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Hamburger meat is a staple for any kitchen but doesn’t usually come individually portioned. Most restaurants serve about four ounces of meat per person, but this isn’t always the ideal serving at home.
The recommended amount of hamburger meat per person per meal is about four ounces. This amount can change based on the recipe, whereas more meat-based dishes, such as burgers or tacos, recommend six ounces of meat. In recipes where the hamburger meat is secondary, three ounces is recommended.
When portioning any ingredient, always keep in mind your recipe and your audience. Keeping hungry people fed while avoiding the pain of leftovers for days requires a watchful eye on meal sizes.
Hamburger Meat for Burgers
Ground beef is an excellent way to feed a lot of people. It’s cheap, easy to portion, and very popular in whatever dish it ends up in. There are a lot of varying and delicious dishes you can make with ground beef. But how much hamburger meat should you be getting per person? That depends in large part on the dish you choose to make.
Different recipes require different portion sizes, depending on what else you’re adding to the dish. Hamburgers are the easiest to portion out—each person should need, on average, about four ounces of hamburger meat portioned out in a single patty (that’s a quarter of a pound).
Want to supersize the party? You can theoretically make hamburger patties as large as you want, but keep in mind that the bigger they get, the harder they are to cook evenly, and the longer they take to cook. For example, you can make eight-ounce patties for your burgers, but it’s better to just make four-ounce patties and pile two on a burger to make a double. This also gives the people served more control over how much meat they’re getting.
On the smaller side of things, you can shrink your hamburger patty down to about two ounces, which is the perfect size for a slider, a miniature hamburger. Any smaller than that, and your patty is going to be too small to hold its own against the rest of the burger and will be tricky to cook.
Always make sure your patties are even shaped and not too thick in the middle so that the whole patty cooks evenly.
Commercial restaurants tend to serve hamburgers at four ounces per person, although the world record for the biggest hamburger ever made clocked in at a whopping two thousand, five hundred and sixty-six pounds and nine ounces. Possibly popularized by McDonald’s, one of the first restaurants to speed up and simplify the hamburger process in order to create fast food, four ounces is one the easiest amounts to portion as well as cook. Bigger burger sizes come up to a third of a pound, and smaller, slider-sized hamburgers are two ounces apiece.
Other Ground Beef Recipes
Hamburger patties tend to be bigger portions than other hamburger meat recipes, so you may want to downsize depending on what you’re making. Tacos may taste different from burgers, but ingredient-wise, they’re very similar. Take a tasty carbohydrate, pile on some ground beef, and add some vegetables and condiments to your liking.
Tacos are portioned similar to hamburgers, but their meat isn’t portioned into patties. The benefit is that you get more control over how much meat ends up in each taco, but it can be harder to predict how much meat you need per person.
Ground beef cooked loose, like in taco meat, rather than patties, will lose more fat and end up weighing a little less after being cooked. Generally speaking though, you should average four ounces for each taco, but if you really love tacos, upping the measurement to five may save your party.
Sloppy joes use hamburger meat as more of an embellishment than the main course, so most recipes will have you use about 3 ounces per sandwich, and you should plan for one sandwich per person on average.
In soups, stews, chilis, and other “one-pot” recipes, three to four ounces per person is a good average, but it does depend on the recipe itself. Different soups and chilis use different amounts of ground beef, so factor that in when getting your hamburger meat.
Don’t feel too shy about adding more or less hamburger meat to a recipe if you feel it needs it. The nice thing about one-pot recipes is that they tend to be very sturdy and easy to adjust, so you can add more or less meat to make the meal heartier or lighter. If you do, just make sure the recipe still cooks right—less meat may need a short cooking time or temperature, and you will probably need to cook more meat longer.
If you add a lot of extra meat to any recipe, don’t just raise the temperature to cook it faster. This can make the meat cook unevenly. Ground beef can cook at higher temperatures better than other, non-ground forms of meat because the heat can spread to the middle better, which prevents only cooking or burning the outside of the meat.
Cooking Hamburger Meat
The best way to cook hamburger meat is to place it in a hot pan and separate it as you cook over medium to medium-high heat. You can (but don’t need to) add oil or butter to the pan to cook the meat in, but the fat in the meat will melt as it cooks and keep it from sticking.
Most recipes will have you cook the meat separately before adding it to the other ingredients, but you can add a few spices and seasoning to your mix as you cook it. When just cooking ground beef, make sure all the meat is a nice, warm brown color. Once it’s browned, you can cook it a bit longer if that is to your liking, but be careful about overcooking, because that can cause you to lose all of the nice juices in your meat that keep it flavorful and not dry
To drain out the excess fat, take the pan off the heat when you’re finished cooking and prop up one side on a couple of hot pads so that the pan is tilted. Push the meat up on the higher side and let the melted fat drain out and pool in the lower end of the pan. Meat fat can be harsh on your dish disposal, making it greasy and not dissolving, thus clogging it up. Instead of pouring the fat down the sink, put it in a throwaway container to either reuse or toss out.
