Learn how to cook ground beef with perfectly browned, crispy edges! This simple technique takes only 10 minutes and makes the best tasting ground beef to use in all your favorite recipes!
Back to Basics
Today we’re going back to basics and learning how to brown ground beef! While it seems simple, cooking ground beef on the stove top can sometimes lead to disappointing results. Ever ended up with a pile of gray, mushy meat? No one wants that!
In this post, we’ll show you the easy way to cook ground beef with brown, crispy edges and loads of flavor. You don’t need any special equipment or added ingredients–this is all about technique!
Perfectly browned ground beef is the foundation of many of our favorite Ground Beef Casseroles and Ground Beef Soups. Whether you’re making Mexican Cornbread or Hamburger Casserole, once you master this skill, you’ll be taking all of your ground beef recipes to the next level!
How to Brown Ground Beef Perfectly
Before we begin, let’s go over some of the basics. Just like when cooking a steak, our goal is to sear the ground beef to create browning. Browning = Flavor. Here are the secrets to getting that crispy, seared crust:
- Use a large, heavy duty pan or skillet. A cast iron skillet or a stainless steel pan is ideal and will develop the best crust.
- Don’t overcrowd the pan. A larger pan is needed so the beef can spread out and have room to sear. If the beef is too packed together it will steam rather than brown.
- Use high heat. For years, I cooked ground beef over medium heat, and it was fine, but not great. Bumping the heat up to medium high creates a better sear and therefore more flavor.
- Don’t keep stirring! Perhaps the biggest tip I can give is to avoid stirring the meat constantly. Allow the ground beef to sit for a few minutes before stirring. This is what creates those irresistibly crispy bits!
- Season after the beef is cooked. Adding salt to the ground beef before it’s cooked will draw moisture out of the beef and create more steam.
What You’ll Need
- Olive or vegetable/canola oil- Just a touch of oil helps jump start the browning process. I like olive oil better than vegetable oil, but it is a tad more prone to smoking, so just be aware and turn your overhead fan on.
- Ground Beef- This method for browning ground beef will work with any kind of ground beef, from 80/20 to a very lean 95/5.
- Kosher salt and pepper- I like to season ground beef simply-a little salt and pepper is all you need to bring out the natural flavor of the meat. Kosher salt delivers a more balanced flavor than table salt, which can easily taste over-salty or abrasively salty. If you’re using Kosher salt, use ¾-1 teaspoon of salt, to your taste. For table salt, a ½ teaspoon is usually plenty.
How to Cook Ground Beef
- Heat the oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium high heat until it shimmers.
- Add the ground beef and use a spatula or wooden spoon to break it up into several large chunks spread evenly over the surface.
- Cook the beef undisturbed for 3-5 minutes or until the bottom has developed a brown crust.
- Flip, and continue to break up the beef and cook until all sides are well browned, stirring every minute or so, about 7-8 minutes total.
- Drain all but a few Tablespoons of the fat from the pan, then season to taste with salt and pepper.
What to Do with Cooked Ground Beef
There are SO MANY ways to use ground beef. This is what our whole website is about!
Once your ground beef is browned, you can use it in soups like Hamburger Soup, Creamy Taco Soup, and No Bean Chili.
It's also wonderful in casserole dishes like Cheesy Baked Spaghetti, Company Casserole, and Hamburger Hashbrown Casserole.
Season your beef with taco seasoning, and use it in Walking Taco Casserole, Ground Beef Tacos, and Taco Pasta Salad.
How to Season Ground Beef
Want to go beyond salt and pepper? Try adding some fresh garlic cloves at the very end of the cooking. Or season with a little garlic powder and onion powder for a versatile flavor palette that will work in almost any dish.
Of course, we love seasoning with some of our homemade taco seasoning or a packet of seasoning.
You can also go Greek with oregano, garlic, thyme, and parsley. It's fantastic in these Ground Beef Gyro Bowls.
Fresh herbs like parsley, rosemary, oregano, and thyme also work well with ground beef. While not traditional, we love the flavor of this Thai Basil Ground Beef!
How long does cooked ground beef last in the fridge?
Cooked ground beef will last in the fridge for up to 7 days. Store it in an airtight container.
Can I freeze cooked ground beef?
Absolutely. To freeze, cool the beef completely, then place it in a freezer ziplock bag. I prefer to place the bags on a baking sheet in the freezer, pressing them as flat as possible.
Freeze until solid, then they easily store stacked or lined up side by side. Frozen ground beef will keep up to 3 months. Thaw in the fridge overnight, then use in recipes that call for sauteed ground beef, like Big Mac Salad.
Do I need oil to cook ground beef?
If you want to omit the oil from this recipe, you can. Ground beef is fatty enough to cook without extra oil. However, starting with a sheen of hot oil is recommended for better browning.
How long do you cook ground beef?
Cooking ground beef on the stove top will generally take around 8-10 minutes. You want to pay more attention to the color of the meat (nice and browned with no pink remaining) than the time.
How do you drain ground beef?
Unless you’re using very lean beef, I recommend draining most of the fat away before continuing with your recipe. I usually move the beef to one side and tilt the pan so all of the grease runs to the empty side, then soak it up with a paper towel or two and discard.
Alternatively, you can line a bowl or cup with aluminum foil and pour the grease inside it. Once the grease is solid, use the foil to lift it out of the bowl and discard.
Beef fat should never be poured down the drain as it can cause major clogging issues.
How to Cook Ground Beef
- 2 teaspoons olive or vegetable oil
- 1 lb. ground beef
- ¾ teaspoon Kosher salt
- Fresh ground pepper
- Heat a skillet over medium high heat. Add oil until it shimmers.
- Add ground beef, breaking apart until it is spread evenly in the skillet.
- Cook undisturbed for 3-5 minutes until bottom is seared to a golden crust.
- Turn beef over, breaking apart chunks and stirring occasionally for another 3-4 minutes until no pink remains.
- Drain excess fat and season to taste with salt and pepper.