Ground Beef Basics

Burger, hamburger, ground beef, all refer to the same thing and we Canadians eat tons of it a year. But not all ground beef is the same.

There are hundreds of hamburger recipes out there and I know that many of our customers use hamburger at least twice a week. So how many pounds of burger should you order.

If you use one pound per meal and you’re eating it twice a week then that’s 52 weeks X 2 or 104 pounds ballpark. I’d do 125 pounds for good measure. So, however many times a week X 52 weeks X the number of pounds per meal is a fairly accurate number of pounds to order for a year, if you’re ordering a side or whole carcass. If you have a family of four or five, especially with teenagers, you’ll need more 🙂

 Regular, Medium, Lean and Extra-Lean

What’s the best type of burger, regular, lean or extra lean and what’s the difference? If you order from us then your choice will depend on how much fat is on the carcass. Normally you get lean, sometimes extra lean.

In the grocery store, according to a few charts I saw, extra lean on the label means no more than 10% fat. Lean is a max of 17% fat and Medium has a limit of 23% fat. Regular has to be 30% fat or less.

Medium and regular ground beef you’d likely want to cook and drain before adding to your recipe, especially regular, but extra lean and even lean don’t have to be pre-cooked and are great for things like cabbage rolls. Lean is the grade that is good to use for any recipe.

 Where does it come from

Ground beef can come from any part of the carcass. The most tender and flavourful parts usually go into steaks and roasts but sometimes we have an older cow whose days are done and we put the whole carcass into burger. That’s usually great ground beef because it includes everything. Normally the areas of the carcass furthest from the spine are less tender and are perfect for burger.

Those areas are also arguably the most flavourful if they’re braised, cooked slowly in liquid. So if you look at the carcass diagram below, you’ll see that the areas marked Brisket, Short Plate, Flank and Shank are the bottom part of the animal and that’s where the burger usually comes from.

As for the ‘Chuck’ it’s not uncommon to find chuck roasts, aka pot roast, and cooked properly they’re usually very tasty. The ‘Round’ area is popular to use for roast and steak too, but again they have to be cooked carefully. Both Chuck and Round. aside from the Inside Round which makes decent roast and steak, can be made into good lean burger. That’s what I would do if I had a larger family (4-5 people) and wanted to stretch my dollar.

All the other parts, Brisket, Short plate, Flank and Shank are often ground into burger. But again, taking a roast from the brisket and a few flank steaks is a nice change from time to time. Marinating helps the steaks from the tougher sections and braising tenderizes the roasts, and the flavour is great.

The shanks, or legs as you can see, can be cut into rounds and used for soups or stews, the popular ‘Osso Buco’ comes from the shank.

Beef Osso Buco


 8 shanks of osso buco (untied if you want a more rustic dish, tied if you want to plate each piece individually)

3 tablespoons olive oil

3 large carrots, coarsely chopped

1 large onion, coarsely chopped

3 celery stalks, coarsely chopped

2 cups red wine

1 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes

About 2 cups of beef stock (or water)

Kosher salt & freshly ground pepper


 Preheat oven to 350 degrees, with the rack positioned in the middle of the oven.

  1. In a large, flat bottomed pot, heat olive oil on medium/high heat.
  2. Season each piece of osso buco with salt and pepper.
  3. Add the osso buco to the pot (depending on the size of your pot, about 4 pieces will fit at a time) and sear on both sides, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer seared pieces to a plate. Sear remaining pieces.
  4. Add carrots, onions and celery to the pot and saute them in the remaining olive oil and meat juices. About 3-5 minutes. Season with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper.
  5. Add wine and deglaze the bottom of the pot. Cook on medium heat until the wine reduces by half and the vegetables are softened, about 8-10 minutes.
  6. Add crushed tomatoes and bring to a simmer.
  7. Using an immersion blender, puree all ingredients in the pot.
  8. Return osso buco to pot. Add enough beef stock to mostly cover the meat, this will be approximately 2 cups of stock. Maybe a little more, maybe a little less. Stir with a wooden spoon to mix with vegetable puree.
  9. Bring pot to a simmer. Cover and put into the oven. Bake for 1 1/2 – 2 hours.
  10. Remove from oven and let stand on stovetop to cool for 20 minutes.

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