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Yo beef is so fat, when it goes to the beach, the tide comes in.
February 5, 2008 3:55 PM   Subscribe

I was just browning some ground beef - and I was struck with a moment of inadequacy. Am I doing this right? Maybe some people do this in a much more sensible way than I do. So, my question - how do you drain the fat off of your ground beef?

Here's what I do:
  • Brown ground beef in a frying pan.
  • Remove from heat.
  • Push the meat off to one side of the pan.
  • Tilt the pan so the fat pools up on the other side.
  • With a tablespoon, I slowly scoop out the fat - depositing it into a disposable plastic cup.
  • When I'm done, and the fat is close to room temperature, I wrap the cup in plastic wrap, and store it safely in the fridge.
  • On garbage day, I put the (mostly re-solidified) fat cup into the garbage.
Critique me, please.
posted by Tbola to Food & Drink (60 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
I dump the meat and fat into a drainer/sieve thing and let the fat remove itself, then put the meat back in the frying pan to do whatever needs to be done with it. The fat goes down my drain, don't know if that's a bad thing or not - it's never been a problem for me.
posted by Sassyfras at 3:58 PM on February 5, 2008


Is there any reason you don't buy ground beef lean enough that you don't have this problem?
posted by ssg at 3:58 PM on February 5, 2008


Well I usually put any hot fat into a glass jar or metal can (anything I can pull out of recycling) because plastic can sometimes melt into a hot greasy mess but otherwise that sounds pretty reasonable.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 3:58 PM on February 5, 2008


Just get one of those half-circle strainers, put it up against the pan and drain it into whatever. Why go to all the trouble to scoop out fat with a spoon?
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 4:00 PM on February 5, 2008


Seconding drain with a sieve. When I was in college I used the tilt pan/spoon method because I didn't own a sieve...

Also, what ssg said. Seriously, the taste is just as good and it's not much more expensive to get leaner beef. You could also try dark meat ground turkey, which I find is a perfectly acceptable substitute, but you may not.
posted by nzero at 4:00 PM on February 5, 2008


Drain the ground beef in a colander in the sink, with hot water running outside the colander to dilute the fat. After I put the drained beef back in the pan, I run hot water and a spritz of dishwashing liquid down the drain to emulsify the grease.
posted by Joleta at 4:01 PM on February 5, 2008


Beef is so lean these days - even the not-lean stuff - that I don't usually drain it at all. It adds flavor and can help emulsify a sauce.

That said, times when I have had to drain a large-ish amount of fat, here's what I do: push meat to the side of the pan; let everything cool for a couple of minutes; tilt the pan and use a turkey baster to suck the fat out; deposit in an empty catfood can.
posted by rtha at 4:02 PM on February 5, 2008


Thirding the sieve, and everything else that Joleta says.
posted by jquinby at 4:02 PM on February 5, 2008


p.s. my grandmother stores the fat like you do, she uses old plastic containers which she keeps in the freezer until full, then throws away
posted by nzero at 4:02 PM on February 5, 2008


I use the same fine mesh sieve I use for rice. I drain the fat into a used plastic soup container. Each week, I scoop the contents of the container into my regular trash with a used paper towel. Less waste, I think.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:02 PM on February 5, 2008


with hot water running outside the colander to dilute the fat

One word of warning regarding that idea- if you flush the grease down the drain with hot water, I've read that doing that keeps the grease liquid until it's further down the pipe where it can re-solidify and cause a blockage. I've never had that problem myself, but it's something to consider.
posted by nzero at 4:04 PM on February 5, 2008


why aren't you guys pouring the fat down the sink? If you think something bad will happen, let me be the first to inform you that nothing bad has happened to me yet! (.... but for how long?)
posted by moxiedoll at 4:05 PM on February 5, 2008


Sieve or colander works fine for me. Probably best to pour the fat into some sort of container and throw it away when it hardens, rather than pouring it down the drain.
posted by number9dream at 4:06 PM on February 5, 2008


I hold the cover on the pan slightly askew, and tilt the pan so that the fan drains through the small opening past the meat. I pour it into an empty tin can which I then store in my freezer.
posted by SpacemanStix at 4:11 PM on February 5, 2008


so that the fan drains through the small opening

fat, obviously. The opening is way to small for a fan.
posted by SpacemanStix at 4:12 PM on February 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


Turkey Baster + down the sink. We are havig problems with our septic system, though...

