I'm looking to determine with as much accuracy as possible (without buying specialized equipment) the fat percentage of ground beef. Is anyone aware of a method that will get me reasonably close?

I found some ideas over here but I'm not confident that any of them are terribly accurate (save the one with the calorimeter.) http://ask.metafilter.com/152910/A-way-to-test-the-fat-content-of-minceground-beef-at-home

  • What's the end result? How do you intend to cook it? Taco meat, burgers??
    – Rikon
    Jul 26, 2011 at 14:14
  • I'm not planning on reusing the meat after the experiment. I buy ground beef from a local farmer and the fat content isn't labeled. I'd like to test a little bit to get an idea of what I'm eating. I'd also like to compare pre-cooking fat content and post-cooking fat content for several different cooking methods. Jul 26, 2011 at 15:23
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    The metafilter people seem to say that you can melt the fat, separate and weigh. But this is a bad idea, because when you heat the meat, it also loses water (suet melts in the 45°-50°C range, beef proteins start denaturing and expeling water at 50°C). You'll have to go through density. Maybe electirc resistance, but this will be harder.
    – rumtscho
    Jul 26, 2011 at 17:20
  • @rumtscho: Rendering and weighing the fat should work, the water loss doesn't matter. You just need to collect all the fat, which would be fairly easy using a fat separator after boiling it.
    – derobert
    Jul 26, 2011 at 21:18
  • @derobert Good point. Of course, it will be imprecise, because both the separation of fat from meat and water from fat will be incomplete. But home measurement of a density plus judging the "proper" density of non-fatty tissue is imprecise too, so I don't know which result will be better. (How much of a piece of dead meat should be protein, how much water? Sure there are average numbers available, but the actual ones depend on the animal part, butchering method and possibly the overall fitness of the animal).
    – rumtscho
    Jul 26, 2011 at 21:30

6 Answers 6

  1. Weigh the ground meat before starting to determine its total weight.
  2. Render as much fat as possible in the ground meat by boiling or simmering.
  3. Use a fat separator to separate off the fat
  4. Allow the fat to dry (or dry it by gently bringing to >100°C/212°F, beware splattering).
  5. Weigh the amount of fat rendered.

Fat percentage is 100 × (fat weight) ÷ (total weight).

Alternative method: Ask farmer which primal cut the meat is ground from. Look up answer in table. :-P


A method of approximation that i use would just be looking at the amount of white and red colours.

Good mince would have a lot of red, and very little white, and bad mince, has a very little red.

"Red" is the meat itself, and "white" is the fat, and the colours in between are stuff like cartilage.

Using approximation, you can just estimate the amount of fat in your mince.

  • I'm really looking for a method that will get me within a few percent of the actual amount. Jul 27, 2011 at 3:51
  • Building on this, you could make a perspex grid say 10 cms square, divided into 1 cms squares. Place over the meat, and count the squares that are mostly white fat and take this as the percentage fat. You'll need to calibrate this, but if you're looking for a quick and dirty method without complicated equipment it may work. Sorry, no ideas about testing post-cooking - but if you know (or can measure) what's gone in and what you've added/lost you should be there.
    – Stuart
    Sep 19, 2011 at 22:17

The instrument sold to markets to determine % fat apparently (from operation manual) renders a known volume of ground beef into a known diameter vial and measures the thickness of the fat layer floating above the water with a gauge that is calibrated in fat percentage.

This instrument would not account for added water (which presumably takes up some of the raw meat volume) but could certainly include a factor to account for the unrendered fat by adding the known percentage of residual fat to the measured percentage in the vial.

  • Any ideas for how to approximate this without the specialized instrument?
    – logophobe
    Aug 3, 2014 at 20:14

I am trying to determine the same. The problem with rendering out the fat is; Some fat stays behind with the meat if you are just browning the meat for use.I I am curious because sometimes I buy meat and a lot more fat is rendered out than what I usually experience. Normally, If I use a 90/10 and brown the meat very little comes out. I may even need to use a little bit to facilitate the browning. If I use a 80/20 grind, there is some fat that would need to be removed before proceeding with the recipe. This experience tell me that 10% of the weight of the meat is fat that does not render out, so if you get a 10% rendering, your fat content would be 10% (which stays with the meat) plus the 10% that is rendered out. The example I gave would be an 80/20 ground beef. If the processor adds water to the beef (via ice chips), my method would yield a lower percentage of fat that it is in reality. For example, your meat composition is actually 70% meat, 15%fat and 15% ice chips (added water). When you render it, the added water is not counted, so yu are left with the meat and fat. off leaving meat and fat. Doing the math, what was sold as 15% fat is in reality over 21% fat. Barely allowed to be called ground beef.


Many years ago I worked at McDonalds. That was over 40 years ago, back when we cut, washed and cooked our french fries each day, even mixed our own 'secret sauce' (1000 island dressing with catsup stirred in). What applies here is the burger patties were supplied fresh from a local butcher. Each new batch, 2 or 3 times a week had to be tested by the manager for fat content and possibly other tests. He used a small vial or test tube and some chemicals for the test. I don't know what was used but I'm sure this test is still available somewhere.


To determine the percentage lean of meat: NOTE: This method would certainly get you close, but is completely uncomplicated.

Published data: Density of lean beef (from info by link below) is 0.96 grams/milliliter 1 US cup contains 240 milliliters

For 1 US cup of lean beef, the expected weight value would be 0.96 g/ml x 240ml the result would be 230.4 grams.

To calculate percentage lean: (actual weight, grams)/(expected weight, grams) x 100 or (actual weight, grams)/(230.4 grams) x 100


1cup sample of ground beef weighs 220 grams so,

220g/230.4g x 100 = 95.4 percent lean and 9.5 percent fat


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    I'm confused about what you're suggesting. Why would the fat not also contribute to the total weight?
    – Sneftel
    Oct 5, 2020 at 16:01
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    I would think that you'd need to find the balance point where the fat percentage contributes the correct amount of weight to achieve the recorded result. But it would also be better to work off a more reliable volume. "one cup" is difficult to measure unless it's ground meat (so you have issues with packing it to remove all of the air). It might be better to use something like a 4cm cube( 64mL, so 61.44 grams would be 100% lean).
    – Joe
    Oct 5, 2020 at 17:27
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    Tallow is 216.62g/250mL, so 0.86648 density, or 55.455 g/64mL cube. (I'm not saying this density approach wouldn't work, but it's going to be a slightly more complex formula)
    – Joe
    Oct 5, 2020 at 17:29
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    And I just re-read the question and noticed they are dealing with ground beef ... which means voids. So you'd probably want to measure out your beef by displacement (and stirring to eliminate trapped air bubbles), and then subtract out the weight of the liquid used.
    – Joe
    Oct 5, 2020 at 17:34

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