When cooking minced meats, most of us were taught to drain the grease from the pan before serving. This was especially true during the low-fat craze of the 80s and 90s, something that’s had lingering effects on the way fats are perceived. In many people’s minds, fats and oils are still labelled as the body-destroying, artery-clogging bad guy and the less of it we get, the better!
More recent research has turned all these traditional ideas about fats upside down. The ketogenic diet is the biggest example of this, with countless people overhauling their health and wellness using the polar opposite: meals very high in fat and low in carbohydrates.
When the ‘food pyramid’ we’re all familiar with recommended 6 to 11 servings of high-carb grains daily, keto eating is radically different from everything we learned about nutrition. But the evidence shows people who stick to a low-carb, high-fat diet lose weight and achieve a range of positive health outcomes.
Naturally, such a drastic change in diet also calls for a change in how we cook our food. When it comes to cooking mince, does the age-old practice of draining the fat off still apply?
While the grease from mince can help boost your fat intake, it isn’t a make-or-break decision for successful keto eating. If you find the grease off-putting or difficult to stomach, adding fats back into your meal with cheese, avocado, nuts, or other high-fat toppings is a perfectly valid alternative. If you’re just starting a low-carb diet, these tactics can help you build more tolerance to fatty foods.
To give you all the facts about draining mince on keto, this article dives into the best mince to eat on a low-carb diet and how removing fat from the pan will affect your daily macros.
Should You Use Lean Or Full-Fat Mince On A Keto Diet?
The answer to this question varies based on several factors, including the recipe and the cook’s personal preferences.
Some hardcore keto practitioners will say that the higher the fat content of the meat, the better. However, full fat minces leave a ton of rendered fat in the pan, especially if you’re used to buying lean mince. Looking at pools of fat swimming around in your dish can disgust some people, and many also find it hard to stomach.
Digestive discomfort can be an unfortunate side effect of increasing your fat consumption. For that reason, it can be easier to add extra fats to your diet through more palatable additions like cheese, cream, nuts and avocado rather than tucking into pools of grease. If you prefer to use lean mince on keto and add in fats from another source, that’s just as effective.
The type of dish you’re cooking may also help disguise added fat, making the result easier to eat. If you enjoy a low carb stew or a steaming pot of chilli, the increased fat will not be as potentially nauseating.
There is plenty of room for trial and error here, and with an enormous range of keto recipes to try, you may find different types of mince just work better in certain dishes.
The short answer will be that the higher the fat in the mince, the better, but achieving your macro goals is the most important thing. Just consider the macronutrient ratio of full-fat mince versus lean mince and adjust your daily meal plan accordingly.
Should You Drain Mince After Browning On A Keto Diet?
Personal preferences aside, it will help achieve your desired fat intake if you keep ground beef grease in the pan rather than draining it, especially if the meat is already.
However, you don’t need to overdo or even obsess over the amount of fat you consume. It is a mistake to put too much emphasis on eating as much fat as possible, especially if you’re just starting keto and finding it difficult to stomach. The key to success on a ketogenic diet isn’t the abundance of fat but severely restricting carbohydrates (typically less than 20 to 50 grams per day).
The reality is that you can’t just remove carbs from your diet without substituting it in some way, and in the case of a keto lifestyle, that is fat. This is where you’ll get most of your calories, so the amount of fat you need to consume is ‘enough to keep you satisfied and provide the energy you need’. So, just so we are clear, eating the least amount of carbs possible is the primary focus of the keto diet, not eating as much fat as possible.
Therefore, don’t pressure yourself into eating all of the fat in the pan if you’re feeling a bit squicked. Excessive fats can easily cause stomach upset, and browned mince grease certainly isn’t the easiest kind of fat to stomach. If you’re draining your mince and find your meals aren’t filling, adding in fats from cheese, bacon, avocado, or other tasty meal toppings might be more appealing for you.
You’ll also find your tolerance and tastes adjust when you stick to keto in the long term. Not only will higher-fat foods be easier to stomach with time, but there may be less ‘gross factor’ when you look at greasy mince or other oily foods. On keto, fat is energy – and that doesn’t have to be a bad thing!
How Much Fat Is Removed By Draining Ground Beef?
Many factors determine how much fat is drained off when you cook and drain ground beef.
First of all, there is the type of mince you’re buying. Beef mince is often labelled as a ratio of the meat content vs. the fat content. For example, if you purchase 80/20 beef, it is 80% meat and 20% fat. Leaner cuts are often 90/10 (90% meat and 10% fat) or even as lean as 95/5 (95% meat and 5% fat). Mince can also be labelled with percentages instead of ratios, such as 80% lean, 90% lean, or 95% lean.
