If you are shopping for ground beef, you’ll likely come across two main types: ground chuck and ground beef. But what exactly are the differences between these two types of beef?
The first thing you’ll likely notice is that one is more expensive than the other.
In this post, we’ll explore and explain the main differences between ground chuck and ground beef, so you become a more informed shopper and a more resourceful home chef.
Below, we’ll discuss the differences between ground chuck and general ground beef based on price, cohesion, fat content, and flavour and help you decide which option is best for different dishes.
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What Are The Biggest Differences Between Ground Chuck and Ground Beef?
Though both ground beef and ground chuck come from cattle, not all parts are created equal. Ground beef and ground chuck come from different parts of the animal. This is the key difference that will explain the listed differences below.
Think of your own body. Your legs have a different musculature and fat content than your arms, feet, or belly.
The same is true for cattle.
The different types of beef you find at the grocery store and their big price ranges result from the fact that the many parts of the animal have various culinary and monetary values.
When you buy ground beef, and it doesn’t specify which part of the cow it came from, chances are that it came from all different parts of the animal—some less savory than others. The only way to know which part of the animal your ground beef comes from is to check the label.
100% chuck roast ground beef will say exactly that on the label.
Though, it’s not uncommon to see blends of chuck and other leaner or fattier cuts, depending on the type of ground beef. It’s important to note that unspecified ground beef can also contain smooth muscle tissue, offal, trim, and muscle meat.
To learn more about what to look for when buying beef, check out our ultimate beef buyer’s guide.
Ground chuck typically costs slightly more than regular ground beef. This is because ground chuck is made exclusively from the chuck roast, a cut of beef from the shoulder and neck area of the cow.
This particular cut has more marbling and flavor, making it the premium choice compared to ground beef. Regular ground beef can contain meat from the chuck roast but usually consists of less marbled, less juicy cuts like the round steak and the sirloin in a mix. It can even contain organ tissue from the heart and other offal.
Ground chuck naturally has a higher fat content than ground beef made from leaner cuts like the round steak and the sirloin. This gives ground chuck a richer flavour and makes it more tender and juicier. Though ground chuck is not the fattiest ground beef option—ground beef from the brisket can be more than 10% fattier.
However, this also means that ground chuck has more calories and saturated fat than most other types of ground beef, which are usually quite lean.
Fat Content Breakdown of Different Types of Ground Beef
A good way to frame the ground chuck vs. ground beef debate is to look at the fat content.
Though many ground beef options you find at grocery stores are a mix of different cuts, if you were to grind up meat from the chuck roast, the round steak, the sirloin, and other cuts, the lean-to-fat muscle ratio would naturally be as follows*—
- Ground Sirloin: 90% lean to 10% fat
- Ground Round Steak: 85% lean to 15% fat
- Ground Chuck: 80% lean to 20% fat
- Ground Brisket: 70% lean to 30% fat
*Note skilled butchers can produce different lean-to-fat ratios with different cuts at the customer’s request.
Because ground chuck has a higher fat content than leaner ground beef from the sirloin or round steak, it holds together better when cooking. This makes ground chuck ideal for shaped meat staples like meatballs or meatloaf, where you want the meat to hold its shape.
Many chefs agree that chuck roast has the perfect lean-to-fat ratio at 80/20.
However, leaner ground beef has its culinary uses too. It may be a better choice for dishes where you want the meat to be more crumbly, like chilis, tacos, sloppy joes, meat sauces, beef patties, and other dishes.
Ground chuck has a richer, beefier flavor and juicier texture than ground beef made from leaner cuts, like ground round or ground sirloin. This is due to the higher marbling in the chuck roast, which adds more fat and flavour to the beef if you're looking for a beefier taste and juicer meat in your dishes.
However, if you want lean meat in your dishes, look for extra lean ground beef like ground sirloin or ground round.
Culinary Uses for Ground Chuck vs. Ground Beef
Let’s explore some culinary uses of ground chuck and ground beef and when you’d want one over the other.
Ground beef or ground chuck for burger patties?
Ground chuck is usually a better burger option if you want a traditional, juicy, fatty burger. It has a higher fat content, which gives the ground chuck burgers more flavor and juiciness.
Ground beef, on the other hand, can be leaner. As a result, you’ll get drier hamburger meat but a healthier one if you try to cut down on fat.
Also, ground beef from leaner cuts is less expensive than ground chuck, so it is the better choice for those on a budget.
Check the label "ground beef" with the lean-to-fat ratio, like 80/20, 85/15, and 90/10. The number before the slash represents lean meat, and the number after the slash represents fat.
The higher the lean-to-fat ratio, the leaner the meat.
Ground beef or ground chuck for chili or soups?
Lean ground beef is a better choice for chili or soups because of its lower fat content when compared to ground chuck. Not only does choosing leaner ground beef help to reduce the overall fat content of the dish, but ground beef will break down better during the cooking process, creating a more flavorful and thicker sauce.
Another important aspect to consider is the lean-to-fat ratio of ground beef. For chili or soups, ground beef with a higher lean-to-fat ratio (90/10 or 93/7) can be used to lower the dish's fat content.
Contrary to what you might think, leaner meat can help to thicken the chili or soup as it will release less fat while cooking.
Ground beef or ground chuck for Meatloaf?
That depends on your preferences. Fattier ground beef will hold its shape and lock in juices better than lean ground beef. Usually, people choose ground chuck for meatloaf because it is fattier and holds its shape better.
However, people trying to reduce their fat intake should opt for lean ground beef when preparing meatloaf.
We recommend a ratio of 80/20 or 85/15 for meatloaf because this lean-to-fat ratio will give the meatloaf a good balance of moisture and flavor.
The Butcher Shoppe Has Ground Chuck and 100% Grass-Fed Ground Chuck
The Butcher Shoppe believes that ground chuck has the best lean-to-fat ratio for most dishes that require ground beef—leaner than the fattiest types of ground beef but fatty enough to retain all the flavor and juices when cooked.
If the label says ground beef, you’re probably getting more than muscle in your beef product.