Learning how to cook ground beef isn’t exactly rocket science — but do you know the best way to get all the delicious flavor you can from the meaty goodness? If your go-to method doesn’t involve grabbing baking soda, the answer is “nope.”
The experts at Cook’s Illustrated shared the simple tip: Dissolve a pinch of baking soda with a little water, then mix that into your ground beef and let it sit for at least 15 minutes (but no more than 45 minutes) before cooking.
For a more specific example of measurements, they recommend 3/4 teaspoon of baking soda and a couple tablespoons of water for their chili recipe, which uses three and a half pounds of beef. You might need to adjust it based on how much meat you’re making, but this can give you a good idea of how big or small a “pinch” you need.
The baking soda treatment works by raising the pH balance on the surface of the beef, which helps it not only retain its moisture, but also cook faster — meaning you’ll get juicy brown meat rather than a pile of greasy, gray mush.
Their sister site, America’s Test Kitchen, called this “better browning through chemistry” and shared a helpful visual to prove just how big a difference the small cooking tweak can make:
On top of a less soupy result, baking soda can also slow down the protein in meat from bonding “excessively” as it heats up and prevent a tough, chewy texture most people like to avoid.
We can’t think of a better time to give this a try than with any meaty recipes you’re prepping for a Super Bowl spread. Whether you’re tossing browned beef in with queso or serving up bowls of chili, it’s a totally easy way to step up your cooking game!