Ground beef, or hamburger, is a meat that is finely chopped by a grinder or mincer. While any cut of beef can be used to make ground beef, certain cuts are chosen more often than others because of their richness in flavor and balance of fat-to-meat ratio. Regardless of which cut ground beef is made of, the USDA requires that it is at least 70 percent lean.
Chuck cuts come from the upper part of the cow around the neck to the fifth rib. The bone-in cuts are typically used to make ground beef because they are economical and flavorful without having an excessive amount of fat on them. Chuck scraps are used to make ground beef as well. Ground chuck is 80 to 85 percent lean.
Round steak cuts come from the rear of the cow including the top of the leg, hind shank and rump. The meat from this area is lean and tender. Ground beef is made from round steak cuts and scraps from the round. Cuts from this area have very little fat, so they often dry out when they are cooked too quickly. Ground round is between 85 to 90 percent lean.
Sirloin cuts are located toward the back of the cow in the loin area. The loin is divided into two sections; the short loin and the sirloin. The sirloin includes the hip section and ends at the socket of the pelvis. These cuts are flavorful and tender. Sirloin steaks or scraps from sirloin cuts can be used to make ground beef. Ground sirloin is typically between 90 to 92 percent lean.
Plate cuts come from the underbelly of the cow near the ribs. They include skirt and hanger steaks along with stew meat, short ribs and pastrami. Ground beef is made from the scraps of this cut. Ground beef from the plate cut is usually tough and fatty.
Flank cuts are located on the underbelly of the cow below the loin. Flank cuts can also be labeled bavette, beef steak, London broil, jiffy steak or flank steak filet. Scraps from flank cuts are often used to make ground beef. The meat from the flank area can be tough.