How to Cook Ground Beef

Learn how to cook ground beef the right way so it stays juicy but gets nicely browned. I’ll show you my secrets so it comes out perfectly every time.

Knowing how to cook ground beef well is a vital skill in my opinion. Ground beef is used in so many dishes! I use it in my basic pasta sauce, baked ziti, nacho dip, and this easy Mexican skillet dinner. Those are just a few recipes, though. You can use ground beef in practically everything.

Cooked ground beef in a skillet with a wooden spatula, sitting on a blue and white towel on the counter.

Here’s A Video Showing How To Cook Perfect Ground Beef:

Cooking Ground Beef

The trick to cooking ground beef well is to not move it around a lot until it’s finished cooking and nicely browned. This helps create a crust on the meat which is delicious. Let the beef come to room temperature on the counter for 15-20 minutes before cooking it.

I sauté it in cooking oil, I usually use olive oil because that’s my go-to, but your favorite cooking oil will work too. I think olive oil works best for browning.

It’s important to use a nice big pan. I don’t like non-stick for this. I prefer stainless steel or cast iron because it gives a better crust to the meat than non-stick does. Using a thick heavy pan is ideal for this since it cooks more evenly as well.

Once the beef goes into the pan, I flatten it out like a big, thin burger patty. I let a crust form before I start to break it up and flip it. Then I let the meat cook through completely before breaking it into even smaller clusters.

Seasoning Ground Beef

The meat needs to be seasoned no matter what you’re going to do with it. In the recipe below I add salt and pepper at the end. You can also add it midway through. It doesn’t matter much. Garlic powder is another thing that I like to add. Chili powder works well too. But anything beyond salt and pepper depends on what you’re planning to use the meat for so I haven’t included anything else in the recipe.


How to Cook Ground Beef

  • Author: Christine Pittman
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 12 minutes
  • Total Time: 17 minutes
  • Yield: 4 servings
  • Category: Entrée
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: American


Learn how to cook ground beef the right way so it stays juicy but gets nicely browned. I’ll show you my secrets so it comes out perfectly every time.


  • 1 lb. ground beef, I like to use 85% lean
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 3/4 tsp. salt (if desired)
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper (if desired)


  1. About 15-20 minutes before you’re going to cook the beef, remove it from the fridge so it can come closer to room temperature. This helps it cook more evenly.
  2. In a large skillet, preferably cast iron, heat the olive oil over medium heat for about 2 minutes until hot.
  3. Add the ground beef and, using a spatula, press the beef into an even, flat layer in the pan, almost like you’re making a big hamburger.
  4. Let it cook untouched for 5 minutes. This is what helps create a brown crust.
  5. Start to break apart the meat, flipping it over.
  6. Cook for an additional 5 minutes until cooked through, and then go back with the spatula and break apart into smaller clumps.
  7. Season with salt and pepper, if using. Stir.
  8. Remove from heat and use as desired.
This post originally appeared in February 2019 and was revised and republished in April 2021.
How to Cook Ground Beef

6 responses to “How to Cook Ground Beef”

  1. Mike Williams says:

    I truly believe you meant to say that you like to use 85% lean beef, not 85% FAT as stated in the recipe!

  2. Mark says:

    I tried to cook ground beef for my pasta, but it turns out that it had an unpleasant smell that I can’t get rid of. I was using steps just like yours except for flatting it like a huge hamburger. Will that step remove the smell of the beef? or is there anything that I can do to get rid of it?

    • Christine Pittman says:

      Mark, if the ground beef has gone bad, it will have a bad smell and there’s no way to get rid of that. You should just discard it.

  3. Angelica says:

    I make my ground beef the same way, I just thought it was the lazy way, but you’re right it does give a much better crust and it’s much easier to break it up when it’s partially cooked! I’ll have to try in a stainless pan and see if I get a better crust, I love the crispy bits the best. :)

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