Combine that factor with the vast number of cooking methods, and it is nearly impossible to pinpoint exactly how much fat is removed when you drain minced meat.
A general rule of thumb is that one teaspoon of fat contains approximately 5 grams of fat (around 45 calories). Draining the fat off of the most common type of beef mince, 80/20, can easily yield ¼ cup of fat, approximately 60 grams of fat or 540 calories.
Of course, this high caloric density is exactly why fat is an excellent substitute for carbohydrates, where we traditionally get most of our energy from. It also demonstrates how adding small amounts of higher-fat toppings like cheese can easily boost your meals’ fat content without adding a lot of bulk.
Is Ground Beef Grease Bad For You?
Beef fat is high in saturated fat. Whether this is bad for you or not is a very divisive topic – both opposing camps strongly believe they are correct, and following the other camp’s advice is a nutritional disaster.
In one corner of this fight stands the group that believes in the long-held notion that saturated fat is an artery-clogging evil, something you should heavily restrict from your diet, keto or otherwise. Polyunsaturated and unsaturated fats are the clear darlings of the fat world, and these are the ones we’re told to consume and cook with.
The opposing side claims that this advice is outdated, just like the premise that fat is bad in the first place. Instead, they claim that not only is saturated fat good for you (and your arteries), but it is also the better fat to cook with. Simply put, the more saturated fat there is, the more stable it is when heat is applied, as opposed to the unsaturated kind – which produces unhealthy substances when heated. To this school of thought, the fat from ground beef ranks up there with coconut oil and butter as the best fats to cook with.
Which of these is the correct philosophy? Ultimately, this is something you need to decide for yourself, just like the merits of a low-carb and high-fat diet. The best advice is always to be a student of health, do your own research into both sides of the coin, and develop your own conclusions. This debate will be a contentious one for a long time yet, so which evidence is convincing for you is what matters here.
However, whether you drain the fat from your mince or not, one of the key factors as to whether it’s ‘unhealthy’ or not is the quality and origins of your meat.
The nutritional make-up of conventional beef is different to that of grass-fed kinds of beef. Cows raised on factory farms, fed with grains, and given lots of antibiotics and growth hormones will produce a different quality of beef than grass-fed, pastured cows. As you would assume, the latter is a much healthier meat, free from hormone residues and much richer in nutrients, omega 3s and healthy fatty acids.
If you’re worried about whether the grease from browned mince is healthy or not, you may want to opt for grass-fed beef, especially if you want to skip draining the fat. If you’re willing to buy meat in bulk, you’d be surprised how affordable grass-fed beef can be.
Keto Mince Recipes
Spicy Beef Stir Fry: this flavour-packed stir fry ticks all the boxes! It’s keto, low cal and budget-friendly. You can even leave the chilli out if you’re serving this to children or those who prefer a milder meal.
Spaghetti Squash Meatball Boats: when spaghetti squash is in season, you can’t go past this versatile and absolutely delicious dish. Replacing the traditional pasta with spaghetti squash and transforming your mince into easy meatballs is a fun and healthy alternative to spaghetti bolognese.
Keto Biriyani: a fresh and keto-friendly take on the much-loved Indian rice dish. By replacing basmati rice with low-carb cauliflower rice, this recipe helps your mince go further without the need to bulk it out with carbs.
How Do You Make Mince Go Further On A Keto Diet?
You can make ground beef go further on a keto diet by selecting a fattier cut and keeping the fat that renders off the meat as you cook it, adding additional calories and boosting how satiated you feel after eating. Instead of bulking mince with breadcrumbs, rice or starchy vegetables, try adding crumbled keto-friendly bread or crackers, cauli rice or broccoli rice, or low carb vegetables like cabbage and zucchini.
How Can I Eat More Fat On A Keto Diet?
Go for fattier cuts of grass-fed meat for your meals, and leave the rendered fat in your dish rather than draining it off after browning. Eggs, fatty fish, cheese, natural yoghurt and cream are also great sources of healthy fat. From the plant world, you can eat more fats on keto with avocados, coconuts (and their oils), seeds and nuts.
Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, meaning that if you click through and buy something, I may get a (very) small commission. This doesn’t cost you any extra and helps me build my passion for keto cooking into a livelihood. All opinions and recommendations reflect my own views.
Note: All nutritional values and product information is accurate at the time of posting, but you should always check the label, especially when it comes to allergens or other health concerns. Information shared through this blog is derived from my own experience and learning – for any medical advice regarding diet and nutrition, or before changing your diet drastically, I recommend consulting a doctor or nutritionist.