Bernie Mason: Hamburger is an all-purpose food

2014-08-06T00:00:00Z 2014-09-09T15:11:06Z Bernie Mason: Hamburger is an all-purpose foodBy BERNIE MASON The Billings Gazette
August 06, 2014 12:00 am  • 

Think of hamburger, and what comes to mind for you?

Is it a fat juicy burger on a bun with lots of toppings; a casserole mixture with pasta and tomato sauce; or maybe a tasty old-fashioned meat loaf? There is a larger quantity of hamburger sold in most meat markets than any other beef product, since it is so versatile and generally less expensive.

Cooking with hamburger presents some food safety challenges. Hamburger should be cooked to an internal temperature of 160 degrees, because any bacteria on the surface of the beef that is ground will be distributed throughout the meat. It is recommended that you use a thermometer to check for doneness since the color of the meat is not a reliable indicator of doneness. When browning hamburger for use in a prepared dish, cook the meat until it is no longer pink.

There are some basic food preparation techniques that will help you make the most of the hamburger you are preparing. Using freshly ground beef will provide the best flavor if you are serving hamburger patties or steaks. When forming the beef patties or making a meat loaf, avoid overworking the meat. Mixing the hamburger too much can cause it to toughen, and the meatloaf will be more compressed. When purchasing hamburger, how do you know what grade to purchase? While you will have less shrinkage of the meat if you use a variety leaner than the regular ground beef, you will have better flavor if you have a little more fat included. 85 percent lean and 15 percent fat will give you a more flavorful hamburger, and you can use the leaner varieties for other dishes you prepare with ground beef.

The following recipe has been a great stand-by recipe for summer. When my sister attends potlucks, she is frequently asked to bring this salad.

Taco Salad

1 ½ pounds ground beef, browned, drained and cooled

1 bunch green onions, chopped

2 green or red peppers, diced

1 can black beans, drained and rinsed

2 large tomatoes, diced

1 head iceberg lettuce, coarsely chopped

1 large bag original corn chips

3 garlic cloves, crushed

1 tablespoon cumin

½ teaspoon chili powder

1 pound Velveeta cheese (can use the Mexican variety) cut into ½ inch cubes

1 (10 oz.) can Rotel tomatoes with green chilies

Directions: In a saucepan combine the canned tomatoes, crushed garlic, cumin and chili powder with the Velveeta cheese. Cook over medium heat until the cheese is thoroughly melted. Stir well. In a large salad bowl layer the lettuce, browned hamburger, green onions, chopped peppers, chopped tomatoes, black beans and corn chips. Toss salad ingredients together. Pour cheese sauce over salad mixture and toss.

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