Kathy Maister's Start Cooking

How to Buy and Store Ground Beef

posted in Meat, Poultry and Seafood by Kathy Maister

There must be at least 10 million different ways to cook ground beef! Here at startcooking.com I have many recipes for the beginner cook using ground beef.

Tex-Mex Cheeseburgers, Chili, English Muffin Pizzas, and Beef With Bow Ties and Beans are just a few of the recipes here that start with ground beef.

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Chili Anyone?

Buying Ground Beef

The first thing you will notice when you go to the meat section of your grocery store is that there are a wide variety of different packages of what all looks like ground beef, but with different prices. In most cases, the pricing is directly related to different levels of fat content. Generally, the lower the fat content, the higher the cost will be per pound. The fat content is indicated by the numbers on the package.

I usually buy what’s called 85/15, which is the ratio of beef — in this case, 85 percent — to fat, which is 15 percent here. This ratio gives me the taste and texture I like when I’m cooking.

Many people who are watching their fat intake purchase ground beef with a 90/10 fat content ratio. I find that ratio to be a bit dry, but each to his own! My trick is to use the 85/15 beef, but drain off the fat after I have browned the beef. Put a small bowl beneath the colander to catch the fat and then throw it away in the trash. DO NOT PUT THE FAT DOWN THE DRAIN as you may end up clogging your pipes!

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Storing Ground Beef

You should use or freeze ground beef within 2 days of buying it. Remove the beef from the store packaging and double wrap it in plastic wrap / freezer wrap to protect it from “freezer burn.”

Frozen ground beef should be used within three to four months of purchase. After that, I’d definitely recommend throwing it away!. The US Department of Agriculture guidelines say that even properly frozen food can deteriorate in taste and nutritional value if stored too long in the freezer.

If meat (or bread or even ice cream) has been in the freezer too long, the food gets very dried out and develops white edges. It not only looks awful but the taste and texture will be pretty bad as well.

Another “must” before freezing, is to label and date the package. You’d be amazed at how long unmarked packages take up residence in the freezer!

I also flatten and stack frozen foods. They take up less space plus it’s easier to find things this way.

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Frozen Mushroom Gravy, Chicken Gravy, Sweet Potatoes and Pureed Squash and Ground Beef

Be sure to check out my video on How to Brown Ground Beef and How to Thaw Ground Beef.

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Frying Onions

print recipe card posted in Vegetables and Beans, Vegetarian by Kathy Maister
Difficulty:

Frying onions inevitably results in someone saying “what smells so good”?

I’m going to show you how to fry onions two ways. First, we’ll fry (or “sauté”) the onions very quickly on a high heat. Second, we’ll “caramelize” the onions, which means frying them very slowly on a very low heat.

Sauteed Onions & Caramelized Onions

Sautéed onions have a slightly crispy outside and a very soft center. Caramelized onions are very soft and very sweet. You don’t need to add anything to make them sweet, since the natural sweetness of the onion develops through the slow cooking process.

This post is going to be a slightly longer than normal, since I am going to be showing you two different techniques.

Both approaches to cooking the onions require the same ingredients to start: – onions, butter, olive oil and salt and pepper.

For 2-to-4 servings of the sautéed onions you will need:

  • 2 Tablespoons of olive oil, butter, or a combination of both
  • 4 medium onions
  • Salt and Pepper

I have already discussed how to peel an onion, as well as how to slice an onion. Because we are slicing so many onions you may want to stick them in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes before you start peeling and slicing them. That way, they won’t bother your eyes as much.

Using a sharp knife, slice the onions into ¼ inch, or smaller, slices.

Melt the olive oil or the olive oil & butter combination, in a very large fry pan over medium high heat. Be careful not to burn the butter! If it starts to smoke, turn down the heat!

Add the onions.

Quickly cook the onions, moving them around the pan with a wooden spoon or spatula. It should take no more than 10 minutes at the most for the onions to get nicely browned.

These onions are great on hamburgers, steaks, mashed potatoes or just as a delicious side dish.

How to Make Caramelized Onions

To make caramelized onions you will need time but not a tremendous amount of cooking skill. You will also need:

  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 2 Tablespoons of olive oil
  • 3 pounds of onions
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup of dry white wine or water
  • Grated Parmesan Cheese

By the time you finish caramelizing the onions they will have cooked down to about half their size.