Great title, BTW.
posted by Rock Steady at 4:13 PM on February 5, 2008


I drain it with a sieve into an empty coffee can or a bowl, let it solidify, then throw it away in the trash. If I have a nice big can, I save it until it's full.
posted by headspace at 4:14 PM on February 5, 2008


An ex of mine would dump the meat into a colander lined with a few layers of paper towels, and then throw out the paper towels. Me, I've never bothered.
posted by nebulawindphone at 4:18 PM on February 5, 2008


You can brown ground beef in the microwave, in a plastic colander over a microwave-safe bowl, and it'll drain itself - drape a paper towel over the colander to keep it from splattering on the ceiling of the microwave.

You could probably do this in a gas/electric oven in a metal colander sitting in a roasting pan, with tinfoil over it, but I haven't tried that.
posted by nicwolff at 4:18 PM on February 5, 2008


I hold the beef in the pan using a lid from a slightly smaller pan to cover it as I tilt the pan and drain the fat away, usually into an old empty can. I leave it to harden and then throw it away.
posted by essexjan at 4:23 PM on February 5, 2008


In our house, it's tilt and pour carefully into an empty soda can, which cools and gets thrown out with the trash.
posted by sperose at 4:26 PM on February 5, 2008


I do like SpacemanStix and essexjan...put a lid on, so that the pan's not quite entirely covered on one edge, and then pour into can/cup/etc. That's how my mom always did it, so I really had never even considered using a colander like everybody else does, apparently.
posted by gueneverey at 4:26 PM on February 5, 2008


I stopped bothering and just cooked with it. Intelligent cooking and slightly reducing the portions (or cooking with leaner beef) will be adequate to help your health aspects, and it really does make a difference to the flavour.
posted by Brockles at 4:29 PM on February 5, 2008


I brown the spiced meat in a colander in the microwave, as nicwolff does, or I cook it on the stove and drain it in the colander afterwards. The cooked meat is put in the freezer if it isn't used immediately, and I leave the fat to harden in a smaller bowl in the fridge. The fat goes out in my weekly green bin pickup along with other kitchen scraps.
posted by maudlin at 4:30 PM on February 5, 2008


I had no idea people drained fat from ground beef. This is very interesting.
posted by tiny crocodile at 4:31 PM on February 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


My mom was of the "rinse with hot water in a colander" school, whereas I am of the "buy expensive lean ground beef and keep the flavor" school.
posted by herbaliser at 4:39 PM on February 5, 2008


I'm seconding essexjan - use the lid, leave a small gap and tilt over the sink (it's not going to cause any problems). Simple and quick and doesn't leave you with a seive or colander to clean.
posted by Elmore at 4:41 PM on February 5, 2008


I prefer not to cook with lean ground beef because the extra fat just makes it taste better. If you're getting rid of the fat anyway, though, there's no reason (other than cost) NOT to cook with leaner meat.

That said, the easiest way to get rid of the fat is probably to remove the ground beef with a slotted spoon, pour off the fat into a heatproof bowl, ramekin, or other pyrex thingy, then return the meat to the pan. Once the fat is cool enough not to melt your garbage bag, wad up a paper towel, put it in the garbage can, and pour the fat onto it.
posted by dersins at 4:42 PM on February 5, 2008


I hate washing grease out of Darlingbri's sieve, so I put the lid on the pan so there's about an eighth-inch gap at the edge, hold it there firmly with my thumbs, and tip the (two-side-handled) pan so the excess fat pours off into $handy_recepticle.
posted by genghis at 4:46 PM on February 5, 2008


Listen, everyone who pours fat down the drain is plugging up their drain pipes and sewer pipes. It's just a matter of time until their sewer backs up.

Check out this site and don't miss the short video of the insides of a sewer pipe clogged with solidified fat.
posted by exphysicist345 at 4:47 PM on February 5, 2008 [2 favorites]


I generally grab some paper towels and soak it up, then throw away the paper towels.
posted by Ostara at 4:48 PM on February 5, 2008


My family runs some hot water into the pan once the meat is mostly cooked. You then let the fat rise to the top and dump the water out of the pan into the sink. Put the meat back on the stove and continue cooking for a bit until it's totally done. Never had any problems. I had no idea people didn't run it down the sink or that people made such a production out of it. Just run the water until the meat is *barely* covered and swish it around a few times, then dump the water and the fat out. Maybe use a slotted spoon to keep the beef from escaping. We make meals based on ground beef about once a week if not more and have been for years- this method has always worked fine.
posted by MadamM at 4:49 PM on February 5, 2008


And yes, you will eventually clog up your pipes if you are dumping it down your drain - the fat solidifies at room temperature.
posted by Ostara at 4:50 PM on February 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


why aren't you guys pouring the fat down the sink? If you think something bad will happen, let me be the first to inform you that nothing bad has happened to me yet!

