No matter how you cook it, ground beef yields a lot of grease. Many recipes that call for browned hamburger advise pouring off some of the fat before adding other ingredients. What can you do with that fat afterward? We’ve brought you a few tips.
How Dispose of Ground Beef Grease
The best way to dispose of ground beef grease is to wait for it to congeal, then throw it in the regular trash can. You can save it in a container in the freezer if you need to hold on to it for a while first. Don’t pour it down the drain or put it in the compost pile, as these methods can lead to plumbing and contamination issues.
About How Much Grease Will You Get From a Pound of Ground Beef?
The amount of grease that’s left behind from a pound of ground beef will vary depending on the meat-to-fat ratio.
Draining the fat from a pound of ground beef that’s 80 percent lean will cut the meat’s fat content from about 90 grams to 60 grams. That means the amount of fat is reduced by around 1/3, which is significant.
Following the math, you could expect to yield roughly 1 ounce of grease from a pound of 80-to-20 ground beef. Obviously, this amount will decrease or grow exponentially, depending on how much burger you’re cooking off.
What about leaner beef? A pound of raw 90 percent lean ground beef contains about 45 grams of fat. Once it’s cooked and drained, the fat content reduces to 36 grams. That’s a reduction of about 1/5, and a grease yield of 1/3 ounce.
How To Drain Grease From Ground Beef
There are a few ways to drain the fat after you’ve browned a pan of ground beef. For advice on how to avoid flare-ups when grilling burgers, see the separate section below.
Once you’ve browned the beef, shift it as far to one side of the pan as possible. You can use the spatula you used for browning, tilting the pan toward the empty side so that the fat collects in one corner.
For your next step, you have a couple of options. One easy method is to use a large metal spoon to transfer the grease to a separate container. Make sure it’s not a slotted spoon, and use a wide-rimmed bowl to lessen the risk of spillage.
Pro Tip: Line the bowl or container with aluminum foil before you begin. This will make cleanup and disposal easier.
Alternatively, use a turkey baster to suck up the hamburger grease. Force the air out of the baster by squeezing the bulb, then place the tip into the fat. Release the pressure from the bulb, and the grease will be sucked up into the baster tube.
Pro Tip: Don’t allow the hot grease to go into the baster bulb, or the heat could cause the material to melt.
Another option would be to place a strainer over a large bowl and pour both the browned ground beef and grease into the strainer. The fat will drip into the bowl, leaving behind a leaner quantity of ground beef.
Finally, you can blot away the excess grease with a wad of paper towels. This isn’t the neatest option, but you might be able to remove even more fat than you could with a spoon or a turkey baster.
Clearly, the grease won’t be salvageable after this. If you want to save the drippings for some reason (see below), you should use one of the other techniques instead.
Can You Reuse Hamburger Grease?
If you don’t like the idea of throwing out the grease, you can try to reuse it. You’ll need to strain it through cheesecloth or a very fine-meshed sieve in order to remove any solids, but once you’ve done that, there are a number of possible uses for the product.
Before using your leftover hamburger grease, give it the sniff test to ensure that it still smells fresh. A sour or overly sweet smell indicates that the fat has turned rancid. In this case, you should discard the grease and use something else.
It’s suitable to substitute beef fat for vegetable oil or butter in many recipes. Try it the next time you’re making shepherd’s pie, beef stew, or beef pot pie. Assuming you’ve been able to remove all the solids, you can even use it to make a pie crust.
Do you have a large amount of hamburger grease on your hands? Check to see if there’s a biodiesel company near you. They might be willing to accept your leftovers. Different companies have different policies, so be sure to call or email them first.
How To Dispose of Hamburger Grease
The most important rule to remember: Never dispose of ground beef grease by pouring it down the drain of your sink. Beef fat solidifies when it cools, so it will clog up your pipes and lead to serious issues down the road.
Even if you have a garbage disposal, don’t be tempted to get rid of the grease this way. It might not clog the pipes, but you’ll still have to deal with the smell of rancid hamburger grease emanating from the sink if any of it lingers for too long.
You should also wait for the grease to cool before you attempt to discard it. As the fat cools, it will congeal, making your task that much easier. This can take as little time as 30 minutes in cooler weather, but it will take longer on warm days.
Once the fat has solidified, you can throw it into your regular trash can. If you’ve lined the receptacle with aluminum foil, this task is simple. You can also use a spatula to scrape it into the trash.
If it will be a while before your next trash pickup or visit to the dump, or if you’re expecting to acquire more grease soon, transfer the fat to a disposable plastic container instead. Just make sure the fat is cool when you do so, or the plastic will melt.
Once the grease is in the container (a large yogurt container works well), set it in the freezer. It’s a good idea to put a lid on the container first, but if you don’t have one, that’s fine—the grease won’t be going anywhere once it freezes solid.
You can keep adding to this container until it’s full, or until you’re ready to empty your trash can. At that point, transfer the frozen grease to the trash.
Can You Compost Ground Beef Grease?
This isn’t a viable solution for disposing of your hamburger grease. For one thing, beef fat is an animal product. When it starts to decompose, it will harbor microbes that will be hazardous to the health of your household.
Though compost piles do generate some heat, this won’t be powerful enough to destroy these harmful pathogens. What’s more, it will cause the grease to resort to a liquid state, restricting the oxygen flow to the rest of the compost.
Finally, animal products such as beef fat will attract wildlife. You don’t want wild animals messing with your compost heap.
How To Avoid Flare-Ups When Grilling Burgers
When grilling burgers over an open flame, you’ll have to deal with grease dripping down onto the fire. This can lead to flare-ups, which affect the flavor of your burgers. Here’s how to keep these incidents to a bare minimum.
For starters, keep your cooking grates and the bottom of your grill clean. It doesn’t take much effort to scrape off excess grease after every barbecue, and the results will be well worth it.
Close the lid while the burgers are cooking to reduce oxygen flow. This will also promote even cooking, as the heat flow will be well-distributed.
Try to avoid flipping the meat more than once. In addition to causing flare-ups, the loss of fat and moisture will lead to dry, hockey-puck-like burgers.
On a similar note, don’t prod and puncture the burgers too much. You might need to enlist the aid of a meat thermometer towards the end, but poking the burgers with too many holes will cause the fat to leak out.
The Bottom Line
Draining the grease from ground beef will cut down on fat and calories. If you don’t like the idea of waste, there are ways to recycle the grease, but it’s also easy to dispose of the product once it’s had a chance to solidify.
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!