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Old 01-08-2011, 01:01 AM   #1
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Cooking ground beef/turkey in pan, how often to flip/chop etc

Scroll down to the * * * for the actual question and to skip the details.

I'm not an experienced cook, but I cook a lot of ground beef/turkey (mostly turkey for tacos). I notice I cook much differently from nearly everyone else I've seen cook ground beef/turkey.

Most people I see will chop up the ground meat a little, then let it sit in the pan untouched for a couple minutes. Then when they shovel it around with the spatula, the part of the meat that was closest to the pan is already fully cooked, while there's plenty of uncooked meat attached to it.

My whole philosophy of cooking ground meat has been the opposite. I like to put the meat in the pan and immediately add some sort of liquid seasoning mixture (example: for taco meat i use ground red pepper, chile powder, onion/garlic powder, pepper, gravymaster, and water). Then I shovel around the meet and chop at it to make sure it's fully coated with the seasoning before putting it on the burner.

Then while it cooks, I'm constantly scraping/flipping/chopping/spreading the meat so that no surface of the meat stays in contact with the pan for more than like 10 seconds. I'll scrape under the pile of meat with the spatula then flip it over, and it's just slightly changed color around the edges. Then I mash it all together and chop/mix it around and flip again ~10 second later.

(I add in an additional shot of liquid seasoning after the meat is 80% cooked, which includes the ingredients mentioned above, plus a little of that taco seasoning you buy off the shelf)

The result is that the entire portion of meat gets cooked evenly and moist.

* * *

Basically, the real question here is when cooking ground beef/turkey, do you let it sit in the pan for a while between flipping? Or are you constantly scraping/shoveling/chopping the meat around the entire time to make sure that no part of the meat touches the pan for too long and overcooks?

As an inexperienced cook, constantly flipping and mashing/chopping the meat gives me the best results and assures that all the meat gets cooked at the same rate, but I've seen other people, and even cooks in restaraunts who don't pay the meat this much attention.

Any experienced cooks have some thoughts to share?

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Old 01-08-2011, 01:10 AM   #2
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you want to let it sit a little bit in order to allow the meat that's in contact with the pan to brown a bit, then you chop and toss it so that the other surfaces can do the same thing.

it's the bits that have browned that will give the meat good flavour.

the trick is not to let it sit too long or it will stick and burn. conversely, you don't want to move it around too much too soon or you won't develop that browned taste.

another thing to watch is to not overcrowd the pan. too much meat at one time sucks all of the heat out of the pan and the meat will steam more rather than brown. it's better to do 2 or 3 batches.

it's not a sin if that happens, so don't sweat it. just keep cooking it until the liquid is reabsorbed/evaporated.

after you do this a few times, you'll get the hang of it.

welcome, endo, and good luck,

hth.
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Old 01-08-2011, 01:12 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Endorush View Post
Scroll down to the * * * for the actual question and to skip the details.

I'm not an experienced cook, but I cook a lot of ground beef/turkey (mostly turkey for tacos). I notice I cook much differently from nearly everyone else I've seen cook ground beef/turkey.

Most people I see will chop up the ground meat a little, then let it sit in the pan untouched for a couple minutes. Then when they shovel it around with the spatula, the part of the meat that was closest to the pan is already fully cooked, while there's plenty of uncooked meat attached to it.

My whole philosophy of cooking ground meat has been the opposite. I like to put the meat in the pan and immediately add some sort of liquid seasoning mixture (example: for taco meat i use ground red pepper, chile powder, onion/garlic powder, pepper, gravymaster, and water). Then I shovel around the meet and chop at it to make sure it's fully coated with the seasoning before putting it on the burner.

Then while it cooks, I'm constantly scraping/flipping/chopping/spreading the meat so that no surface of the meat stays in contact with the pan for more than like 10 seconds. I'll scrape under the pile of meat with the spatula then flip it over, and it's just slightly changed color around the edges. Then I mash it all together and chop/mix it around and flip again ~10 second later.