I know several people who have blocked their sink pouring fat down it, and our rental agreement specifically says we're on the hook for damage done this way which indicates that it's a reasonably common problem. I particularly wouldn't do it in an apartment or similar, you don't know how far the fat has to go before it's no longer a clog risk. Pouring it over a paper towel is good way to catch a lot of the fat before it gets down the drain, assuming you find getting it into a container too fiddly like I do.

And I always drain my mince regardless of how lean it's supposed to be. It always has a lot of fat, way more than a steak would for example, and I have IBS so animal fat makes me sick. Draining even lean mine will significantly lower the fat content. I'm lazy and have found that throwing it into a colander or sieve is the fastest way to get rid of the most fat at once. So much easier than messing around with lids and spoons and stuff, gets rid of more fat than just tipping the pan, and much less chance of meat falling out around the edges. I also wipe out the pan before putting the meat back in. You need to make sure you don't add anything to the beef until it's been drained, stuff like onions will soak up all the fat so it can't be drained off. I've never found a difference to the flavour assuming the meat has been properly seasoned during cooking.
posted by shelleycat at 4:52 PM on February 5, 2008


This is how Minnie does it.

Myself, I buy lean meats and use cast iron pans. The miniscule amount of leftover fat becomes part of the seasoning of the pan.
posted by infinitewindow at 4:56 PM on February 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


I don't cook ground beef that often, but when I do it's the lame tilt & spoon thing too. The plumbing in our apartment gets clog-y even with normal use, so I don't want to tempt it any further. Even with the leanest of ground beef, I still find it's a bit fatty. I find that if I don't drain it, all I end up tasting is the fat. To each their own, of course.

Growing up, my mom would allow the grease to cool slightly and then pour it over our dog's (big dog, mostly German Shepard) food. The dog loved it and we got rid of the grease, so it worked out pretty well for everyone. She (the dog) lived a long and healthy life, so I don't think it had any adverse effects on her health.
posted by Nelsormensch at 4:57 PM on February 5, 2008


I tilt, pour off into an old can, and dispose of when full.
posted by benign at 5:01 PM on February 5, 2008


I use the pan lid to drain the fat, much like I would drain water. I pour the fat into a tin can and send it out with my recycling once it has cooled.

Methinks the people who send fat down the drain are renters who have never lived anywhere for too long. And who perhaps send Drain-O down the pipes without realizing what that's going to do over time. I hope you all have good insurance.

Also, microwaving plastic is not a good idea.

So many considerations for your food!
posted by acoutu at 5:15 PM on February 5, 2008


A lot of places, and by "places" I mean restaurants, schools, commercial places, simply boil it and dump it through a colander. That way there's no issues with sticking or anything. I think this is yuck, but then ground beef doesn't exactly have a lot of taste anyway and I tend to dump out what's easy and keep the rest as flavor.
posted by TomMelee at 5:19 PM on February 5, 2008


Apart from the fact that you should be composting this stuff and not landfilling it, sounds fine to me.
posted by singingfish at 5:22 PM on February 5, 2008


In Britain, you can get flat, semicircular strainer-lids that you place on top of a pan like a lid and use to drain off the fat. I've yet to see them sold in the US, though.

Don't put the fat down the sink. Mix the solidified fat in a can with sunflower seeds and put it out for the birds.
posted by holgate at 5:35 PM on February 5, 2008 [2 favorites]


Unless it's excessive, don't worry about it. The end result will likely taste better.
posted by oxford blue at 6:21 PM on February 5, 2008


In some places it is ILLEGAL to put fats down the drain.


Meanwhile, what I do is either brown it and simply remove the meat with a slotted spoon, or if there is a bunch of fat use a turkey baster to suck out excess.

But for the love of all that is holy, do not do NOT DO NOT put it down the drain. Because eventually it WILL catch up with you.
posted by konolia at 6:34 PM on February 5, 2008


I push all the meat to one side, tilt the pan so that side is elevated, than use paper towels to sop up the fat that runs to the lower side.

