How to Buy Ground Beef

Whether you’re getting ready to feed a rowdy tailgating crew, preparing for a holiday pot-luck or just trying to get weekday meals on the table, ground beef is a quick and affordable solution.

It can be browned in the skillet in 10-15 minutes, broiled or thrown on the grill for savory burgers. Ground beef can also be purchased as lean, which makes it nutritious without sacrificing taste or flavor. What’s not to love?

Ground beef is probably the easiest beef cut to identify in the grocery store. If you’re the type that heads straight to the meat case, you’ll most likely find an entire section dedicated to it. Here’s the catch: once you find it, you have to pick what you want out of that huge selection.


Ground sirloin. Ground round. Ground chuck. Lean. Extra lean. And on top of that, ground beef can be packaged several different ways! Let’s break it down so you can become a confident shopper and even more confident cook:


Each type of ground beef packaging offers unique benefits. It’s all about picking what fits your lifestyle.

Trays: Trays are often the most common ground beef packaging. There are two types: overwrap and case ready. These both make it easier to see what the beef looks like. Overwrap trays can be stored in the refrigerator for only 2-3 days, while case ready trays have a longer shelf life.

Chubs: These are the little plastic packages you’re starting to see more of in the meat case. They’re convenient, less mess, freeze in their own container and can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 21 days.

Choosing a Grind

When it comes to picking grinds of ground beef, it really comes down to preference. However, it’s tough to know what you want when you’re confused by the labeling!

In the grocery store, the four major varieties of ground beef (a.k.a. “hamburger meat”) are Ground Round, Ground Sirloin, Ground Chuck and Ground Beef. We know what you’re thinking. . . isn’t it all ground beef? The first three are source grinds that come from specific cuts of beef, which play the biggest role in the grind’s taste, texture and leanness.

Normally the lean-to-fat ratio for source grinds are: 90/10% for ground round, 85/15% for sirloin and 80/20% for chuck. Ground beef comes in each of these ratios. The main reason people prefer various source grinds over ground beef is knowing exclusively what cut the beef came from, as opposed to regular ground beef being taken from a variety of cuts.

Quick Tips:

  • Leaner grinds are best for casseroles and meatloaf, and less-lean grinds (like 80/20%) are better for hamburgers.
  • To make your ground beef leaner, put cooked crumbles in a colander and rinse away the fat residue gently with warm water.
  • Always cook ground beef to 165 F degrees for food safety.
  • Try to thaw in the refrigerator, not on the counter.
  • If you have questions about grass vs. grain-finished, natural and certified organic beef, visit Facts about Beef. 

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