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When to add vegetables to ground beef recipes

antihawk | Oct 21, 201611:26 AM     6

Hi all,

In recipes containing ground beef, such as Bolognese and Chili, there are a wide variety of instructions as to when, or at what stage, to add the vegetables to the dish.

Proposed ideas I've encountered are as follows:

1) Brown the ground beef in the pan, by itself. When it's done, remove and set aside. Then add the vegetables and cook, only adding the ground beef back later, before adding liquids.

2) Start by cooking vegetables in the pan for a certain amount of time, to reach desired doneness. Then, with the veggies still in the pan, add the ground beef and cook until brown. This includes potentially waiting for the liquid released from the meat to cook off, so the browning process can begin/continue.

3) Start by browning the ground beef in the pan, by itself. When a certain point is reached, add the vegetables in with the meat still there and continue cooking until beef and vegetables are cooked to desired doneness.

4) Add ground beef and vegetables together at the start and cook until a certain point.

Now, 1 and 2 are obviously the most common methods. 3 is much less common. I've only seen 4 once or twice.

1 is obviously the "safest" method to cook both vegetables and meat to desired doneness, as they're done separately. Therefore, from this point, I will operate under the premise that any deviation from this method is purely for expediency, assuming that the end result is of the same quality. Feel free to challenge this premise, however.

2 is also remarkably common. I sometimes struggle to get my head around the apparent logic (or illogic) of this method. It seems intuitive to think that, since the vegetables are cooked to a certain point before the meat is added, they will overcook/burn by the time you've added the meat and finished browning it (especially since recipes generally instruct you to increase the heat when you add the meat to the veg. Does the cooking process of the veg alter in any way when you add the meat? Does it slow down or even stop, while the meat itself only cooks? I can't see how this would make sense, but I may be missing something.

3 seems more intuitive, if you're cooking large batches of ground meat at once. In such a case, the browning process would take much longer, at a higher temperature, than the veggies would. So surely adding the veg only after the ground beef has been cooking for a specific amount of time makes sense?

I don't really have much to say on 4. Adding them both at the start and cooking together implies that they have an equal cooking time on the same heat. If you applied my logic from commenting on number 2, then it would appear that 4 is still imperfect, but not to the same extent as 2, as the veggies won't be as overcooked.

Given that 2 is so common, there must be something to it, surely? If so, I can only assume that the cooking process of the vegetables is somehow affected and altered after adding the ground meat.

I would appreciate all input on this issue. Is there objectively a best method? Plus, if you could achieve equivalent results as number 1 with one of the other methods, then surely the less time-consuming option would be optimal?

Thanks in advance.

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