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How do you get the fine cooked ground beef texture?

groover808 Feb 14, 2010 04:51 PM

I tried making a hotdog chili this weekend, but this always baffles me when I'm cooking ground beef. When you need a really fine ground texture, how do you cook it? Usually I dump the meat in a hot pan and break it up, but as it's browning it's cooked into bigger clumps. I've seen my friend just break it up with chopsticks in a cold pan before turning on the heat. How do you get that super fine texture when you cook ground beef?

  1. monavano Feb 14, 2010 05:07 PM

    Cook it slowly. Cook it, don't brown it.
    I use a potato masher to get the breakdown going. Then, I switch to a wooden spatula or two and mince away.
    It also helps to let the meat get the chill of on the counter for 30 min. or so prior to cooking.

    1. r
      Robinez Feb 14, 2010 05:17 PM


      First off,keep the temp low when browning.The higher the temp the faster it will clump.Your main goal is no clumping at all.

      Add the meat to a pan and cook over low heat.Use a potatoe masher to mash the meat as it is cooking.After you have the desired consistancy drain and return to the pan.Use the potatoe masher again to add your dog sauce recipe.

      PS. I prefer a round masher with holes.To each their own.


      1 Reply
      1. re: Robinez
        jkiseli Mar 6, 2012 08:12 AM

        What kind of ground beef is best for this type of thing???, I too tried to make my own chili for hotdogs and it came out clumpy, but I will take your advice here to cook it slow!

      2. Cherylptw Feb 14, 2010 05:19 PM

        After you brown it, spoon it into a food processor and pulse it a few times, then put it back into the skillet and proceed with your recipe.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Cherylptw
          Robinez Feb 14, 2010 05:25 PM

          I am too lazy to clean another appliance :-)

        2. m
          MrsJonesey Mar 6, 2012 08:26 AM

          I "think" simmering it in a little water will aid in this as well. Back in the day when I would buy those seasoning packets for tacos, they always had you add water, maybe 1/2 cup, when you add the seasoning. The water cooks off, of course.

          4 Replies
          1. re: MrsJonesey
            sedimental Mar 6, 2012 09:00 AM

            Oh wow, didn't see your post! My experience as well!

            1. re: sedimental
              MrsJonesey Mar 6, 2012 09:45 AM

              He he. Great minds and all. :-)

            2. re: MrsJonesey
              wekick Feb 1, 2013 11:06 AM


              1. re: MrsJonesey
                salsailsa Oct 24, 2013 03:27 PM

                I actually add a bit of beef stock for the same effect.

              2. s
                sedimental Mar 6, 2012 08:27 AM

                You simmer it in water! Not kidding. That is how the texture gets so fine. You need to add lots of spice to it (but that is normal for chili). It turns more into a "hot dog sauce" when you do it this way. Here is an example of creating a Cincinnati chili using this technique:


                10 Replies
                1. re: sedimental
                  monavano Mar 6, 2012 08:44 AM

                  +1. When I initially saw this technique on TV (probably Triple D) I thought, "yick!", but it really works great and saves you the energy of chopping up the meat like a fiend as it's cooking.
                  Also works great for frying up chopped bacon.

                  1. re: monavano
                    sedimental Mar 6, 2012 08:52 AM

                    Yes! Funny thing- I did this the other day for "old school" hard tacos. Remember those? The ones in the little corn shells with fine ground taco meat, then layer cheddar cheese, iceberg lettuce and tomato??? I haven't had them in years and when I was following the directions on the package for the taco seasoning....you add water to the meat in the pan. Voila! Fine ground taco meat that won't break the fragile shells.

                    BTW, they were delish!

                    1. re: sedimental
                      monavano Mar 6, 2012 09:00 AM

                      I love those taco kits for Taco Night. The only problem is that I can't stop making and eating them.

                      1. re: monavano
                        C. Hamster Oct 24, 2013 02:37 PM

                        Those taco kits are a guilty pleasure of ours.....

                    2. re: monavano
                      MrsJonesey Mar 6, 2012 09:49 AM

                      Works with chopped bacon as well? Cool! All those little pieces like to stick together which causes uneven cooking. Now, if I can only remember to do it.....

                      1. re: MrsJonesey
                        monavano Mar 6, 2012 10:08 AM

                        I saw Alex Guarnischelli (sp?) do this. You cut the bacon and add to a hot pan and pour water in right after. It renders the fat, separates the pieces and cooks the bacon. By the time the water is evaporated, the bacon starts browning and you have perfectly crisp pieces every time.