If you’re making hamburger patties, measure out your raw ground beef using a scale, or you can eyeball it to a portion size you like. It’s going to shrink a little bit when it cooks, so keep that in mind. Your patties don’t have to be exactly the same size, but keep them as uniform as reasonably possible so that they all cook evenly.
Roll the raw meat gently into balls, then flatten to about an inch thick, roughly the diameter of the palm of your hand. Make a small indent in the middle to help the patties cook evenly. Don’t press down on your hamburger meat more than you need to, as that can cause it to lose some of the flavor. Gently place the patties on the grill, and once again, don’t press down on the patties. This will squeeze out the juices that keep your hamburger from becoming too dry.
Flip the patty when one side has browned nicely, and continue cooking until the patty is brown all around the outside. There is a range in which you can cook your hamburger patties—they can be brown all the way through, or you can leave the inside just a little bit pink, which tends to be more popular and juicier.
Staying Heart Healthy
If you portion your meat based on health recommendations, one ounce of meat is equivalent to one ounce of protein food (this may seem obvious, but for other protein foods, it isn’t a one to one ratio). Lean red meat (this includes ground beef and any other red meat with a low-fat concentration) doesn’t tend to have a great reputation, but it’s actually not a bad source of protein. Five and a half ounces of protein is recommended per day.
Red meat can provide a lot of important vitamins and minerals like iron and zinc. Animal products are actually the only source of all necessary B vitamins in nature, so cutting meat out of your diet means you have to get those vitamins from a vitamin-fortified source, like fortified soy milk or breakfast cereal.
The danger in red meat lies in the saturated fats, which can raise your risk of heart disease, so if you are at risk for heart problems, keep the meat lean! Ground beef isn’t perfect, but it is a fairly good source of protein since it has a lower concentration of saturated fat, although it is more processed, which means it may also have more sodium, which raises blood pressure. While some fats are actually healthy, saturated fats can raise certain kinds of cholesterol, which is why they can raise the risk of heart disease.
For ground beef, about four to five ounces a serving is a recommended healthy amount. To follow the American Institute for Cancer Research guidelines, keep red meat under eighteen ounces per week, and try using other, leaner meats to make your hamburgers.
Ground turkey tends to be leaner than ground beef, and with a lower saturated fat content, is more heart-healthy. If you are using leaner ground beef, however, enjoy the benefits of additional nutrients like selenium that ground turkey won’t have.
Keeping Hamburger Meat
One of the advantages of hamburger meat is how easy it is to store it long term. You can place the meat in seal-able plastic bags, flatten it out, and keep it in the freezer for up to four months.
Once thawed, hamburger meat can stay good in the refrigerator for one to two days if raw, but up to four days if cooked. When you need to use your meat, make sure to thaw it out at least a day in advance so it’s totally ready by the time you need it. Trying to cook half-frozen meat will probably result in a still frozen inside and a burned outside.
The best way to thaw anything is to leave it in the fridge until it’s thawed out because that will allow for the most consistent thawing and prevent bacteria from potentially spreading. If you don’t have that much time, faster thawing methods include placing it in a dish on the kitchen counter to thaw at room temperature, using hot water to thaw it out, or, in the most drastic cases, using the microwave. I don’t recommend the microwave, however, because you risk the frozen middle and cooked outer dilemma again.
When cooking ground beef, make sure the interior reaches a temperature of at least 160°F (71°C) to keep it food safe. You can do this with a meat thermometer, or just make sure all the meat is browned all the way through. Keep raw beef, and any raw meats, away from other foods, especially ones eaten fresh, to avoid contaminating them.
You should keep raw meats at the bottom of the fridge to prevent them from dripping any juices on fresh, ready-to-eat foods. This will prevent any food poisoning, which is always a must for any dinner party!
To tell if your ground beef has gone bad, check for smell, texture, and color. The raw meat should range from red to brown in color, it may feel damp, but won’t be slimy, and it shouldn’t have a very strong scent or smell like anything other than raw beef.
Freezer burn can make your meat unpalatable, but food safety-wise, won’t make you sick. You can cut away freezer-burned portions to keep the meat tasting fresh, but in emergencies, don’t worry about it.
Now that you know all about portioning, cooking, and keeping hamburger meat, enjoy your meal!