Does Draining Fat From Meat Make it Leaner?

If you cook a pound of 80% lean ground beef and drain the fat, have you eliminated the need to buy the more expensive 90% lean ground beef? A reader asked just that, so we reached out to Dr. Julie Garden-Robinson, PhD, RD, from North Dakota State University.

The short answer is, “Yes!” But that’s not the whole story, so read on!

Dr. Garden-Robinson:

“Cooking and draining ground beef significantly reduces fat and calorie content, as shown in the table below, which compiles data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Nutrient Database* and Iowa State University’s research** published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association. During cooking, both moisture and fat content decrease within the meat. On average, 4 ounces of lean raw ground beef becomes 3 ounces (about 85 grams) of cooked meat. 

Be sure to remember that fat usually carries the flavor in meat, so you will see decreases in flavor along with decreases in fat. And certainly don’t forget about safe food handling. Regardless of the type of ground beef, defrost it in the refrigerator and clean all work surfaces and utensils that come in contact with meat – either raw or cooked. Finally, be sure to cook beef to an internal temperature of 160F and until the juices run clear.”

Ground Beef Cooking Chart

 *USDA Nutrient Database

**Journal of the American Dietetic Association, Iowa State University research

Pan-broiling refers to cooking in a skillet without the addition of fat. As shown, by pan-broiling 80% lean ground beef crumbles and blotting them with a clean paper towel, your final product will be close to the calorie and fat content of 90% lean pan-broiled crumbles that have not been blotted.You can take your calorie reduction to another level by pan-broiling, blotting with a paper towel, then placing in a strainer and rinsing the cooked meat with hot water.

4815” by Bob Peters is licensed under CC BY 2.0

  • seanspec

    Have you ever seen data on frozen hamburgers? So if the assumed reduction is 20-25% and a frozen patty is cooked, are the calculating before cooking or after?

  • Thomas Krivec

    there is little to no nutritional loss from freezing, it depends on what your freezing but meats are just fine.

  • If you’re going to drain AND rinse, I see no purpose or benefit to blotting.