Questions about "ground meat" or
"hamburger" have always been in the top five food topics of calls to
the USDA's Meat and Poultry Hotline. Here are the most frequently asked
the difference between "hamburger" and "ground beef"?
||Beef fat may be added to
"hamburger," but not "ground beef," if the meat is
ground and packaged at a USDA-inspected plant. A maximum of 30% fat by
weight is allowed in either hamburger or ground beef. Both hamburger and
ground beef can have seasonings, but no water, phosphates, extenders, or
binders added. They must be labeled in accordance with Federal Standards
and Labeling Policy and marked with a USDA-inspected label.
Most ground beef is ground and packaged in local stores rather than in
food processing plants under USDA inspection. Even so, the Federal
labeling laws on fat content apply. Most states and cities set standards
for store-packaged ground beef which, by law, cannot be less than Federal
standards. If products in retail stores were found to contain more than
30% fat by weight, they would be considered "adulterated" under
ground beef inspected and graded?
||All meat transported and sold in
interstate commerce must be federally inspected. The larger cuts are
usually shipped to local stores where they are ground. The Food Safety and
Inspection Service carries out USDA's responsibilities under the Federal
Meat Inspection Act. These laws protect consumers by ensuring that meat
products are wholesome, unadulterated, and properly marked, labeled, and
For meat being transported and sold within a state, state inspection
would apply. State inspection programs must enforce requirements at least
equal to those of Federal inspection laws.
Grades are assigned as a standard of quality only. It is voluntary for
a company to hire a Federal inspector to certify the quality of its
product. Beef grades are USDA Prime, Choice, Select, Standard, Commercial,
Utility, Cutter, and Canner. They are set by the USDA Agricultural
Marketing Service. Most ground beef is not graded.
what cuts of beef are ground beef and hamburger made?
||Generally, ground beef is made
from the less tender and less popular cuts of beef. Trimmings from more
tender cuts may also be used. Grinding tenderizes the meat and the fat
reduces its dryness and improves flavor. For information on cuts of beef
see Beef - Facts, Safety, Cooking
is the significance of the "Sell-By" date on the package?
||"Sell-By" dates are a
guide for retailers. Although many products bear "Sell-By"
dates, product dating is not a Federal requirement. While these dates are
helpful to the retailer, they are reliable only if the food has been kept
at proper temperature during storage and handling. USDA suggests that
consumers cook or freeze ground beef within 2 days after purchase for
is the safe food handling label now on meat and poultry packages?
||A safe food handling label should
be on all raw or partially precooked (not ready-to-eat) meat and poultry
packages. The label tells the consumer how to safely store, prepare, and
handle raw meat and poultry products in the home.
kind of bacteria can be in ground beef? Are they dangerous?
||Bacteria are everywhere in our
environment. Any food of animal origin can harbor bacteria. Pathogenic
bacteria, such as Salmonella, Escherichia coli O157:H7,
Campylobacter jejuni, Listeria monocytogenes, and Staphylococcus
aureus, cause illness. These harmful bacteria can not be seen
When meat is ground, more of the meat is exposed to the harmful
bacteria. Bacteria multiply rapidly in the "danger zone" --
temperatures between 40 and 140 F. To keep bacterial levels low, store
ground beef at 40 F or less and use within 2 days, or freeze. To destroy
harmful bacteria, cook ground beef to 160 F.
Other bacteria cause spoilage. Spoilage bacteria are generally
not harmful, but they will cause food to deteriorate or lose quality by
developing a bad odor or feeling sticky on the outside.
is the E. coli O157:H7 bacterium of special concern in ground beef?
||E. coli O157:H7 can
colonize in the intestines of animals, which could contaminate muscle meat
O157:H7 is a strain of E. coli that produces large quantities of
a potent toxin that forms in the intestine and causes severe damage to the
lining of the intestine. The disease produced by the bacteria is called
E. coli O157:H7 survive refrigerator and freezer temperatures. Once
they get in food, they can multiply very slowly at temperatures as low as
44 F. The actual infectious dose is unknown, but most scientists believe
it takes only a small number of this strain of E. coli to cause
serious illness and even death, especially in children. It is killed by
Illnesses caused by E. coli O157:H7 have been linked with the
consumption of undercooked ground beef. Raw milk, apple cider, dry cured
sausage, and undercooked roast beef have also been implicated.
bacteria spread from one surface to another?
||Yes. It is called
cross-contamination. Bacteria in raw meat juices can contaminate foods
that have been cooked safely or raw foods that won't be cooked, such as
salad ingredients. Bacteria can also be present on equipment, hands, and
even in the air.
To avoid cross-contamination, wash your hands with soap and hot water
before and after handling ground beef to make sure you don't spread
bacteria. Don't reuse any packaging materials. Use soap and hot water to
wash utensils and surfaces which have come into contact with the raw meat.
Don't put cooked hamburgers on the same platter that held the raw patties.
the best way to handle raw ground beef when I buy it?
||At the store, choose a package
that is not torn and feels cold. If possible, enclose it in a plastic bag
so leaking juices won't drip on other foods. Make ground beef one of the
last items to go into your shopping cart. Separate raw meat from
ready-cooked items in your cart. Have the clerk bag raw meat, poultry, and
fish separately from other items.