(I add in an additional shot of liquid seasoning after the meat is 80% cooked, which includes the ingredients mentioned above, plus a little of that taco seasoning you buy off the shelf)

The result is that the entire portion of meat gets cooked evenly and moist.

* * *

Basically, the real question here is when cooking ground beef/turkey, do you let it sit in the pan for a while between flipping? Or are you constantly scraping/shoveling/chopping the meat around the entire time to make sure that no part of the meat touches the pan for too long and overcooks?

As an inexperienced cook, constantly flipping and mashing/chopping the meat gives me the best results and assures that all the meat gets cooked at the same rate, but I've seen other people, and even cooks in restaraunts who don't pay the meat this much attention.

Any experienced cooks have some thoughts to share?
When browning hamburger to use in a dish, I almost always chop an onion first and lay it down as the first layer. Then I break up the hamburger.

I add enough water to cover the bottom of the pan as this helps to break up the hamburger and give the onions a liquid to cook in.

Then I let it simmer for awhile. I check on it cooking low and slow and break up the meat some more and check that the onions are cooking.

When the onions are done, I drain the meat and onions. Then I add a packet of taco seasonings mixed with a can of diced tomatoes.
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Old 01-08-2011, 01:28 AM   #4
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lol, well, there you go, endo.

2 very different ways of making something similar. both are the best way for the way we cook.
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Old 01-08-2011, 01:31 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by buckytom View Post
you want to let it sit a little bit in order to allow the meat that's in contact with the pan to brown a bit, then you chop and toss it so that the other surfaces can do the same thing.

it's the bits that have browned that will give the meat good flavour.
The last line^ seems important to my question as it's a benefit to more exposure time of the meat surface to the pan. I think since I was a kid I've always had a major problem with overcooked food, and that's had an effect on my approach to cooking.

Now that I'm aware of a benefits of letting it sit a little longer before flipping, I'll try adding a little more time between each shovel/flip/chop etc, and I'll know what to look for in the end result to confirm the benefits of this.

@ Zhizara

Thanks for the input, I also tend to splash pans with water before adding ingredients, again, relating to my phobia against overcooked food. I've never tried adding diced tomatoes to the mix like you suggested. I'll keep that in mind and experiment with that.

Thanks for the help, and any additional comments are appreciated.
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Old 01-08-2011, 01:48 AM   #6
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I want my meat nicely browned. I'm careful to keep moisture away until it is brown. And, as Buckytom wrote, no over crowding the pan. If I find that I accidentally did crowd the pan, I turn up the heat.
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Old 01-08-2011, 01:52 AM   #7
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that's the ticket, taxy. if you want brown without overcooking, crank up the heat.

that is to say that at a higher temp, the meat surface will brown adding good flavour, but it won't be cooked through so that it's dry and over done. then add you spices and liquid/wet ingredients to allow the meat to finish cooking and stay moist.
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Old 01-08-2011, 01:57 AM   #8
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I would crank up the heat right off the bat, if I had a gas range. Stupid, danged electric coils react so slowly. I have stood in the kitchen, skillet in hand, blowing on the burner too many times. And the smoke detector going off in the middle of that doesn't help.
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Old 01-08-2011, 02:07 AM   #9
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When I do a dish that needs ground beef, I do like Zara, maybe even a bit more though. I add gobs of water...let is simmer & bust up. I only add a bit of salt at that point sometimes. As it nears cooking the blood out & is near brown, I then will strain about 95% of the watery/fat drippings off, THEN, I will add my seasonings to the moist meat...then, of course, cook it to heck & back, but..thats just how I do it! :) Right or wrong? IDK..just "stuck" in my ways! LOL :)
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Old 01-08-2011, 09:57 AM   #10
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Endorush, what you are doing is boiing/steaming the ground meat. The color is key. It's not browned until it's the color of a dark chocolate candy bar.
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