How to Drain Hamburger Meat? (3 Methods & How-to Guides)

Gabriel Woods
Published by Gabriel Woods
Last Updated On: December 1, 2023

Hamburger meat has always been a part of my decade-long carnivorous dining experience.

I prepare it a few times a week, and I can't even count the number of times I've had to drain it to get the most delicious results.

Here are the three best methods I use when draining ground beef for my patty recipes.

Quick Summary

  • You can use a spoon, colander, or a turkey baster to drain grease from ground beef.
  • It's best to let grease cool down before tossing it away.
  • Use paper towels or hot water to blot any leftover grease.

3 Methods to Drain Hamburger Meat

Draining ground beef through a colander or using a spoon

A spoon, colander, and turkey baster are the most efficient tools used to drain ground beef.

1. Using a Colander

  • Put a skillet on the stovetop over medium-low heat and add the ground meat, breaking it up. Browning ground beef requires occasional stirring. Usually, this takes ten minutes. Check the internal temperature with a meat thermometer [1].
  • Pour the ground beef and fat into a colander placed over a glass or ceramic bowl. The colander will drain the grease, leaving all the beef on top. Avoid using a plastic bowl since it may melt in fat.
  • Rinsing beef with hot water can reduce the fat content by half [2]. Pour hot water from the faucet into a glass bowl and then over the ground meat. Drain the beef for five minutes.
  • I don't use this method often because running hot water through the beef washes away its juices.

"Cook ground meat to a safe minimum internal temperature of 160°F(71°C)."
- Centers for Disease Control 

  • Place the grease in the refrigerator for one to two hours after letting it sit on your counter for 10 to 20 minutes. A coating of hard oil will form over the water as the fat solidifies. Please wait until the grease has been set before removing it from the refrigerator.
  • Once the grease cools, skim it off the water with a spoon and discard it. You can pour water down the sink drain once all the grease has been removed. Pouring grease down your drain may cause clogging issues, so use the trash instead.

2. Using a Spoon

Draining hamburger meat using a spoon
  • On the cooktop, mash up the ground beef in a sizable nonstick pan. Then reduce the heat to medium-low, stirring the meat once or twice during cooking.
  • Push the ground beef to the other side of the pan while gently tilting the pan to one side until grease pools on the lower side of the pan.
  • Gently drain ground beef with a large metal spoon, transferring it to a small bowl lined with tin foil. To ensure all the remaining fat has been eliminated, pat the pan with a paper towel.
  • Scrape the grease into your garbage can after it has cooled and solidified. Remember that hot grease might burn a hole in your plastic garbage bag and leave a big mess for you to clean up.

3. Using a Turkey Baster

  • Cook ground beef until it has a crusty brown exterior.  Use a fork or spoon to move all the cooked ground beef to the side. All left is to tilt the pan so the excess fat may gather on the other side.
  • Don't tilt the pan too much to prevent spilling the fat over your burner or work surface.
  • Press and hold the tip of the baster while dipping the end into the oil. Release it after that to allow the fat to be drawn within. Drain the grease into a bowl lined with aluminum foil.
  • Ensure the hot grease doesn't go on the silicone portion of the bulb. Otherwise, it might melt.
  • Dab the pan with some paper towels to drain the grease. Cleaning will be more straightforward as a result. Let all the grease harden before discarding the paper towels.
  • Not all of the ground beef fat should be discarded. Allow it to cool for ten to twenty minutes. Place the bowl in the freezer for a couple of hours to cool.

Tip: I frequently use frozen meat fat instead of lard or butter in my recipes. I love the additional flavor it gives to the dish.

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How Long Does It Take for the Grease to Cool Down?

It takes about one hour for the grease to cool down and solidify in the fridge. But before that, let it rest for about ten minutes.

Is It OK to Drain Hamburger Meat in the Sink?

No, it is not OK to drain hamburger meat in the sink as it may clog your sink. I recommend letting the fat cool before tossing it in the trash.

How to Safely Dispose of Grease from Drained Hamburger Meat?

To safely dispose of grease from drained hamburger meat, ensure it has completely cooled and solidified. Once you've confirmed this, you can throw it in the garbage without worrying about it leaking if the bag tears.


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About the author

Gabriel Woods
Chef/Food Editor
Gabrielle Woods holds a BSc degree in Hospitality Management with a summa cum laude distinction from the University of Santo Tomas, majoring in Culinary Entrepreneurship. She helps clients achieve specific fitness goals through protein-based meal prepping. She believes cooking is both an art and a science best done with a balance of tradition and innovation.
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