When I look for the calorie count of ground beef, for example, I see 480 for 8oz 85% lean ground beef. Fair enough. But this site shows 34g of fat, precisely 15% of the 8oz I started with. Seeing how much liquid is left in the pan, I imagine some of the fat had to have melted out. Yet, I'm unable to find a site that will at least hint at a better estimate based on the cooked product. Another site shows cooked calorie/fat count but the fat calories are actually higher for 8oz than with the uncooked from the first site. Clearly, I'm missing something. I was expecting to find a pre-cooked count, then a post-cooked with a warning "based on medium well" or similar. Obviously the cooked products won't be identical.

  • It's not quite as simple as pre- and post-cooked; different methods of cooking will result in more or less of the fat left in. Since you could potentially leave all of it in, I think that providers of nutritional information have no choice but to provide that worst-case number.
    – Cascabel
    Commented May 15, 2011 at 16:15
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    Right. Throw it into chili, and there you go. I see that. I picked ground beef/ burgers as it seemed the one case where it's not an ingredient, it's thrown on the grill, or pan fried and [some of] the fat comes out. With 306 of the 480 calories being from fat, this isn't nit-picking, the lost fat and calories is more than trivial. Commented May 15, 2011 at 16:22
  • 3
    I know it's nontrivial, but it's also really hard for anyone to provide useful numbers. On the grill, fat drips away, completely out of your food. How much you lose depends on how long you cook, how much exposed surface area there is, where the fat is within the meat (for non-ground meat, anyway)... In a pan, some fat renders out, but the meat cooks in it and retains some. The better you drain it, the less fat you'll have. People may be able to provide guesses, but they'll be pretty rough.
    – Cascabel
    Commented May 15, 2011 at 17:09
  • In others areas, say computers, people are so obsessed with data and precision they'll come with the most obscure facts. With people's current focus on diet, I am surprised a google search doesn't turn up even the neurotic home dietitian's data. I'm currently on a low carb regimen, so the fat is moot, but when I shift to count calories, this would make a difference. I may just have to run a few 1 lb batches and measure how much fat I can pull out. Commented May 15, 2011 at 20:27
  • related : cooking.stackexchange.com/q/66/67
    – Joe
    Commented Apr 8, 2019 at 19:46

4 Answers 4


You can easily calculate a maximum calories difference, and not so easily approximate an actual difference.

If you measure the weight of your meat pre- and post-cooking, you can regard the difference as the maximum amount of fat that has been lost from the meat. Multiply that difference by the number of calories per same unit, and you will have a good idea of the maximum difference in calories.

If you want a more exact number, catch all the drippings and try to determine the percentage comprised by fat. You could boil your drippings for some period, and what is left should be (mostly) fat. That seems like an awful lot of work, but you may be able to do it once and decide that for your purposes whatever you came up with on that one calculation is good enough to apply universally.

  • Exactly. Just for the sake of doing it once or twice, I was going to cook exactly a pound of 85% ground beef. take all the liquid, and let the fat solidify, same as I would to de-fat chicken stock. If I measured the weight of the fat pulled off, it would avoid the potential of measuring water. Commented May 16, 2011 at 21:16

In some cases, cooking food makes the calories more accessible, and so it could be thought of as making them higher in calories.

  • Eggs have more calories when cooked because raw eggs contain enzymes that interfere with absorption (this is thought to be a defense mechanism against predators). Cooking the eggs deactivates these enzymes.
  • Plants, in many cases, take longer to extract all of the nutrients than our omnivorous digestive systems allow. Cows have four stomachs to fully digest grass! Because the cooking process breaks down the plant matter, there is more accessible after cooking.

Here is my simple way of getting an estimate for calorie counting. I start with a 80/20 burger. Raw is 71 calories an ounce, if I estimate a quarter of the fat has drained off on the grill, to me it is the same as if I used 85/15 raw which is 60 calories an ounce. If I grill them to well done and they seem dry, I treat it as if I had 90/10 raw to begin with. Which is 50 calories an ounce. It may not be perfect, but it's quick and easy and makes sense to me!


I disagree that it would be difficult to give an ESTIMATE of the calorie change for a patty. The Atwater system used nowadays may be hard to adapt, but using a bomb calorimeter (old method) the difference between an 80/20 raw patty and an 80/20 medium well barbecued patty is an easy measurement. Sellers just don’t want to do it.

  • Thank you, it’s always interesting to be reminded of such an old post. I have to admit, every time I barbecue a hamburger or fry up hamburger meat and then drain it I think about this issue. I still haven’t performed the experiment that I promised, maybe I will on my first snow day of the season Commented Sep 6, 2020 at 15:58

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