Ground beef, also commonly referred to as minced beef is a lean cut of beef that has been minced in a meat grinder.
Sometimes it is sold as “extra lean” in which case it contains very little beef fat, and other times it is sold as “regular ground beef” in which case it contains a higher percentage of fat.
Ground beef is a family staple that is used for everything from burger patties to cottage pie and spaghetti Bolognese. Most of us start the cooking process with a good glug of oil before adding the beef to the hot pan but is this really necessary?
Can we just go ahead and cook the ground beef without oil? Join us as we briefly explore this question.
Do You Need Oil To Cook Ground Beef?
Many of us these days are trying to reduce the amount of oil in our diets. This is why we are questioning the old cooking methods and asking if there are leaner ways of doing things.
Firstly, why do we use oil to cook minced beef? Most recipes start with frying chopped onion and perhaps garlic before adding the mince. In these cases, the oil serves to caramelize the onion. The meat is added after the onions and garlic have softened.
Secondly, oil prevents the contents of the pan, particularly the onion and garlic, from sticking.
Technically, you can use a non-stick pan in which case the food will not stick. If you are going to go the fat-free path, here’s how to do it.
How To Cook Ground Beef With No Oil
Use a non-stick pan. A wok is a good option here. Spray it with cooking spray to be extra sure that nothing will stick. Heat the pan over a medium flame and add the meat, stirring and breaking up the lumps until it releases some water.
Now you can add the onion and garlic. It will not caramelize but will rather stew in the meat juices so you will have to compensate for the lack of flavor by adding things like Worcestershire sauce.
If you have dried onions and garlic, use these instead of fresh as they seem to have an extra flavor dimension. If anything starts to stick, add a quarter cup of water. Now you can proceed with the recipe as normal.
If you are just needing to cook the beef with no oil because you don’t have any, butter or ghee makes a good substitute. It will help to caramelize the onions too. Of course, if you’re avoiding oils because you’re on a diet, butter won’t do either.
By adding a little water to the wok when you add the meat, you will prevent it from sticking. Remember that most ground beef contains some amount of fat so cooking it will cause this to melt.
If you evaporate the water, this fat will then help the browning and flavoring process. However, if your mince is extra lean, you will not have this benefit.
The Bottom Line
Do you really need oil to cook ground beef? No! While a bit of oil is usually used in cooking ground beef, you can still cook it without using any oil, provided you cook it in a non-stick pan.