Peel and slice the onions.

In a really large fry pan melt the butter and olive oil over really low heat. Add the onions to the pan

Sprinkle on 1 teaspoon of salt.

Cook the onions over the lowest heat possible for about 1 hour. (Yikes! That’s a long time!) Don’t be tempted to increase the heat. You can not speed up this process. Over the course of 1 hour they should not turn brown. Be sure to give them an occasional stir. This is what they will look like after 15 minutes of cooking.

This is after 30 minutes of cooking.

This is after 45 minutes of cooking.

After about one hour increase the heat to medium and cook, stirring constantly, until the onions are well browned. That could take another 25 minutes. There will be a lot of brown bits stuck on the bottom of the pan. Those bits are full of flavor. To get them off the bottom of the pan and incorporated into the onions turn off the stove and pour ½ cup of dry white wine (or water) into the pan.

After the wine is added turn the stove back on. This will ensure the alcohol doesn’t catch fire and flame up.

The wine will dissolve all the bits and make the onions even darker.

Now remove them from the heat. Add salt and ground pepper and even a sprinkle of grated Parmesan cheese.

Caramelized onions are great on their own or can be added to stews and sauces.

Enjoy!

Adapted from: Joy of Cooking

Sauté Onions Ingredients:

(2-4 Servings)

  • 2 Tablespoons of olive oil, butter, or a combination of both
  • 4 medium onions
  • Salt and Pepper

Caramelized Onions Ingredients

(makes about 4 cups)

  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 2 Tablespoons of olive oil
  • 3 pounds of onions
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup of dry white wine or water
  • Grated parmesan cheese

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Pasta Sauce – Marinara

print recipe card posted in Main Dishes, Soups, Salads, Sides and Sauces, Vegetarian by Kathy Maister
Difficulty:

This is a very basic (and quick!) tomato sauce that takes very little time to cook and can be made ahead of time and frozen. It can be used with any pasta dish or in lasagna.

You will need the following ingredients to make this Marinara Sauce recipe:

Be sure to get both the onion and garlic chopped before you turn on the stove.

You’ll need about 1 cup of finely chopped onions for this recipe. Two small or one medium onion should do the trick.

Peel and mince 4 cloves of garlic. That’s a lot of garlic, but it does get cooked, so it’s not going to be too strong.

Fresh basil is essential for this recipe. Nowadays, most grocery store carry fresh basil year-round. You can wash it the same way you wash lettuce. Pull the leaves off the stem and throw the stems away.

Put the basil and the canned tomatoes, with their juice, in a blender and puree everything until almost smooth. Set the tomato-basil puree aside.

(As I filled the blender I thought, YIKES, this is way too full! With my hand pressed firmly on the lid of the blender I pressed the puree button. I was very lucky that my kitchen did not end up covered in tomato sauce. Next time I would puree this mixture in two batches!)

Heat ½ cup of olive oil in a large, heavy saucepan over medium heat.

That does sound like a ton of oil, but believe me it works. It gives the sauce a full, rich flavor.

Add the onions and garlic and cook until very tender, about 12 minutes.

The onions should not get browned. This is what they should look like after 12 minutes.

Stir in the tomatoes and basil that you pureed in the blender and 1 teaspoon of oregano plus 1 teaspoon of sugar. (Don’t skip the sugar. It helps balance the acid in the tomatoes.)

Bring the sauce to a simmer over a medium-high heat. Decrease the heat to medium and continue simmering until the sauce thickens slightly, stirring occasionally. This will take about 10 minutes.

Give the sauce a taste. You may need to add about ½ -1 teaspoon of salt and several grinds of fresh pepper.

The sauce can be made 1 day ahead. If you are storing it for future use, cool the sauce, then cover and refrigerate it. Gently re-heat sauce over medium heat before using it.

If you are going to be freezing this sauce, use small containers that would be enough for 1-2 serving.

Be sure to spray your plastic containers with cooking spray first so they don’t get stained by the tomato sauce.

(For more basic pasta sauce recipes, be sure to check out my Tomato Sauce Video or my Turkey Sausage Sauce photo-tutorial.)

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Turkey Sausage Sauce

Enjoy!

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