                        1. re: monavano
                          MrsJonesey Mar 6, 2012 10:13 AM

                          Great! Thanks a bunch!

                        2. re: MrsJonesey
                          wyogal Jan 11, 2013 11:11 AM

                          I usually just bake up a pound or so of good bacon, then have it in a bag in the fridge to chop up when needed. I also keep the resultant bacon grease, so can add a spoon of that, as well.

                      2. re: sedimental
                        pine time Mar 6, 2012 09:33 AM

                        This. When I make kheema for samosas, I always not only chop the ground beef while cooking, but also start it in a goodly amount (maybe a cup for a lb of beef) in water.

                        1. re: sedimental
                          wyogal Jan 11, 2013 11:10 AM

                          Exactly. That is what the "pros" do when making chili dogs (thinking A&W type coney dog), they boil the hamburger.

                        2. DuffyH Jan 11, 2013 11:08 AM

                          I know it's been a long time since the original post, but I thought I'd add my own, and I think easier, way to get fine ground beef.

                          First, ditch the non-stick skillet. Opt for a medium stainless saucepan (I use a 2-qt Tri-ply) with a heavy bottom.
                          The steeper sides of the saucepan enable the meat to steam and not fry.

                          Make sure the beef is not cold. Cold equals clumpy. I bring it to room temp (a warm bath can speed this up). Set the heat to medium or medium-low (5 on my GE electric). Add the beef (90% lean or better) right away and stir with a wooden spoon. That's right, stir. Don't just turn it, move it, or otherwise push it around. Stir it a bit.

                          Stir frequently (every minute or so) and in about 7 minutes you've got fine crumbly beef. When I add taco seasoning, there's no need to add water. There will be enough water with a little bit of fat left in the pot to easily incorporate the seasoning mix. The beef will be ready at the same time as the rest of the ingredients, if you're not frying up too many shells. Simple!

                          1. j
                            Jimisi Feb 1, 2013 10:54 AM

                            Use a deep skillet and a stick blender.

                            1. b
                              barefootgirl Feb 1, 2013 01:42 PM

                              Has anyone else noticed a huge difference in the clumpiness factor since the "pink slime" issue? Our local supermarket declared it would no longer sell ground beef with pink slime in it, and I immediately noticed I got much finer crumbles than I have in years, with no change in cooking technique.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: barefootgirl
                                jgg13 Feb 1, 2013 07:13 PM

                                I was under the (perhaps mistaken) impression that pink slime led to finer crumbles.

                              2. m
                                MonMauler Feb 1, 2013 09:13 PM

                                You need water. If you don't cook the ground beef in water (with constant stirring), you'll never get the super fine texture you see in chili sauce and the like.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: MonMauler
                                  monavano May 12, 2013 04:26 AM

                                  +1 you need water. My fave chili mix calls for cooking the ground beef in water and it does the trick.
                                  A masher will get the meat broken down, but liquid is needed for that really fine, Taco Bell texture.

                                  1. re: monavano
                                    scubadoo97 Oct 23, 2013 07:10 PM

                                    I use this technique when making a fine drier spiced ground meat for filling kibbe and a ground meat and hummus dish

                                2. Ruthie789 Feb 2, 2013 02:41 AM

                                  The pampered chef has an amazing tool which is for this purpose. It is one of my better purchases. As well I use the same tool to crush my tomatoes it is certainly a money saver.

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: Ruthie789
                                    wafkent May 11, 2013 01:09 AM

                                    Hi. Wonder if you could name this tool - I've been looking everywhere & have scoured the pampered chef catalogue but to be honest I simply cant find this "must have". Thanks W.

                                    1. re: wafkent
                                      Ruthie789 May 11, 2013 04:09 AM

                                      Yes see link below, it also helps to crush canned tomatoes etc. I love it. Called chop and mix

                                      1. re: Ruthie789
                                        wafkent May 13, 2013 12:44 AM

                                        Thanks very much.

                                  2. JonParker Feb 2, 2013 05:25 AM

                                    I was given a tool that's a plastic "X" at the end of a rod that was specifically designed for that. I thought it was silly at first, but I have to admit that it really does the job. A pastry cutter might do it too.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: JonParker
                                      Ruthie789 Feb 2, 2013 12:40 PM

                                      That is basically the same tool as the pampered chef, it works like a charm.

                                    2. Atomic76 May 11, 2013 01:15 AM

                                      If you have a pressure cooker, it will break the ground beef down a lot, especially if you over cook it.

