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Whether it’s ready to go in the fridge or frozen from your last grocery trip, chances are you’ve got some ground beef on hand. Burgers and Bolognese sauce are obvious uses — and very good ones at that — but they’re really just the beginning when it comes to recipes for this versatile, easy to cook, crowd-pleasing staple.
Before we get into the myriad recipes that make ground beef shine, here are a few basics to remember. When shopping, always buy the freshest meat possible and if you have a particular recipe in mind, check to see if it calls for lean ground beef. At home, store ground beef in the fridge for up to two days or freeze for up to three months. It’s best to transfer frozen ground beef to the fridge the night before you plan to cook it, so there’s plenty of time for it to thaw. Alternatively, defrost it in the microwave.
For recipe inspiration, we turned to some of our favorite food pros, including Giada De Laurentiis, Andrew Zimmern, Serena Wolf, Kelly Senyei, Kevin Curry and Katie Workman, who shared their best ground beef dishes and cooking tips. Whether you fancy something classic like De Laurentiis’ lasagna or want something more unusual like Curry’s Korean-inspired beef and rice, they’ve got you covered.
“Every Italian’s favorite use for ground beef has to be Bolognese,” says TV personality, cookbook author and restaurateur Giada De Laurentiis. The only problem is that the traditional recipe requires simmering for up to 3 hours. “This one comes together in a third of the time, but with all of the flavor, making it perfect for a weeknight meal.” As a bonus, this Bolognese “freezes incredibly well,” which means you have to make a double batch!
"This lasagna is my ultimate comfort food,” insists De Laurentiis. “Packed with layers of ricotta, ground beef and spinach, it is a complete meal in and of itself.” While making lasagna isn’t difficult, it takes a few steps, so De Laurentiis recommends making it for Sunday supper, “when the whole family can get involved in the kitchen.” Plus, it’s an ideal dish for feeding a crowd!
Using wonton wrappers and a muffin tin transforms ground beef tacos into “the ultimate crowd-friendly appetizer or snack,” says Just a Taste blogger Kelly Senyei. After just five minutes in the oven, the wonton shells are perfectly crisp and ready to be filled with seasoned ground beef then “topped with all your favorite taco fixings.” You can “switch up the cheeses, pile on guac and salsa and feel free to kick up the heat with pickled jalapeños,” suggests Senyei. Once you brown the meat, Senyei recommends draining any excess fat, so the tacos don’t turn mushy.
Burgers are another go-to recipe for ground beef, and Andrew Zimmern, the James Beard Award–winning TV personality, chef, and host of the new MSNBC series, “What’s Eating America?” offers a particularly delicious way to cook them. “It's a perfect blend of hard searing and steaming over the onions before they caramelize, and you smash the patty,” explains Zimmern. “The science of food says this works, and the results are flawless.” When it comes to the meat, “the fattier, the better,” insists Zimmern. “I like 70/30 or 75/25, so the fat melts down into the onions, and they caramelize in beef fat.”
Can’t get enough of that classic burger flavor? Look no further than this cheeseburger-inspired pasta from Serena Wolf, the blogger behind Domesticate Me and author of "The Dude Diet Dinnertime: 125 Clean(ish) Recipes for Weeknight Winners and Fancypants Dinners." It’s “loaded with ground beef, sharp Cheddar and Worcestershire-infused tomato sauce,” says Wolf. “I like to think of it as a grown-up version of Hamburger Helper.” Baby spinach adds “extra fiber and nutrients without affecting the taste, which is great for any vegetable haters or picky eaters in the family,” while lean ground beef delivers plenty of meaty flavor but keeps fat to a minimum. Perhaps best of all, this is a one-pot dish, so it’s quick to make and quick to clean up.
These quesadillas “are a perfect weeknight dinner, because they come together so quickly, and can turn one pound of ground beef into loads of quesadillas,” says Katie Workman, the blogger behind The Mom 100 and author of "Dinner Solved: 100 Ingenious Recipes that Make the Whole Family Happy, Including You." Ground beef and cheese make for a winning combination, says Workman, who adds a cup of spinach or kale for freshness, color and a little extra nutrition. You can adapt the recipe by chopping and sautéing any veggies you have on hand — they’ll blend in and no one will even notice, insists Workman.
Workman has more than one ground beef and cheese crowd-pleaser up her sleeve. This rich and hearty beef and cheese casserole is topped with shredded potatoes that bake into the most wonderful crunchy and tender topping. “It has the appeal of shepherd’s pie,” says Workman. If you’re short on time, use frozen hash browns, and for variety, swap in different veggies, herbs or cheese. Those bags of pre-shredded Mexican or Italian cheese blends or whatever leftover cheese you happen to have in the fridge will all do the trick. Workman only has one rule: “Make sure when you scoop it to serve it, you get some topping with each portion.”
“Sweet, tart, tangy and spicy,” is how fitness influencer and "Fit Men Cook" author Kevin Curry describes this speedy Korean-inspired dish. “You can get in and out of the kitchen in less than 20 minutes,” says Curry. “You can also save time by shopping the international aisle and getting some Gochujang sauce” to use instead of the sauce included in the recipe. Either way, this dish has so much flavor that you can use lean ground meat, which keeps it light. It also tastes great cold, so make extra and enjoy leftovers for lunch.