The Cut Of Steak Most Often Used For Ground Beef

As common as ground beef is, the cut of steak you are getting might be a mystery to you. Given the generic name you might assume that ground beef is just a bunch of leftovers from different cuts of meat ground together. While that is partially true, ground beef usually is made from butcher's leftover trimmings, more often than not your ground beef is all going to come from a specific cut. Butchers and supermarkets use everything from lean sirloin to brisket to make ground beef, and labels will often reflect that. And there is no ground beef label you will see more than "ground chuck."

Chuck steak is a cut of meat, sometimes also called chuck roast, that is from the shoulder of the cow. It's generally a tough cut used in stews and braises. While ground round and sirloin are also popular choices, chuck beats them out for ground beef. Chuck is about 15-20% fat, and since ground beef is measured in fat ratios, it uses the "80/20," label, which is probably very familiar to any shopper who buys ground beef. Because of that amount of fat, ground chuck is also sometimes labeled "lean ground beef," whereas other cuts like sirloin get the less popular "extra-lean ground beef," label. Chuck's popularity for ground beef comes from it's ideal fat ratio, but that's not the only reason it's used.

Ground chuck makes cheap and flavorful ground beef

Since chuck comes from the shoulder area, it gets plenty of work from the cow moving, and has a lot of fat and connective tissue. While all this contributes to making chuck tough, those downsides become advantages for ground beef. The extra fat makes chuck more juicy, adds flavor, and even makes it easier to pack together and shape for things like meatballs. The meat of ground chuck also has a strong meaty flavor. This makes chuck great for uses like hamburgers, which are cooked simply, and where so much taste and texture is coming just from the meat. Burgers made from chuck are more tender, and have a richer flavor than other cuts. Given that burgers are probably the number one use for ground beef, it's no surprise chuck is so popular.

While ground chuck can be more expensive than generic ground beef made up of a mix of cuts, but because of its toughness, it's a pretty cheap cut overall, which makes it economical to turn into ground beef. You could turn an expensive strip steak into a great burger, but while chuck wouldn't make as good a steak, as ground beef does the job just as well at half the price. Combine chuck's price with its already ideal fat ratio, and great flavor, and you find it strikes the perfect balance for many ground beef uses. Sometimes things are the most popular choice for good reason.