Tips on Draining Ground Beef

by Susan Lundman

You don't need to extract every last bit of fat when you drain ground beef, but removing some makes your food less greasy and better tasting. You have several options for this essential step in cooking ground beef or any other ground meat.


  • The amount of fat you drain from the ground beef varies depending on the leanness of the meat. According to the Cooking Light website, regular ground beef contains about 20 percent fat while lean ground beef contains about 5 percent.

Pour Off the Grease

Simply tilting the pan and pouring off the grease, while holding back the beef with a spatula, slotted spoon or knife, can remove the grease, but it's a risky procedure. You need to pour the grease into a can or a large bowl so you can dispose of it easily in the garbage to avoid clogging your drain pipes, and you risk spilling the grease while pouring. What's worse, even with the best technique, bits of ground beef inevitably spill out of the pan.

Use a Colander

Pour the beef into a colander or onto a splatter screen immediately after it finishes cooking, and let the fat drip off for as long as 5 minutes. Press down on the beef with the back of a spoon to squeeze out more fat. Or, for even more effective removal, pour very hot or boiling water over the beef to remove more fat, again pressing down to remove excess water.

The only downside to using a colander or splatter screen is you have to clean the tools after you use them.

Tilt Up the Pan

Similar to pouring out the grease, holding up the edge of the pan about 2 inches allows all the fat to run to one side. Then, with one hand still holding up the pan, spoon out the grease into a separate bowl with your other hand.

This method removes much of the grease, but it doesn't allow you to simultaneously press down on the beef while spooning it out. And, you must clean up errant grease spills that occur as you transfer the fat from the pan to the bowl.

Paper Towels

Blot the ground beef with paper towels, folded in a square for easy removal, while it's still in the pan but off the heat, using the pan-tilting method. Or, spoon the beef onto paper towels set on a cutting board or plate. In either case, press down on the towels with a spoon or your hands to increase the amount of fat they soak up. Use a second set of towels as needed.

This method soaks up more grease than you get with other methods and also provides for easy cleanup -- simply throw away the towels. Handle the paper towels carefully because they can be hot to the touch.


  • Combine the draining methods for even more effectiveness. For example, after draining the beef in a colander, pour it onto a double layer of paper towels, place another sheet on top, and give the beef another hard press.

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About the Author

Susan Lundman began writing about her love of cooking, ingredient choices, menu planning and healthy eating after working for 20 years on children's issues at a nonprofit organization. She has written about food online professionally for ten years on numerous websites, and has provided family and friends with homemade recipes and stories about culinary adventures. Lundman received her M.A. from Stanford University.