality, higher fat meat (with draining), but for burgers, I would use a lower fat meat of the highest quality.

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90/10 burgers are quite dry and unappetizing. Alton Brown has stated that the "ideal" burger is 70/30, an I quite agree. In fact I would say I think the opposite of your suggestion is true. Use a lean meat in a casserole because there are lots of other flavors and fats. Yet when the beef is on proud display, use a nice fatty cut for maximum flavor and juiciness. – hobodave Sep 7 '10 at 18:38
Depends on what you like... I personally don't like 70/30 for burgers. But nor do I like a fatty rib eye. I prefer a leaner cut. And, also, for my answer above, I meant a fattier ground beef but drained... Edit added. – nicorellius Sep 7 '10 at 20:03

Draining fat from browned hamburger is good, but rinsing it under hot running water removes an incredible amount of fat you would not expect to be in it after just draining it. If you don't believe that, drain the meat as usual, then, fill the pan with hot water to cover the meat and see what floats to the surface. It does not take away flavor unless you've seasoned it while cooking it. Draining the fat also removes some of that same flavor if it's seasoned before cooking or while cooking. You can brown the meat, drain and rinse it, then add your seasonings, even if it's sauteing onion, peppers or other vegetables in the meat. Rinse the meat, put in your vegetables to saute, and add a little beef broth (canned) to saute the vegetables in the meat. The flavor is still there. You'll soon know how much broth you need to adequately saute the vegetables. Add your seasonings and spices to the drained, rinsed meat as well.

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I actually concur for someone who is dead-dog-serious about reducing fat, those people should also start with lean meat. – Jolenealaska May 21 '14 at 22:36

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