11/04/2011 11:59 am ET Updated Aug 31, 2012

How To Brown Ground Beef

Browned ground beef shows up in many dishes, from tacos to chili. The point of browning is to render the fat from the protein before you add it to another dish, says chef Brannon Soileau of The Culinary Institute of America. To begin, he adds a small amount of oil to a pan to keep the meat from burning. You want the heat to be medium, not hot -- the idea is to gently render the fat. Chef Soileau adds the meat to the pan, then breaks it up with a wooden spoon. As it cooks, he moves it around with the spoon, keeping the heat at a moderate level (if you hear spitting and sizzling, it's too hot). Once all the pink is gone from the meat, he tilts the pan so the fat runs away from the meat, then removes the meat with a slotted spoon.

For 60 years, The Culinary Institute of America has been setting the standard for excellence in professional culinary education. In this video series, experienced chefs and educators show you how to tackle essential cooking techniques.

Video Transcript

Hi, I'm Brannon Soileau from the Culinary Institute of America, and I'm going to show you this kitchen basic: how to brown ground beef.

Today we have a pound of ground beef, and what we are going to do is brown it. We do that because you see it in lots of different recipes: taco meat, goulash, chili. I'm looking for about a medium heat, not a smoking hot heat, or I'm going to burn it. What we want to do is render the fat out. You want to slowly cook the fat out of the meat and brown it.

I've got medium heat in the pan; I want to add a minimal amount of fat, just a little oil, so it doesn't scorch. A minimal amount, just basically to coat the bottom of the pot. I take the pound of ground beef: into the pan it goes. We use our senses - a nice little sizzle, that's exactly what I want to hear. And I'm going to smash it about, I'm going to move it around, I'm going to mix it up, so that it's one even level.

Now we notice that it's starting to brown on one side. You can season this with many types of seasonings at this point. A little bit of salt, maybe some oregano, thyme, dried basil, dried parsley, et cetera. You notice in the pan, it's starting to produce quite a bit of fat within the browned meat, and that's exactly what we're trying to do here. We're trying to brown the meat, to render the fat away from the protein - which is what's happening - so that in the next step we don't carry all this fat to it. You can also see in the meat that there are still pink spots, so I'm not quite browned all the way. A good important point to look at right now is to notice the heat. It's not blaring hot; it's not hissing at me, like when we're caramelizing onions in a high heat. Easy heat, nice and easy as we brown, and you really can see the rendering of the fat in the pan.

Now you see all the meat is brown. We're going to tilt the pan a little bit so the fat runs away from the meat. I'm going to use a slotted spoon to pull the meat out, and I'll go ahead and remove it from the fat. Now we have browned ground beef.

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