Chefs share the best and worst meals to make with ground beef

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You can use ground beef to make flavorful meatballs. Linus Strandholm / EyeEm / Getty Images
  • Insider asked chefs for some of the best and worst ways to use ground beef in meals.
  • The experts said you should avoid using prepackaged ground beef to make burgers or beef stroganoff.
  • Making tacos, soups, and meat-based sauces are easy, filling ways to enjoy ground beef.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Ground beef is a versatile ingredient, but using it the wrong way can be a recipe for disaster.

Insider spoke with professional chefs to find out their favourite ways to use ground beef and which ground-beef recipes you should avoid.

Here are six of the best and four of the worst meals to make using ground beef:


Bolognese sauce with pasta is simple and delicious.

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Bolognese sauce usually contains meat, and it’s great to make in bulk. Pixabay

Palak Patel, a chef with the Institute of Culinary Education, told Insider that one of her favourite easy weeknight dinners is a hearty Bolognese or Italian meat sauce served over pasta.

“It’s very easy to make a small or large batch to freeze for later,” Patel said, “because all you have to do is combine ground beef with herbs and tomato. You can cook it slowly on the stovetop, slow cooker, or even an Instant Pot.”

For a lighter version of this dish that’s perfect for warmer months, use fresh tomatoes instead of canned for the sauce.


Ground-beef tacos are easily customisable.

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You can add shredded cheese, cumin, and peppers to add flavour to your tacos. Billie Schwab Dunn/Insider

Jessica Randhawa, a chef with The Forked Spoon, told Insider that ground beef makes for a scrumptious taco filling.

“Ground-beef tacos are easy to make at home and can be full of flavour,” she said. “Plus, you can control the fat content based on your personal needs by choosing leaner or fattier ground beef.”

You can make an easy taco filling by simmering ground beef with tomato sauce and spices like chile flakes, paprika, garlic powder, and cumin. Add chopped vegetables or shredded cheese for extra flavour.


Cajun rice is a cheap and filling way to enjoy ground beef.

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You can control the spice levels of your Cajun rice. Shutterstock

Cajun rice, also known as dirty rice for its colour, is a traditional Louisiana Creole dish made with seasoned rice, chopped peppers, and spiced meat such as ground beef.

“Cajun rice is a great way to use ground beef,” Randhawa said. “Though it’s usually known as a spicy dish, you can omit spicy ingredients like jalapeño if you’re sensitive to heat.”

In addition to being a versatile meal that can easily be scaled up or down to feed groups of different sizes, Cajun rice is an ideal way to use up different cuts of meat – toss in leftover steak, sausage, or even chicken gizzards.


Meatballs are a classic way to showcase quality ground beef.

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Meatballs can be simmered in a range of different sauces. Nicole Raucheisen/Insider

Mila Furman, a private chef and recipe developer with Girl and the Kitchen, told Insider that meatballs are an ideal way to use high-quality ground beef.

“Meatballs are one of the most versatile meals to have in your artillery as a chef,” Furman said. “They’re super simple to put together and will always be a hit for the whole table.”

Whether you’re making classic meatballs with tomato sauce or whipping up a batch of creamy Swedish meatballs, using ground beef with a slightly higher fat percentage will keep them juicy and tender.


Add ground beef to soup for an unconventional way to get some extra protein.

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You can use ground beef to prepare lasagna soup. Shutterstock

If you’re struggling to think of ways to use up a small portion of leftover ground beef, putting it in a soup may just be the answer.

“Using ground beef in soups isn’t just for chilli,” Furman said. “Add ground beef – especially in the form of leftover meatballs – into soup with plenty of hearty vegetables for a complete meal.”


Lasagna keeps ground beef from tasting dry or overcooked.

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Lasagna can keep your ground beef moist and flavorful. Bernd Juergens/Shutterstock

A great way to infuse prepackaged ground beef with tons of moisture and flavour is to bake it into a lasagna.

“Lasagna is a versatile ground-beef meal because it’s very hearty and works well with all kinds of veggies, like mushrooms, squash, or corn,” Patel told Insider. “Plus, you can add a fried egg on top to turn leftovers into a weekend brunch.”


On the other hand, you shouldn’t use a typical package of ground beef to make burgers.

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If you want to make burgers, consider splurging on high-quality ground beef. Shutterstock

Patel said that using an average grocery-store package of ground beef to make burgers is a mistake.

“It is important to know the type of beef that you’re buying,” Patel said. “Prepackaged grocery-store ground beef is not processed daily or in-house, so the resulting burgers tend to be dry and chewy.”

Instead of grabbing a package of ground beef, ask the deli or butcher to grind a portion of quality beef for you. Cuts such as chuck steak usually have a better ratio of fat to lean meat, which makes for a juicier burger.


It can be difficult to make good beef stroganoff with ground beef.

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Beef stroganoff works better with a different form of meat. LeeAnn White/Shutterstock

Beef stroganoff is traditionally made with sautéed pieces of whole beef, but some recipes call for ground beef instead. Unfortunately, this variation is hard to get right.

“This is a very classic recipe for ground beef, but often the beef is left bland and dry while the delicate egg noodles are overcooked,” Patel said.

Patel added that if the ratio of cream to beef is not balanced, this dish can become overly creamy and even soggy.


Steak tartare is tricky to prepare at home, and it isn’t always safe to eat.

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Steak tartare can be tricky to safely prepare at home. iStock

Steak tartare is made with lightly seared or raw ground beef, usually served as a patty topped with a raw egg yolk.

Randhawa said home chefs – and restaurant diners – should generally avoid steak tartare for safety reasons.

“Unlike other raw-meat recipes from around the world, steak tartare does not include an acidic citrus juice,” Randhawa said. Acidic citrus juice can cause meat to seem somewhat cooked, but it doesn’t actually make it entirely safe to eat.

“Uncooked meat can have both dangerous parasites and potentially life-threatening bacteria,” Randhawa added.


You may want to avoid adding warm ground beef to chilled salads.

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Taco salads can be refreshing, but they might get greasy if you don’t chill your meat first. Shutterstock

Some salad recipes call for ground beef as a topping. But the temperature difference between warm ground beef and a cold salad can cause the melted fats in the meat to solidify.

“Do not put ground beef in your salads if you can help it,” Furman said. “You often end up with a situation where beef fat leaks down through the greens and congeals.”

You could avoid this stomach-turning scenario by chilling the cooked ground beef beforehand.