Lowering The Fat Of Regular Ground Beef

Ground Beef is sold according to it’s fat content:
Ground Beef is available in many forms these days. The most common forms are Super Lean, Extra Lean, Lean, and Regular old humble Hamburger. Each type has a different percentage of fat added to it. Super Lean is the most expensive; it has the least amount of added fat. Regular ground beef is the most economical; it has the most amount of added fat. There are ways around this extra fat though, so that we can eat the cheapest ground beef, and still consume the least amount of fat possible. Keep reading to get to the nuts and bolts of a procedure called Draining and Rinsing.

Super Lean: This type of ground beef usually has between 4% and 10% fat content. At 90% or 96% lean beef, it is the leanest ground beef you can buy. This also makes it the most expensive. In my area it is $4.99 lb at most supermarkets, although at a local Warehouse Store (Sam’s) it is a more reasonable $2.19 lb. A 4 oz portion of raw super-lean ground beef contains approximately 170 calories, 8g fat, 3g saturated fat and 61 mg cholesterol. Once cooked a pound of super-lean ground beef weighs about 12-2/3 oz. Thus a 4 oz portion of raw super-lean turns into about a standard 3 oz portion, once it is cooked.

Extra Lean or Ground Round: Most cookbooks and magazines call for this type of ground beef in their recipes. It contains 15% fat and 85% lean beef. In my area it costs between $2.99 and $4.59 a pound. A pound of raw ground round becomes about 12 oz when cooked.

Lean or Ground Chuck: This type of ground beef is 80% lean and 20% fat. Usually it is called Ground Chuck on the label. In my area it costs between $1.99 and $3.99 per pound. A pound of raw lean ground beef weighs about 11-1/2 oz after it is cooked.

Regular or Humble Hamburger: This is the least expensive ground beef and it also has the highest percentage of added fat. Normally it is 70% lean and 30% fat. Sometimes it is advertised as 27% fat and 73% lean though, so check the label. It is often on sale for about $1.50 lb. Even at it’s highest price it usually costs no more than $1.99 lb. In my area it is available in 5-pound rolls for about $1.42 lb. If you cook a pound of raw hamburger, it will become about 10-2/3 oz of cooked meat. This is merely 2 oz less than the most expensive super-lean ground beef. Regular hamburger costs less than half as much as super-lean ground beef. I am not willing to pay double for 2 more ounces of meat. For frugal folks trying to keep the grocery bills as low as possible, Regular Hamburger is the best choice.

But what about the fat content? When you are trying to reduce the amount of fat and cholesterol in your diet, wouldn’t Super Lean Beef be a better deal nutritionally? Well that depends. Regular Hamburger is higher in fat than Super Lean, however most people don’t consume the fat which cooks out of their ground beef. Usually people drain it off. For Health & Budget conscious folks like us, there is an even more thorough way to reduce the fat in regular ground beef.

Drain & Rinse Regular Hamburger to eliminate as much fat as possible. Fry up a pound of regular, cheap Humble Hamburger in the normal way. Break it up into small pieces, and cook it until all the pink is gone. Drain as much of the accumulated fat as you can into a handy vegetable can, or grease catcher. Then dump the ground beef into a colander or strainer in the sink. Run hot tap water into the greasy skillet. Pour this water over the hamburger in the strainer. Do it again. Allow the beef to drain a few minutes, and then return it to the skillet. Proceed as directed by the recipe.

If you like, you can put a bowl or pot under the strainer to catch the water that drains off of the hamburger. This can be chilled until the fat solidifies on top, and then the remaining broth can be used anywhere beef broth is called for. It can also be frozen for later use. This way any nutrients which wash away with the water are still preserved; a very thrifty and conservative use of resources.

I usually don’t add onions, garlic or other seasonings until after the hamburger is cooked, drained and rinsed. Some folks fry the onions or garlic along with the meat as they cook it. Do what you feel is best for your circumstances.

A 4 oz raw portion of regular hamburger that has been cooked, drained and rinsed has approximately 155 calories, 9g fat, 4g saturated fat and 46 mg cholesterol. Compared to the values for super-lean ground beef above, drained and rinsed crumbles have 15 fewer calories, 1 more gram total fat, 1 more gram saturated fat and 15 fewer miligrams of cholesterol. Because of this information I am whole-heartedly willing to eat and recommend regular ground beef that has been cooked, drained and rinsed to anyone who is trying to eat a healthier diet.

Below you will find a chart detailing the caloric differences between several types of ground beef. You will see that draining and rinsing regular hamburger makes it lower in calories than any other type of ground beef.

Type of Ground Beef

1 lb Raw; Weight after cooking

1 lb Raw; Calories after cooking

1/4 lb Raw; Calories after cooking

Super Lean (7% fat)

12-2/3 oz



Extra Lean (15% fat)

12 oz



Lean (20% fat)

11-1/2 oz



Regular (30% fat), Broiled

10-2/3 oz



Regular (30 % fat) Drained & Rinsed

11 oz



If you still have hesitations about using cheap regular hamburger after reading this article then print it out and share it with your dietitician or doctor.  Ultimately you should follow their advice and not mine.  It’s my bet that if they investigate this option as thoroughly as I have they will agree that using regular hamburger that has been cooked, drained and rinsed is the best alternative for people trying to improve their diet while maintaining a tight budget.

NOTE:  The information for other ground meats like sausage and turkey is not available.  It is reasonable to assume that draining and rinsing these meats would result in similar reductions in fat, cholesterol and calories.

Independent Links which confirm the information on this page.

Journal of The American Dietetic Association, Vol 92 No. 11 Nov.1992 (PDF document)

Canadian Beef Information Centre

Canadianized Ground Beef: PDF (adobe acrobat) booklet detailing extensive nutritional information for many different types of ground beef, including regular ground beef that has been cooked, drained and rinsed.  Highly Recommended.

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