How to choose the right ground beef

Ever wonder what types of beef (and fat/lean ratios) work best for our next meal?

First, let’s talk about those numbers: 80/20, 90/10, 95/5, 75/25, etc. The left-side number is the percentage of lean meat. The right-side number is the percentage of fat. So in 80/20 beef, we have 80% meat to 20% fat.

An 85/15 mix is leaner than 80/20… and a 90/10 mix is leaner still (and so on).

How do we know which type of ground beef is best?

Typically, there are 3 main uses of ground beef:

1) complimentary
2) balled
3) “the star”


When the ground beef is not the main flavor, I find it is best to go with a leaner ground (e.g. 85/15 mix). We do not want the heavy fat content to interfere with the main flavors. A great example of this is chili or tacos. We want the spice to dominate, not the meat.

Now, since I do not fear fat (in fact, I seek it out), I aim for an 85/15 mix. I find anything leaner dries out the dish.


I always cook my meatballs with an 85/15 mix. This beef-to-fat ratio tends to keep the meatballs from falling apart (without the need to rely on binders like eggs or bread crumbs). Also, it helps the sauce to dominate the taste profile.

“The Star”

When I am cooking hamburgers, the beef is the featured ingredient. And I want a lot of fat… so I choose an 80% beef/20% fat ratio.

The bottom line for me is this: my hamburgers are made from 80/20… everything else is 85/15.