Ground Chuck vs Ground Beef: Are They Really That Different?

From choosing ground beef vs ground meat for various dishes to cooking them properly - we've gathered the most important info for this article
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Last updatedLast updated: June 29, 2021
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When you’re craving hamburgers or meatballs, you head to the grocery store to pick up some ground beef. But what if next to it is ground chuck? Then what do you do? Ground chuck vs. ground beef is a common misunderstanding as they look pretty similar. Both are ground-up beef and, in a package, you might not be able to determine the differences. However, as with moth things, it all comes down to taste. Let’s find out what the differences are between ground beef and chuck and what they are best used for.

What is ground beef?

First of all, let’s break down that food staple you’ve been buying for ages. Ground beef comes from the cow and is made up of the trimmings from other larger cuts. You know the old adage, waste not, want not? Well, that’s the essence of ground beef. As butchers cut large cuts from the cow, they are left with smaller bits of beef that are not large enough for proper meat. These pieces are combined and ground into beef bits that can then be used for other purposes.

Often, you will find ground beef that is more specifically labeled, such as sirloin or round. This represents the specific parts of the cow where the ground beef comes from.

How to choose the best

Typically, if you want a more intense meat flavor for your hamburger, you want to find higher-end ground beef. Sirloin ground beef is a good option, or you can also go a bit more premium and try Wagyu ground beef for a more sophisticated palate.

For those cooking on a flattop, check to see if it has a side with raised edges, like the Lodge LPGI3 Pro-Grid Cast Iron. If it doesn’t, then you want to use ground beef as the fat is more likely to pool around the burgers.

What is ground chuck?

Now that you have a good idea of ground beef let’s dive into ground chuck. Thankfully, unlike other cuts of beef that get a bit confusing, understanding what ground chuck is made of is quite straightforward.

Ground chuck is just ground beef that also has fat mixed into it. While this might sound a bit unhealthy, beef fat really just equals flavor. A lot of that fat will be rendered down in the cooking process, so ground chuck just adds more flavor.

If you are worried about too high of fat content, note that according to the USDA, ground beef, including chuck, must be at least 70% lean and ground chuck usually falls in the 80 to 85% lean. You get fat but just enough for flavor.

How to choose the best

Ground chuck is all about the fat content. If you are cooking hamburgers on an electric griddle with ridges and a drip tray, then the fat can drip down into the flames, so a higher content is off. If you are cooking meatloaf, then you want a lower fat content as there is nowhere for the fat to drip off.

Difference between ground beef and ground chuck

Here are some important distinctions when it comes to ground chuck vs. ground beef.

Cooking Method

By far, ground chuck is best for burgers. Hamburgers need a bit of extra flavor to make them more than just chunks of meat. As a bonus, whether you are using a BBQ or an outdoor griddle, there will be an area for the fat to drip into.

As for ground beef, it is better used for meatloaf or sauces. These dishes are cooked in a way that the fat has nowhere to go, which can lead to an altered taste in your dish and a much higher fat content than you would like.

The only consideration is something like meatballs. While you may want to cook them with ground beef if using a frying pan, but can use ground chuck if you are cooking them with a cast iron griddle as the fat can drip down between the raised grills.

Ground Chuck vs Ground Beef: Are They Really That Different?Flavor

Hands down, ground chuck provides more flavor. The fat content adds more depth and will create a juicier taste and a more tender texture.

Nutrients

Because ground beef and ground chuck are both beef products, they have similar nutrients. Ground beef and chuck are both good sources of protein, with an average of 20 grams per serving. They are both good sources of iron, magnesium, and calcium.

Storage period

The storage period for ground beef and ground chuck is the same. Always check the best buy date on the package, or ask your butcher for specifics. In general, ground beef or chuck should be eaten within two to three days of it stored in the fridge.

If you have leftover cooked meat, place it in an airtight container and eat within three to four days.
Finally, if you place either ground beef or ground chuck in the fridge, it will last up to four months.

Prices

While the prices don’t compare too differently, overall, ground chuck is cheaper than ground beef. This is because the two are sold by weight and inside ground chuck has more fat, which is a lot cheaper to purchase.

Ground chuck vs ground beef for burgers

By now you may be slightly worried that you’ve been making burgers the wrong way. Before you fire up your impressive outdoor flat top grill, such as the Blackstone Flat Top Gas Grill, pause and consider what will be the best ingredients for your burger.

Ground beef is incredibly easy to find in a grocery store but ground chuck is less so. Sometimes, you will have to head to the butcher’s to find freshly ground chuck.

If you don’t have time for this, at least be sure to purchase regular ground beef in your store. This will have a higher fat content than lean ground beef, and more so than extra lean ground beef.

For an incredible burger recipe follow instructions from the video below:

Final thoughts

Hopefully, we’re all aware of the differences between ground chuck and ground beef. While both are trimmings from larger cuts of a cow, ground chuck has a higher fat content than ground beef. Within the two categories, you can look for specific cuts, such as ground sirloin or ground round. Furthermore, while it is easier to go to the butcher for ground chuck, your grocery store will also have different fat contents in their ground beef. If you can’t find chuck, at least purchase regular ground beef instead of extra lean ground beef. The difference between ground chuck vs ground beef is simple but the result will be a much juicier, more tender hamburger.

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