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Food & Recipes

Surprise Baking Soda Trick Guarantees Ground Beef Cooks Up Perfectly Every Time

Plus, 5 delicious ground beef recipes sure to become new favorites

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? Just grab some baking soda! It may sound wacky, but the pantry staple actually works wonders to keep ground beef moist and flavorful as it’s cooking. Keep reading to learn why you should reach for baking soda when cooking ground beef, plus get bonus tips from Woman’s World Food Director Julie Miltenberger and ground beef recipes that make it a cinch to serve up delicious meals.

What baking soda does to ground beef

Baking soda essentially acts as a tenderizer when added to ground beef. According to America’s Test Kitchen (ATK), soaking the meat in a baking soda and water solution raises the pH balance on the surface of the meat. This effect not only retains the beef’s moisture but also helps it cook faster — meaning you’ll get juicy brown meat rather than a pile of greasy, gray mush. ATK also notes that baking soda also slows down the protein in meat from bonding “excessively” as it heats up and prevents a tough, chewy texture most people like to avoid. 

How to add baking soda to ground beef

Combining these ingredients is simpler than you think: Just dissolve a pinch of baking soda with a little water and then mix the solution into the ground beef. Allow the meat to sit for at least 15 minutes (but no more than 45 minutes) before cooking as directed in your recipe. You’ll want to use about ¼ tsp. baking soda per pound of ground beef. (Bonus: Click through for tips on how to properly store ground beef so it lasts longer in the fridge and click here for more baking soda hacks.)

4 additional tips for cooking ground beef

Baking soda makes ground beef extra brown and tasty, but it can’t do all of the heavy lifting. Below, Julie shares four additional tips for making sure the beef cooks evenly in the pan.

  1. Don’t overcrowd the pan. Julie notes that ground beef needs ample space in the pan in order to cook thoroughly. “You’ll need a 10-inch skillet to brown 1 lb. of ground beef,” she explains. “When browning 2 or more pounds of ground beef, cook in 1-pound batches in a 12-inch skillet.”
  2. Ensure the pan is well-heated. If your pan isn’t fully heated before you start cooking, the ground beef will stick to the surface. This is why Julie says to “heat the pan for at least 2 to 3 minutes before adding ground beef to the skillet.”
  3. Keep the ground beef chunks the same size. Unevenly sized ground beef chunks won’t all cook at the same time. So aim to break up any clumps into uniform pieces. “Crumble the meat into the pan, so the pieces are all about the same size,” Julie says. “Let the meat sit and sizzle for a few minutes, allowing the surfaces touching the pan to form a crust before stirring and chopping up with a spatula or wooden spoon.”
  4. Use the right pan when satuéeing ground beef. Julie suggests cooking ground beef in a cast iron skillet for more even browning. “Since iron is such a good heat conductor, the surface will be evenly heated from edge to edge,” she says. (Click through to discover how to season and clean a cast iron skillet so it stays in tip-top shape for all of your cooking needs!)

Our top 5 mouthwatering ground beef recipes

All of this talk about ground beef should spark inspiration for your next dinner dish. Luckily, Julie and the rest of our test kitchen share five ground beef recipes that are quick, flavorful and sure to fill you up on any night! (Plus, try this Baked Tacos recipe, which you can use ground beef for.)

1. Skillet Pasta With Vodka Sauce

Skillet Pasta With Vodka Sauce
Food & Photo

Cooking pasta directly in the sauce is the easy secret to adding even more flavor — plus, cleanup is a breeze.


  • 3 scallions
  • 8 oz. ground beef 
  • ⅛ tsp. pepper
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 ½ cups vodka pasta sauce, from 24-oz. jar
  • 8 oz. penne pasta
  • ¼ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes (optional)


  • Active: 20 mins
  • Total time: 35 mins
  • Yield: 4 servings
  1. Chop white and light green parts of scallions. Thinly slice remaining dark green parts of scallions; reserve. Coat 12-inch nonstick skillet with cooking spray; heat over medium-high heat. Add beef, chopped scallions and pepper; cook, stirring and breaking up beef with spoon, until meat is no longer pink, 8 to 10 minutes, adding garlic during last 30 second of cooking time.
  2. Using slotted spoon, remove beef mixture from skillet; reserve. Remove and discard drippings from skillet. Add ½ cup vodka sauce and 3 cups water to skillet; over medium-high heat, bring to boil. Stir in pasta and, if using, red pepper flakes; reduce heat to medium.
  3. Cover; cook, stirring occasionally, until pasta is just tender, about 12 minutes. Stir in remaining 1 cup pasta sauce and reserved beef mixture; cook, stirring, until heated through, 1 to 2 minutes. Top with reserved sliced scallions.

2. Beef and Veggie Toss

Beef ’n’ Veggie Toss
Food & Photo

Goat cheese adds a tangy kick to this sauté — feel free to sub in your fave shredded cheese.


  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1 red pepper
  • 2 cups green beans
  • 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 cup sliced red onion
  • 2 cups cooked baby potatoes, halved
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes
  • ⅓ cup steak sauce
  • ½ cup crumbled goat cheese (2 oz.)


