Beef mince is one of the most commonly used meats in Ireland, so to help you get the most out it, we've put together our ultimate guide to beef mince.

Our Back to Basics series takes a look at some common ingredients to help our readers make the most of the great produce that we have access to here in Ireland. Previously we looked at scallops, housekeeper’s cut of beef, chicken thighs, and pork belly; now it's the turn of beef mince.

Used to make burgers, spaghetti bolognese, lasagne and more, it's unlikely that there is a house in the country that doesn't have mince on the menu quite regularly. It's a family-favourite ingredient as it's so easy to cook and budget-friendly, as well as delicious.

According to the Food Safety Authority of Ireland, minced meat is defined as boned meat that has been minced into fragments and contains less than 1% salt. Meat is usually minced to tenderise tougher cuts but can be made from a variety of cuts, depending on the meat and your butcher. Beef shoulder is a good cut to use, as it has a lot of flavour but requires tough, slow cooking when used whole. Many butchers have now started to use some lesser-seen cuts of steak in their mince, resulting in a flavoursome final product. 

Getty Images.

Getty Images.

Safe storage and cooking

Mince often changes colour throughout its shelf-life; it usually starts out bright red but can turn a brownish-grey colour, both of which are totally safe to eat, as long as the mince is within its use-by date. Minced beef should be kept on its own shelf in a refrigerator between 0-5ºC at all times in order to prevent bacterial growth – bacteria in mince can double within 30 minutes if its temperature goes above 5ºC. It's especially important to ensure that juices from mince don't drip onto, or come into contact with, other foods, especially fruits and vegetables, as it can contain dangerous bacteria. 

Beef mince freezes really well, so if you don't think you'll get to use a pack before it goes off, you can stick it in the freezer, as long as the use-by date hasn't passed. Make sure to fully thaw the meat before use by leaving it on a plate on the bottom shelf of the fridge. It's important to keep defrosting mince away from other foods, as it releases quite a lot of liquid that can spread bacteria. Use defrosted mince within 24 hours of thawing and don't refreeze it.

Beef mince can contain E.coli bacteria, which is why it's so important to ensure it's thoroughly cooked (75ºC for two minutes). It may be acceptable to serve beef joints and steak rare, but mince has to be fully cooked because of how bacteria can spread. The outside of a cut of meat can be exposed to bacteria, meaning that the inside of a steak, for example, doesn't need to be cooked through to ensure safety. However, the act of mincing causes the bacteria to be mixed throughout the meat, meaning that it must be fully cooked inside and out.

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Getty Images.

Looking for some recipe inspiration? Read on for some ideas for how to use minced beef.

  • This meatball recipe uses a combination of beef and pork mince to create a super moist, flavourful dish.
  • Looking for the perfect hamburger? This recipe from Cook's Academy is perfect for those looking for a meat fix.
  • Cottage pie is total comfort food. This version uses red wine to add a touch of luxury to a classic dish. 
  • Matty Matheson's baked rigatoni is the perfect Italian dish, combining veal, pork and beef mince with cheese and breadcrumbs to create a rich, delicious meal.
    How do you use minced beef at home? Let us know in the comments below.