How to Brown Ground Beef

Sloppy Joe Sandwich
Sloppy Joe Sandwich with Ground Beef. Photo: Diana Rattray

 Browning ground beef is often the first step in a recipe using it. Ground beef is almost always browned for slow cooker dishes, soups, meat sauces, and sloppy Joes, and many casseroles start with browned ground beef.

Here's how to brown ground beef, whether for a recipe or to freeze for later use. Or make a basic spaghetti sauce or sloppy Joe sandwiches following the instructions below.

Place the ground beef in a large skillet or sauté pan over medium-high heat.

If using very lean ground beef, add a few teaspoons of vegetable oil or extra virgin olive oil to the skillet.

Using a spatula or wooden spoon, break up the ground beef into smaller pieces as it cooks.  Try to keep the pieces around the same size so the beef cooks evenly. 

Continue cooking, stirring, for about 6 minutes, or until the beef is no longer pink.

To drain the beef thoroughly, use a slotted spoon to scoop the beef out onto a paper towel lined plate or pan. 

Once the paper towels have absorbed the excess fat, use the beef in your recipe or freeze (labeled with the date) in sealable freezer bags. Frozen fully cooked ground beef can be stored in the freezer for up to 4 months. 

To dispose of the excess cooking fats, don't pour it down the drain (excess cooking fats can cause problems for the kitchen drain or septic system). Let the fat solidify in a small jar or can then discard in the proper garbage receptacle.


Basic Sloppy Joes

Brown 1 pound of ground beef (lean) in a large skillet following the instructions above with 1/2 cup of chopped onion and 1/3 cup of green bell pepper. Add 1 1/2 cups of tomato ketchup, 2 tablespoons of packed brown sugar, 1 tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce, 1/4 teaspoon of salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of ground black pepper.

Bring to a simmer over medium-low heat. Simmer for about 10 minutes, or until the mixture is thick. Serve over toasted sandwich buns.

Basic Ground Beef Spaghetti Sauce

Brown 1 pound of lean ground beef in a skillet following the instructions above with 1/2 cup of chopped onion and 1/4 cup of chopped green bell pepper. Add 2 teaspoons of minced garlic and cook for 1 minute longer. Add 2 cans (14.5 ounces each) of diced tomatoes, 1 can (15 ounces) of tomato paste, and 1 can (8 ounces) of tomato sauce. Stir in 1 1/2 teaspoons of dried leaf oregano, 1 1/2 teaspoons of dried leaf basil, 1 teaspoon of salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper. If desired, add 1/2 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes.  Simmer the sauce uncovered for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.

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