  • Active: 40 mins
  • Total time: 40 mins
  • Yield: 4 servings
  1. Coat nonstick skillet with cooking spray; heat over medium-high heat. Add beef; cook, stirring occasionally, until no longer pink, 7 to 8 minutes. Drain; reserve.
  2. Cut pepper into strips; cut green beans into thirds. In skillet, heat oil over medium- high heat. Add pepper and onion; cook 5 minutes. Add potatoes, beans and tomatoes; cook until tender, 7 to 8 minutes. Over medium-low, stir in beef, sauce, ⅛ tsp. salt and ¼ cup water; add cheese. Cover; let cheese melt, 5 minutes.

3. Bolognese Stuffed Peppers

Bolognese Stuffed Peppers
Food & Photo

Our veggie-packed sauce is a great way to stretch half a pound of ground beef into a hearty dinner for four.


  • 4 red peppers
  • ½ of 1 lb. eggplant, cut into ¼-thick round slices
  • 1 (8 oz.) yellow squash, cut into ¼-thick round slices
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • ¼ tsp. pepper
  • 12 oz. ground beef
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1½ cups chunky garden vegetable pasta sauce, from 24-oz. jar
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese 
  • ⅓ cup crumbled feta cheese
  • Fresh oregano (optional)


  • Active: 30 mins
  • Total time: 1 hr., 10 mins
  • Yield: 4 servings
  1. Heat oven to 375°F. Coat 2-quart baking dish and 2 rimmed baking sheets with cooking spray. Slice tops off peppers; remove and discard seeds and ribs.
  2. Place eggplant and squash in single layer on separate baking sheets; coat with cook- ing spray and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake, flipping once, until softened, 3 to 6 minutes per side; reserve.
  3. Coat 12-inch nonstick skillet with cooking spray; heat over medium-high heat. Add beef and onion; cook, stirring occasionally, until beef is no longer pink, 7 to 8 minutes. Stir in sauce, eggplant and squash; reserve 1½ cups filling. Stir mozzarella into remaining filling. Spoon into peppers; transfer to baking dish. Spoon reserved filling around peppers; top with feta cheese. Coat one side of sheet of foil with cooking spray; place coated side down over peppers.
  4. Bake until tender and filling is hot, 35 to 40 minutes. removing foil during last 10 minutes of cook time. If desired, garnish with oregano.

4. Chili Boats

Chili Boats
Are Media

Easy-do edible bread bowls are ideal for soaking up every last drop of the filling.


  • 1 (13.8-oz.) tube refrigerated pizza crust dough
  • 1  egg, beaten
  • 2 Tbs. sesame seeds
  • ¾ lb. ground beef
  • 1 Tbs. chili powder 
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 1 (10-oz.) can diced tomatoes and green chilies, drained
  • Sour cream and cilantro sprigs (optional)


  • Active: 25 mins
  • Total time: 50 mins
  • Yield: 4 servings
  1. Heat oven to 400°F. Coat baking sheet with cooking spray. On lightly floured surface, unroll dough. Brush dough with egg; sprinkle with sesame seeds. Cut dough into 4 rectangles (each about 7-by-5-inch).
  2. Working with one at a time, invert rectangles onto baking sheet. Fold each short side of rectangle in half and press together to seal and make point at each end, leaving center open. Press bottom centers of dough boats onto baking sheet. Bake until lightly golden brown, about 10 min.
  3. Heat 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add beef, chili powder and salt; cook, stirring to break up beef, until browned, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in tomatoes with chilies. Divide mixture among crusts. Cover with foil. Bake until filling is hot, 8 to 10 minutes. If desired, top with sour cream and cilantro.

5. Mexican Salad With Corn Tortilla Chips

Mexican Salad with Corn Tortilla Chips
Lines + Angles

Jalapeño adds a fiery kick to our chili-and cumin-kissed beef, but you can adjust if you prefer less heat.


  • 2 medium tomatoes, diced
  • ¼ cup finely chopped white onion
  • 1 jalapeño, finely chopped
  • 1 Tbs. chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 Tbs. lime juice
  • ⅛ tsp. + ¼ tsp. salt
  • 1 lb. 90% lean ground beef
  • 4 tsp. chili powder
  • ½ tsp. ground cumin 
  • ¼ tsp. pepper
  • 4 cups corn tortillas chips
  • 8 cups torn romaine lettuce, 10 oz. 
  • ½ cup guacamole
  • Cilantro leaves (optional)


  • Active: 20 mins
  • Total time: 30 mins
  • Yield: 4 servings
  1. In medium bowl, stir together tomatoes, onion, jalapeño, chopped cilantro, lime juice and 1⅛ tsp. salt; reserve.
  2. Coat large nonstick skillet with cooking spray; heat over medium-high heat. Add beef; cook, stirring occasionally and breaking up meat with spoon, until no longer pink, 7 to 8 minutes. Drain; return to skillet. Sprinkle with chili powder, cumin, pepper and ¼ tsp. salt. Cook, stirring often, until flavors blend and beef is browned, 1 minutes.
  3. Arrange chips around edge of each of 4 plates. Divide lettuce among plates. Top with meat mixture, reserved tomato mixture and guacamole. If desired, garnish with fresh cilantro leaves.

For more tips on cooking meat so it’s extra juicy and delicious, keep reading:

Guaranteed Juicy Meatloaf Every Time — Here’s the Easy Step That Most Folks Skip

Adding Ricotta to Your Meatballs Will Make Them Extra Juicy

Food Network Chef: Cutting a Flank Steak *This* Way Guarantees Tender and Juicy

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