COLLEGE STATION — Lean, undrained ground meat might taste better and be more healthful than drained, high-fat ground meat after both are browned in a skillet, a Texas Agricultural Experiment Station researcher says.
“There are tradeoffs involved with each kind of meat,” said Dr. Ki Soon Rhee, a professor of animal science at Texas A&M University. “You have to look at it from different angles — nutrition, cost and taste.”
Rhee led a team comparing beef, pork and lamb that analyzed the ground meats both before and after cooking for nutrient composition and retention. Using a “brown-and-drain” process in standard electric skillets, they found high-fat ground meat lost fat and cholesterol during cooking, but also lost iron and water- soluble vitamins, such as thiamin, niacin and B12, when drained.
Lean meat, comparatively, lost little fat and cholesterol during cooking because there was little to lose. This suggests consumers could eat lean meat undrained, which would not affect the meat’s fat and cholesterol levels significantly but would allow the meat to retain more iron and water-soluble vitamins.
“Ground beef with 10 percent fat is very lean meat. When you cook it, most of the cooking loss is from water,” she said.
Although the meat was not taste-tested, Rhee said, undrained lean meat probably would taste better to most people.
“When you drain it, you drain the broth too, so you lose some of the flavor,” she said.
The research findings are detailed in the fall issue of the Journal of Food Composition and Analysis, released in mid- November.
High-fat ground meats used in the experiment contained 20 percent fat, while lean meat contained 10 percent.
Standard scientific methods were used to measure fat, cholesterol and nutrient content from the different ground meats after cooking. Each ground meat sample was then “homogenized” in a food processor to enable the scientists to get consistently accurate nutritional readings from each type of meat.
The meats also were cooked in two different sizes of particles, but skillets of larger and smaller particles, after cooking, turned out to have similar nutrient content, Rhee said.
The bottom line for consumers is that to get similar protein value for the dollar, high-fat ground meat should cost at least 10 percent less than lean meat when the meat is to be browned in a skillet and drained, the researchers concluded. Consumers would then be paying approximately the same per-pound price for the actual protein remaining after cooking, Rhee said.
However, consumers also would need to consider whether they are willing to lose extra vitamins, iron and taste by draining high-fat meat instead of purchasing lean meat, Rhee said.
“There is a segment of the population that doesn’t mind paying more for the best nutritional value, because they get all the positive aspects of ground meat with perhaps less concern for the negative aspects of fat and cholesterol,” she said.
“However, some consumers cannot afford lean meat, which usually costs more, and must consider whether the tradeoffs are worth it.”