Do You Drain Ground Beef for Chili? Weighing the Pros and Cons of This Debate

For chili lovers, there’s nothing better than a piping hot bowl of beef chili on a chilly day. But when making this beloved dish, one question always seems to spark debate – to drain or not to drain the ground beef?

Some argue draining the beef removes excess fat, leading to a healthier chili. Others claim the fat adds irreplaceable flavor and should be kept in. So who’s right?

As an avid home cook and chili aficionado, I decided to dig into this draining dilemma myself. After making many batches testing both methods, here’s my verdict on whether or not to drain ground beef for chili.

The Case for Draining Ground Beef

First, let’s examine the reasons why some cooks strongly prefer to drain their beef when making chili:

  • Removes excess fat and grease – This creates a “leaner” chili overall, Good for health-conscious eaters

  • Prevents the chili from seeming too oily or heavy. Some find greasy chili unappetizing.

  • Allows the spices and other flavors to shine rather than just tasting greasy,

  • Creates a nicer texture – The chili ends up less slippery on the tongue.

  • Gives the beef a more crumbly texture instead of mushy if cooked in its fat.

  • Reduces overall calories per serving for those limiting intake.

  • Can reduce or eliminate the need for skimming fat off the top later. Less work!

So for those watching fat and calories or wanting a lighter, cleaner tasting chili, draining seems to make sense.

Reasons to Skip Draining Ground Beef

However, the anti-draining crowd also makes compelling arguments, such as:

  • The fat adds rich, meaty, savory flavor. Pouring it out loses this.

  • The tender, juicy result of cooking beef in its own fat can’t be replicated.

  • If using very lean beef, there’s not much fat to remove anyway. Draining is pointless.

  • The fat helps the spices permeate the meat, infusing more flavor.

  • The body and texture fat provides makes for a heartier, more satisfying chili.

  • Chili masters argue the fat is what makes the dish taste authentic.

  • Less cleanup since all ingredients stay in one pot instead of draining separately.

For those who don’t mind a little extra fat and love deep, meaty chili flavor, skipping the drain step makes sense.

Tips for Draining Ground Beef

If you opt to drain your beef, here are some tips to do it right:

  • Cook the beef in a skillet rather than directly in the chili pot. This lets you easily pour off excess fat.

  • Use a slotted spoon or tongs to transfer the crumbled beef to a plate lined with paper towels. These will soak up any remaining grease.

  • Don’t press down on the beef while cooking – this squeezes out fat that’s usually reabsorbed.

  • Add a dash of cornstarch to the hot pan after removing the beef. It will thicken any remaining oil.

  • Hold the lid close to the skillet when pouring off fat to avoid splattering.

  • Don’t discard all the fat if using very lean beef – leave a little for moisture.

  • Cook the veggies after beef; the small amount of fat left will add flavor.

With these tips, you can successfully reduce fat while keeping as much flavor as possible.

Trying a Middle Ground Approach

After testing both methods extensively in my own kitchen, my conclusion is a compromise approach works best:

I recommend draining only some of the beef fat, about half or two-thirds. This eliminates excess grease but leaves enough for moisture and flavor.

I also suggest starting with 80% lean beef. This gives you ample fat to drain while still getting a beefy taste. With super lean beef, draining isn’t needed.

Finally, bump up flavor using bold spices and extras like chili paste, pepperoncini peppers, or a splash of bourbon. This replaces depth lost from draining.

In the end, preferences vary. But with a few trials, I’ve found this balanced approach lets you get the best of both worlds – a chili with rich taste that isn’t too heavy.

So grab your can opener and a beer to go with that bowl. However you like your beef drained, just get cooking up a pot of chili and dig in! The only wrong way is not making enough for seconds.

How to separate Fat from Ground Beef – 60 second video – Recipes by Warren Nash


Should you drain the grease from ground beef for chili?

The best ground beef for chili has some fat, so 85% lean is ideal. Don’t be tempted to use extra-lean beef or drain off the fat after browning the meat. The fat bastes the meat during cooking, which adds richness to the sauce and keeps the meat moist.

Are you supposed to drain ground beef?

Rinsing raw ground beef could pose a health risk by splashing bacteria-filled juices all over your kitchen’s surfaces. After the beef has been cooked, you’re just rinsing away good flavor. If you want to get rid of some of the grease, drain the beef, but don’t rinse it. It’s just not necessary.

Do you cook ground beef before adding it to chili?

Raw meat and pot of chili are two things that just don’t belong together. If the recipe includes any type of ground meat, bacon, chorizo, or cubes of beef, it should always be browned first. Try this: The first order of business before adding anything else to the pot is to brown any meat in your recipe.

How to make ground beef fine for chili?

in my experience from making Cincinnati-style chili, it needs to have a lot of moisture to get a fine consistency. I would recommend adding some chicken broth or water right when you add the meat and use a potato masher and then just cook out the liquid.

How do you make chili with ground beef?

Use ground beef with a higher fat content. Fat equals flavor, so 80% to 85% lean ground beef are good choices for chili. Cook the tomato paste. This is the key to really getting flavor from tomato paste. Plan to cook the tomato paste until it takes on a deep red flavor and is fragrant; the process takes just a few minutes. Bloom the spices.

Should you brown meat before cooking a pot of chili?

1. Not browning the meat first. Raw meat and pot of chili are two things that just don’t belong together. If the recipe includes any type of ground meat, bacon, chorizo, or cubes of beef, it should always be browned first. Try this: The first order of business before adding anything else to the pot is to brown any meat in your recipe.

How long does ground beef chili take to cook?

Easy Ground Beef Chili made with light red kidney beans, tomatoes, onion, and garlic is extra meaty, hearty, and super flavorful. On your table in just 30 minutes, Ground Beef Chili is not only a quick and easy weeknight dinner, it makes enough to feed a crowd — think Super Bowl party!

What kind of meat should I use for chili?

Ground Beef: Provides the hearty meaty base for the chili. Opt for 85% lean; the fat enriches the meat, enhancing the dish’s overall flavor and texture. And don’t stress about the fat—post-cooking, it’s easy to skim off any excess. Baking Soda: Helps tenderize the beef by locking in moisture, making it more succulent.

Leave a Comment