So you’re thinking about grilling up some burgers for game day. Should you opt for ground sirloin, or stick with the package labeled “ground beef”? The answer might surprise you. In our guide to ground sirloin vs regular ground beef, we’ll show you which one is best for the grill—and why.
Ground Sirloin vs Regular Ground Beef
Ground sirloin is leaner and more expensive than regular ground beef. However, as long as the fat content doesn’t exceed 20 percent, regular ground beef (or ground chuck) is preferable for most dishes. Though sirloin is tender and delicious, it dries out if it’s cooked past a certain temperature.
About Ground Beef
In the United States, we often refer to ground beef as “hamburger,” since it forms the base of that popular dish. As the name suggests, it’s beef that has been either finely chopped or fed through a grinder.
The grinding process can tenderize cuts that are on the tougher side. It also allows butchers to blend two or more cuts together, so a leaner cut can be mixed in with a fattier one to promote juiciness.
Types of Ground Beef
You’re bound to come across one or more of the following terms when shopping for ground beef. The product can vary depending on the coarseness of the grind, the fat content, and of course, the cut of meat.
Some packages of ground beef might be labeled with the fat content rather than the name of the cut. For example, when the label reads “85 percent lean,” it means the meat has a fat content of 15 percent.
By law, the amount of fat in ground beef can’t exceed 30 percent, but some are fattier than others. Here’s what you need to know about each one.
For those who don’t already know, the chuck is located near the front shoulder of the steer. Ground chuck contains about 15 to 20 percent fat. This gives it a great deal of flavor with minimal shrinkage. You may also find ground chuck labeled as “lean ground beef,” since it contains less fat than the “regular” variety.
We think ground chuck is an ideal choice for grilled hamburgers. The meat will be flavorful and juicy, and the burgers will hold their shape when cooked. You’ll also know exactly what you’re getting, whereas with regular ground beef, you can’t be sure which cut was used.
The round is cut from the back section of the steer, near the tail. This is a leaner cut, resulting in a ground meat product that’s about 12 percent fat. It might also be labeled as “extra lean ground beef.”
Ground round is a good option for health-conscious shoppers, since the fat content is lower than that of ground chuck. We would also recommend it for meatballs or any dish that contains a lot of other ingredients, as it has a milder taste and therefore blends well with other flavors.
The priciest option listed here, ground sirloin is an exceptionally lean form of ground beef. Sirloin comes from the middle portion of the steer and contains around 8 to 14 percent fat. Although it’s a relatively healthy choice, the low fat content translates into a drier product once the meat is cooked.
If the meat is labeled simply as “ground beef,” it usually has a fat content of 25 to 30 percent—the highest of the bunch. It may be made from cuts like shank or brisket, which explains the high percentage of fat. The label might also read “hamburger”—usually an indication that it’s a blend of leftover cuts.
“Regular” ground beef makes exceptionally juicy and flavorful burgers. It’s also more affordable than the others. However, you can expect a great deal of shrinkage, owing to the high fat content.
About the Grind
Finely ground beef will have a more compact texture after cooking, which makes it a great choice for meat loaf and meatballs. If you’re grilling hamburgers, meanwhile, look for a coarser grind. The end result will be juicier, with a light, delicate texture.
When you buy ground beef from the meat case in the supermarket, you won’t have much choice regarding the coarseness of the grind. If you have a preference, chat with your local butcher about grinding it to order. That way, you’ll be able to choose between the different cuts as well.
As an alternative, you can purchase whole cuts of round, chuck, or sirloin and grind them yourself. A blend of 50 percent chuck and 50 percent sirloin makes a nice compromise. That way, you’ll get the great taste of sirloin with an added kick of moisture from the chuck.
Alternatives to Ground Beef
Bison has a strong flavor similar to that of beef, but it’s much leaner. In fact, the fat content of 4 ounces of bison is roughly half of what you’d get in the same amount of beef. Of course, this also means that the meat could turn out too dry, especially if it’s overcooked.
You might think that ground chicken provides a leaner alternative to beef, but be sure to take a close look at the label. Often, the skin is ground up along with the meat, which boosts the fat content. Look for ground chicken that’s labeled “lean” if you’re searching for a healthier option.
Similarly, ground turkey provides an excellent base for flavored burgers and meatballs, but it may also contain a high percentage of fat. The lean variety is healthier, but regular ground turkey contains both dark and white meat and therefore has a richer flavor.
Making The Perfect Patty
No matter which type of ground meat you choose, you should follow the proper technique for forming the patties. In addition to making the burgers look nicer, these tips will help to ensure even cooking.
To start, break the ground meat into smaller chunks, placing them in a bowl as you go along. Season with salt and black pepper. Mix to combine, taking care not to knead too thoroughly, or you’ll wind up with tough burgers.
Divide the meat into equally sized portions and form the portions into balls. Using a gentle touch, form the balls into patties that measure 3/4 to 1 inch thick. Be sure to refrigerate the patties if you’re not cooking them right away.
Make a nickel-sized indentation in the center of each patty. Since the meat will bulge out in the middle once it starts to heat up, this will help them maintain a uniform thickness throughout the grilling process.
Grill burgers over medium-high heat until they reach an internal temperature of 160 degrees (165 for ground poultry). Let rest briefly before serving on toasted buns with your choice of toppings.
If you end up with more burgers than you need for this grilling session, feel free to freeze the leftovers either before or after cooking them. You can grill them right out of the freezer as long as you allow for a bit of extra cooking time.
Is ground sirloin better than ground chuck or regular ground beef? That depends on what you’re making. Sirloin is a good choice for quick cooking, since it will dry out if it’s overcooked. In most cases, however, ground chuck is a better option.
As we’ve pointed out, a blend of chuck and sirloin works well for hamburgers, but if we had to choose between the two, we would go with chuck over sirloin because it makes a juicier patty. For soup or chili, we would also choose ground chuck, since this fattier cut fares better when it’s cooked for long periods of time.
Best of luck, and happy grilling!
Hi there! I’m Darren Wayland, your BBQHost. My love of great barbecue inspired me to curate this site as a resource for all my like-minded fellow pitmasters out there. When I’m not researching and learning all I can about the latest tips and techniques, you can find me at the grill—that is, if you can spot me at all through the clouds of sweet-smelling smoke. And since you asked, yes, that probably is barbecue sauce on my face. Welcome to the party!