Ground beef cannot exceed 30 percent fat content in its raw form to be labeled USDA ground beef. The amount of fat that remains when you serve the beef depends entirely on how you prepare it. In an October 1994 study published in "Journal of the American Dietetic Association," researchers from the University of Minnesota found that cooking and draining ground beef and then rinsing it with water significantly reduced the fat content without decreasing its overall nutritional value.
Fat and Cholesterol
A 3-oz. serving of 80 percent lean raw ground beef contains 17 g fat and 60 mg cholesterol. The Minnesota research team found that cooking and draining the beef reduced the fat content by 31 to 35 percent, which lowers the fat in a 3-oz. serving to about 11 to 12 g. Rinsing the cooked and drained beef with water decreased the fat content by an additional 25 to 30 percent, bringing it down to about 8 to 9 g. Cholesterol content was not affected by cooking, draining and rinsing.
There are 216 total calories in a 3-oz. serving of 80 percent lean raw ground beef. By reducing the total fat content through cooking, draining and rinsing, you also reduce the number of calories. Each gram of fat contains 9 calories. That means by cooking and draining ground beef, you remove about 45 to 54 fat calories, reducing total calories to 162 to 171. The further removal of fat with rinsing reduces total calories to 135 to 144.
Iron and Niacin
In addition to the changes in fat and calories, iron and niacin levels were affected. Iron levels were slightly, although not significantly, increased as a result of the process of cooking, draining and rinsing ground beef. The approximate iron content of a 3-oz. serving of ground beef is 1.65 mg. Niacin levels were reduced by as much as 28 percent but remained high enough that the meat could could be considered a good source of niacin. A 3-oz. serving of raw ground beef has about 3.6 mg of niacin. Reducing the niacin content by 28 percent leaves about 2.6 mg of niacin per serving.
A 3-oz. serving of 80 percent lean raw round beef contains 14.6 g of protein, which is unaffected by cooking, draining and rinsing. Ground beef contains 0 g of carbohydrate and 0 g of fiber. In addition, this serving has 14 mg of magnesium, 230 mg of potassium, 57 mg of sodium, 3.55 mg of zinc, 0.126 mg of riboflavin, 0.275 mg of vitamin B-6 and 1.82 mcg of vitamin B-12. Although the vitamin and mineral profile of ground beef changes slightly as a result of cooking, draining and rinsing, the changes in the micronutrient profile are likely to be insignificant.
- USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference; Beef, Ground, 80% Lean Meat / 20% Fat, Raw
- "Journal of the American Dietetic Association"; Reducing the Fat Content of Ground Beef in a School Foodservice Setting; M.P. Snyder et al.; October 1994
- "Krause's Food and Nutrition Therapy: 12th Edition"; L. Kathleen Mahan et al.; 2008
- BeefFoodService.com: U Beef: A Foodservice Guide to Beef
- National Cattlemen's Beef Association; Reducing Fat in Cooked Ground Beef