But most of the time I leave it in there. Mmmm.... fat.
posted by jeffamaphone at 6:45 PM on February 5, 2008


In Britain, you can get flat, semicircular strainer-lids that you place on top of a pan like a lid and use to drain off the fat. I've yet to see them sold in the US, though.

We do have them here. They sell them pretty much anywhere they sell cookware.
posted by nzero at 6:49 PM on February 5, 2008


I should mention: I have one.
posted by nzero at 6:49 PM on February 5, 2008


I usually just use the spatula or whatever I was chopping the meat and turning it with to hold back the meat while I pour it into the container, that way I have one less dish to wish in the end. It takes some practice though to keep any of the meat from falling in (and probably leaves more fat than a sieve does), but hey, one less dish.
posted by drezdn at 6:55 PM on February 5, 2008


They sell them pretty much anywhere they sell cookware.

Weird: I'm obviously looking in the wrong places, or perhaps I just don't know the right terminology...
posted by holgate at 7:07 PM on February 5, 2008


I'm obviously looking in the wrong places, or perhaps I just don't know the right terminology

RSVP calls it a crescent strainer. MIU calls it a pour off sieve. Tops just calls it a pot strainer. There are also variations.

Given the variety of the names, I'm not surprised that it's difficult to figure out exactly what to call these things when looking for them in the store.
posted by nzero at 8:05 PM on February 5, 2008


I tilt the frying pan, shove the meat aside so that it's higher than where the grease collects at the lowest point. From there, I used folded paper towels to absorb the grease. The trick is to use tongs to kind of push the paper towels down into the grease, flipping them over so that they absorb as much as possible. I then usually let the greasy towels sit in the sink till they cool off a little bit, then toss them in the garbage.
posted by dancinglamb at 9:47 PM on February 5, 2008


I'm not sure just how lean the ground beef is that some of you are buying, but I never buy anything fattier than 90% lean and I still have to drain it. Honestly I usually go the sink route, but I usually squirt some soap into the drain and run the hot water for a few seconds and I've never had problems. Then again I use ground beef probably about once a month.
posted by katyggls at 11:04 PM on February 5, 2008


Mostly I don't bother to drain the fat off, but when I do I use paper towels. I do the same scrape-and-tilt thing you do, so there's a pool of fat in one corner of the pan, then I roll a paper towel into a scroll and dip one end in. That way my hands don't get burnt.
posted by Pallas Athena at 2:09 AM on February 6, 2008


Try browning the meat quickly in small batches in a very hot pan. If you just chuck the lot in all at once it will steam rather than fry.
posted by col at 2:28 AM on February 6, 2008


I particularly wouldn't do it in an apartment or similar

Heh, that's the only place I would do it. I'm not the one who has to pay the plumber, because I don't have any silly addendums to my lease on this.
posted by smackfu at 5:27 AM on February 6, 2008


Apart from the fact that you should be composting this stuff and not landfilling it, sounds fine to me.

Singingfish, most people avoid meat products and oils in their compost, because they attract pests, smell more, and compost slowly.
posted by artifarce at 6:16 AM on February 6, 2008


Holgate has the best suggestion. Don't put it in landfill - give it to the birdies.

I, however, will continue to eat this tasty tasty ground meat fat. Probably the reason I'd never even noticed a need to drain is that I always start with a soffrito of onions before the meat even hits the pan.
posted by tiny crocodile at 7:48 AM on February 6, 2008


If you have something like the Toronto green bin program in your community, you can include meat products and many other things you usually wouldn't put into a backyard compost heap.
posted by maudlin at 1:58 PM on February 6, 2008


In my going on 30 yrs I have never clogged a drain with fat nor even had anyone tell me that happened to them. So I'm in that camp.
posted by CwgrlUp at 5:50 PM on February 6, 2008


Just because it hasn't happened to you doesn't mean it's not a problem- 20% of clogged drains that cities deal with are caused by grease accumulation. Those are the "public" lines that municipal taxes pay for. It also makes wastewater treatment more expensive, as they have to deal with tons of grease every year.
posted by oneirodynia at 8:30 PM on February 6, 2008


This is a few days late to add to the discussion but in case anyone is still reading....
Grease down the sink is a big issue. It may not clog up at your house but it will eventually clog the lines where ever it finally reaches room temp. My city has had such an issue with people dumping oil and grease down their sink that there is a city wide advertising campaign to discourage people from doing this. They are even asking that we wipe the grease off dishes with paper towels before washing them.
posted by GlowWyrm at 6:25 AM on February 13, 2008


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