The burger recipes I've found online called for rather fatty ground beef, like 80% or 73%. (Spruce eats: 15 - 20% fat), Smoked BBQ source: 15 - 20% fat, Taste of Home: 20 - 40% fat (sic!), Spoon university: 20 - 30% fat, The Kitchn: 20% fat, Serious Eats: at least 20% fat, Steve Raichlen: 20% fat.) I didn't pay attention and bought some 90% lean beef. I guess the burgers will still work out, but it got me thinking.

If everybody says you need fatty ground beef for flavor, in what kind of recipes do you actually want these 90+% ground beefs, and why?

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    "everybody says you need fatty ground beef for flavor" source?
    – njzk2
    Commented Apr 12, 2021 at 19:36
  • In the city of Kobe. Commented Apr 13, 2021 at 21:14

4 Answers 4


This is partly down to taste. When you make burgers much of the fat runs out by the time it's done, so you need to start with a high enough fat content that the burger isn't dry when it's done. I've made burgers with 10% fat when that's all I can find rather than 20% (my personal ideal), and they are very tasty as long as you don't overcook them. I find the extreme of 30% which I've seen recommended in places to be too greasy, but again that's my taste - I find too much fat covers the flavor of the meat.

Where you have to be very conscious of fat, whether minced or not, is in dishes where the fat has nowhere to go, like stews, braises and casseroles. Very fatty meat in these can end up with a greasy end result, which is not to most tastes. I use around 10% mince and lean cuts for those types of dishes.

  • I think you could add to this that just as you prefer 20% fat over 30% fat, some prefer 10% fat (or even less) over 20% fat, so it's really a matter of taste for any recipe. Similar to spice, salt, and sugar content - they are generally considered good flavors, but everyone has their own preferences for how much of a good thing is too much. Commented Apr 11, 2021 at 21:00
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    Meat pies of all varieties have this consideration too. Excess fat can be very off-putting paired against a crust that already has a significant amount of suet in it, but can be very welcome in some varieties of hand pies. It really all boils down to what you want people to experience when eating whatever it is that you're making :)
    – user293
    Commented Apr 12, 2021 at 13:57
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    I think the argument "This is partly down to taste" is slightly misleading. This would be like saying fluffy warm moist vs. flat cold dry pancakes is a matter of preference, or seasoned seared marbled vs. unseasoned boiled lean steak is also a matter of personal taste. Sure, SOME people might prefer a 10% lean burger but there is a reason why almost any restaurant burger in the world has 20% or more fat.
    – Behacad
    Commented Apr 12, 2021 at 18:37

I use mince / ground beef in many dishes and in most of those low fat content is not a concern.

Stirfry, chilli con carne, cottage pie, spaghetti sauce to name a few.

Just remember to use some oil or fat if you put the meat in a hot pan, which you may not do with fatty mince.

If you have too high fat content you may want to take out the grease as part of your preparation, like they describe in this question. As seen in the related questions.

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    Spag Bog. Authentically it is pork but 90CL FHM is popular in my country. For sausage rolls you can mix the meat wth an exotic fat.
    – mckenzm
    Commented Apr 12, 2021 at 20:49

"...you need fatty ground beef for flavor…"
Presumably that's if you like the taste of fat - which I never have.

In the UK it's the fat content which is labelled, as opposed to the beef content, so your 80, 75, 90% would be called 20, 25, 10% over here.
20% is the fattiest I've seen here, which is always the 'cheap meat' on the bottom shelf. The top shelf 'good stuff' is 5% fat [95% beef] & that is what I use for everything, from burgers to chilli. If I need a higher fat content I will add oil or occasionally butter.

Burgers in the UK always tend to use breadcrumbs as a soak-up/binder. This keeps your burgers more tender too. Beef, an egg, chopped onion, breadcrumbs [optional salt/pepper/cayenne/dill]. I did once try just beef, but they came out a bit tough.

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    Hm, interesting. I always thought burgers were just the meat, maybe some salt. If you mix in breadcrumbs, onions and such, I'd call it meatballs. Certainly not bad, but a different thing. I don't want to taste the fat either, but maybe meat gets too dry without fat?
    – Robert
    Commented Apr 11, 2021 at 16:34
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    It seems to be a cultural 'thing' - US likes fatty meat for burgers with nothing else added, EU likes less fatty but it needs something else to soften the mouthfeel. EU meat usually has 10% added water, so that would be another reason for the needed 'soak up', idk how the US regs affect added water.
    – Tetsujin
    Commented Apr 11, 2021 at 17:19
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    Personally, I prefer burgers that many may describe as "tough". I like 90-10 (90% meat, 10% fat) or even 95-5 ground beef/bison (bison is wonderful for burgers), zero fillers/softeners/anything else, and cooked so well done that the outside is partially blackened. As an American, I'm surrounded by people who find that a horrific recipe for a burger, but I love it. Blackened beef with ketchup is an amazing flavor combination (to me at least). Commented Apr 11, 2021 at 21:03
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    @ToddWilcox "pay for fat that I'm not eating".... it's the other way around - they charge you to trim the fat. A quick look on walmart.com/grocery in my area has 93% beef at $5.48/lb and 80% at $3.98. If we assume that the price of meat and fat are fixed, we can do a little algebra. We get ~$6.30/lb for meat, and ~ -$5.25 for fat. Note the negative. Another way to think of this is that if you buy enough 93% to get a full lb of actual meat, you pay 5.48/0.93 ~ $5.89 and if you buy enough 80% to get a full lb of meat you pay 3.98/0.8 ~ $4.98. The fat is cheaper than free!
    – Him
    Commented Apr 13, 2021 at 0:19
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    @Robert: "Beef, an egg, chopped onion, breadcrumbs [optional salt/pepper/cayenne/dill]." In the US we refer to such a concoction as meatloaf, and meatloaf sandwiches are very popular in the greasy spoons (diners) where we hide our best burgers. Language is endlessly fascinating!
    – JohnHunt
    Commented Apr 13, 2021 at 4:22

I sometimes make soup from a certain brand of soup kit. Italian Wedding. The instructions, not that I follow instructions well, call for molding small balls of raw ground beef and spice mix to drop into boiling broth. The meatballs then cook in the water. There's no chance for excess fat to dribble out as in a frying pan or grill. I want minimal grease in the soup, so I start with a low-fat ground beef.

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