                                      Otherwise, I would make it a point to use fresh ground beef instead of frozen, and gently break it up out of the pack - perhaps with a fork, into the pan. Then cook it slow without stirring too much at first. Once it's all browned, it should start breaking up more easily.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: Atomic76
                                        jgg13 May 11, 2013 01:07 PM

                                        I've always found frozen ground beef to be less clumpy than fresh

                                      2. boogiebaby May 11, 2013 01:47 PM

                                        I use a potato masher to mash the meat while it's cooking. I start it cooking, and start mashing after a couple minutes.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: boogiebaby
                                          DuffyH May 11, 2013 04:29 PM

                                          I'll second that. I've used a masher before, when I forgot to stir until it had already begun browning, and they DO work. :)

                                        2. s
                                          smtucker May 11, 2013 06:43 PM

                                          To get that hot dog chili texture, you have to cook it in water. Sorry, don't have a recipe handy.

                                          1. mamachef May 13, 2013 02:00 AM

                                            All very excellent suggestions.. I didn't read the whole thread, so pardon me if I repeat someone else's suggestion. What I have seen is that the meat is already twice-ground. If you have a butcher, you can ask him to re-grind a package of ground meat, or do it yourself, but don't use a food processor for this; it must be a grinder. Okay, so the twice-ground meat should be browned slowly at low heat, breaking it up as you go. Don't smash it; break it up. A large fork is good for this. Okay, when all the meat is JUST browned and crumbled, add a cup of water and cook, continuing to crumble until water is evaporated. This will give it the soft texture you desire, and it doesn't affect the flavor, IMO. If this part concerns you, use beef broth instead, but when I've done that I found it too salty.
                                            Best of Luck!

                                            1. c
                                              cutlass1972 Oct 23, 2013 09:43 AM

                                              Try using a crock pot. I made some chili the other night. I was in a hurry to leave for work and the ground beef had frozen most of the way in the fridge (accidentally put it right in front of where the cold air comes in). I didn’t have time to fool with it so I dropped it in the crock pot with the rest of the ingredients and set it to cook for 8 hours on low. I was pleasantly suppressed to find that the ground beef had cooked down to a gold star chili consistency.

                                              1. LotusRapper Oct 23, 2013 09:46 AM


                                                - low temp (med); don't brown on high;
                                                - add a bit of oil and water into the beef, mix well before cooking;
                                                - cook in batches if your pan/pot isn't big enough, or if you're cooking a lot of beef;
                                                - while cooking, take a potato masher or some other implement to break up the beef, don't let it cook in lumps

                                                1. t
                                                  truman Oct 23, 2013 09:46 AM

                                                  Another vote for simmering it in water. DH is from Ohio and loves Skyline Chili on his hot dogs - this is our go-to recipe.
                                                  It makes a lot; I usually cut the recipe in half.

                                                  1. BobB Oct 24, 2013 01:23 PM

                                                    A sure-fire way to get really fine-textured ground beef is to cook it at a very, very low simmer for at least 3 hours. What happens is that the small morsels of meat soften and break into even smaller particles, in exactly the same way that larger chunks of meat do when properly slow-braised in stews and such.

                                                    I do this with my bolognese sauce (and chili when I make it using ground beef, which I generally don't as I prefer to make it with cubed beef) and it works like a charm.

                                                    4 Replies
                                                    1. re: BobB
                                                      Scoutmaster Oct 24, 2013 01:40 PM

                                                      I just pulse it a few times in the food processor after cooking.

                                                      1. re: Scoutmaster
                                                        John E. Oct 28, 2013 01:42 PM

                                                        If I want a fine texture for coney sauce or taco/burrito meat, I too will sometimes run it quickly through the food processor. If I have a big enough kettle of coney sauce sometimes I use a stick blender.

                                                      2. re: BobB
                                                        DuffyH Oct 24, 2013 01:51 PM

                                                        Is there any tending required? do you first break it up into small pieces?

                                                        1. re: DuffyH
                                                          BobB Oct 28, 2013 01:11 PM

                                                          While I'm first heating it up I mash and break it up while it's browning. Once it's all browned I reduce the heat to the barest simmer (just the occasional bubble). After that all you need to do is give it a stir every half hour or so and squish any large clumps that pop up.

                                                          Though I will say that I never do this with plain ground beef alone, it's always with either some chopped onions and garlic (if I'm doing chili) or red sauce (if it's for a bolognese), both of which add liquid to the meat so it simmers evenly.

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