Plan to drive directly home from the
grocery store. You may want to take a cooler
with ice for perishables.
should raw ground beef be stored at home?
||Refrigerate or freeze ground beef
as soon as possible after purchase. This preserves freshness and slows
growth of bacteria. It can be refrigerated or frozen in its original
packaging if the meat will be used soon.
If refrigerated, keep at 40 F or below and use within 1 or 2 days.
For longer freezer storage, wrap in heavy duty plastic wrap, aluminum
foil, freezer paper, or plastic bags made for freezing. Ground beef is
safe indefinitely if kept frozen, but will lose quality over time. It is
best if used within 4 months. Mark your packages with the date they were
placed in the freezer so you can keep track of storage times.
is the best way to thaw ground beef?
||The best way to safely thaw ground
beef is in the refrigerator. Keeping meat cold while it is defrosting is
essential to prevent growth of bacteria. Cook or refreeze it within 1 or 2
To defrost ground beef more rapidly, you can defrost in the microwave
oven or in cold water. If using the microwave, cook the ground beef
immediately because some areas may begin to cook during the defrosting. To
defrost in cold water, put the meat in a watertight plastic bag and
submerge. Change the water every 30 minutes. Cook immediately. Do not
refreeze ground meat thawed in cold water or in the microwave oven.
Never leave ground beef or any perishable food out at room temperature
for more than 2 hours.
it dangerous to eat raw or undercooked ground beef?
||Yes. Raw and undercooked meat may
contain harmful bacteria. USDA recommends not eating or tasting raw or
undercooked ground beef. To be sure all bacteria are destroyed, cook meat
loaf, meatballs, casseroles, and hamburgers to 160 F. Use a food
thermometer to check that they have reached a safe internal temperature.
there people who are more at risk from eating ground beef that is
undercooked or mishandled?
||The very young, the very old, and
those with immune systems that have been weakened by cancer, kidney
disease, and other illnesses are most at risk and vulnerable to illnesses
associated with contaminated food. The symptoms of foodborne illness --
such as diarrhea or vomiting, which can cause dehydration -- can be very
serious. Safe food handling practices at home or anywhere food is served
is especially important for those in the "at-risk" group.
microwaved hamburgers safe?
||Yes, if cooked properly to destroy
harmful bacteria. Since microwaves may not cook food as evenly as
conventional methods, covering hamburgers while cooking will help them
heat more evenly. Turn each pattie over and rotate midway through cooking.
Allow patties to stand 1 or 2 minutes to complete cooking. Then use a food
thermometer to check that the internal temperature is 160 F.
it safe to partially cook ground beef to use later?
||No. Partial cooking of food ahead
of time allows harmful bacteria to survive and multiply to the point that
subsequent cooking cannot destroy them.
I refrigerate or freeze leftover cooked hamburgers? How should they be
||If ground beef is refrigerated
promptly after cooking (within 2 hours; 1 hour if the temperature is above
90 F), it can be safely refrigerated for about 3 or 4 days. If frozen,
it should keep its quality for about 4 months.
When reheating fully cooked patties or casseroles containing ground
beef, be sure the internal temperature reaches 165 F or it is hot and
other resources are there for ground beef?
||Here's a list with links to some book and beef recommendations:
101 Things to Do with Ground Beef
The Ultimate Ground Beef Cookbook
Our Favorite Ground Beef Recipes Cookbook
Miss Vickie's Big Book of Pressure Cooker Recipes
Omaha Steaks Premium Ground Beef
Contains 4 - 1 lb. Lean Grass Fed Organic Ground Beef and 6 - 2/3 lb. Lean Grass Fed Organic Ground Beef Patties of (two 1/3 lb. patties).
Organic Grass Fed Ground Beef ONE (1 lb. Package)
Progressive Internationa The Perfect Burger Press
Amazon.com Gift Card
is pre-packaged ground beef red on the outside and sometimes dull,
||Oxygen from the air reacts with
meat pigments to form a bright red color which is usually seen on the
surface of meat purchased in the supermarket. The pigment responsible for
the red color in meat is oxymyoglobin, a substance found in all
warm-blooded animals. Fresh cut meat is purplish in color. The interior of
the meat may be grayish brown due to lack of oxygen; however, if all the
meat in the package has turned gray or brown, it may be beginning to
does ground beef release a lot of "juice" while cooking?
||In making ground beef, some retail
stores grind the meat while it is still frozen. Ice crystals in the frozen
meat break down the cell walls, permitting the release of meat juices
during cooking. The same thing happens after ground meat is frozen at
causes ground beef patties to shrink while cooking?
||All meat will shrink in size and
weight during cooking. The amount of shrinkage will depend on its fat and
moisture content, the temperature at which the meat is cooked, and how
long it is cooked. Basically, the higher the cooking temperature, the
greater the shrinkage. Cooking ground beef at moderate temperatures will
reduce shrinkage and help retain juices and flavor. Overcooking draws out
more fat and juices from ground beef, resulting in a dry, less tasty