Thriftier than whole joints of meat, quick to cook and easy to shape – mince is a much-maligned dream ingredient. Beyond reliable beef mince, almost all meats can be minced, but each version should be treated differently to fully enjoy the benefits.
Tips for buying mince
You get what you pay for when buying mince. Avoid anything with a grey tinge and try to pick the most vibrantly coloured meat you can find. If you’re not sure what’s in your supermarket pre-packaged mince, go to the butcher’s counter and ask them to take a whole piece of meat and mince it for you there and then – that will allow you to choose coarseness too.
Consider the fat content of mince before you buy. Beef mince, and sometimes lamb, is graded by its fat content, and remember that some fat is desirable as it adds flavour and helps to keep the meat moist during cooking.
The standard fat content of mince is 20%, but you can opt for a lean or extra-lean version. This will result in a healthier meal, but the leaner the meat the higher the tendency to dry out during cooking. Pick certain mince for certain dishes- fatty lamb and beef make for juicy hamburgers, but leaner turkey or chicken mince work better served as smaller meatballs or in a sauce.
Choose your mince…
Lamb mince can be quite fatty, so take care to look for mince that has more red meat than white fat. If you’re in a butcher’s shop and want them to mince a cut for you, try neck and belly for a rich mince, and leg for a leaner version.
Minced lamb is popular in Greek and Middle Eastern cooking. Its slightly sweet flavour means it works well with cinnamon and cumin, or with light herbs like oregano and mint.
Moussaka is a classic way to serve lamb mince – we created a Greek lamb and macaroni bake to throw a fresh spin on the Mediterranean classic. Use lamb mince in a Turkish recipe- pide or gozleme are both similar to pizza and our versions are packed with authentic ingredients like sumac, pomegranate molasses, raisins and pine nuts.
Lamb mince is often used to make kofta kebabs and merguez sausages. The juicy meat absorbs lots of fragrant flavours like ras-al-hanout and harissa- try serving them with cooling yogurt dips mixed with garlic.
Due to its subtle profile, you can use turkey mince as a replacement for beef without altering the finished dish too much, but remember to take note of its fat content- extra lean turkey mince may dry out during cooking, so ensure you envelop it in lots of sauce. If you do want to shape it into patties or meatballs, don’t make them too thick.
Separate turkey mince with your fingers, fry until crumbly then serve with a sauce of your choice – chilli con carne is a popular option, or try something new with our tangy sloppy Joes, with paprika sauce and celeriac slaw.
Try rolling turkey mince into mini meatballs, then fry until brown so they keep their moisture. Use them as a substitute for chicken in a Caesar salad, or flavour with ginger and coriander and serve in a Korma-style curry.
Use a batch of minced pork shoulder as the foundation for the mighty pork pie– the sweet and rich meat works well with spices like mace, plus herbs like sage and thyme, and fennel seeds.
Pork mince makes for a cheaper burger than beef, plus it is unlikely to dry out. Flavour pork burgers with thyme and ensure you cook them through. Serve with apple sauce and strong British cheese.
Pork mince works in various cuisines – try a lighter version of Italian-style spaghetti and meatballs or serve with Scandi flavours like dill and caraway, roll into Swedish meatballs and serve in sub rolls with sweet cranberry sauce.
Beef mince is used in lots of classic dishes, such as spaghetti Bolognese, beef burgers and chilli con carne. Choose leanness carefully. While Bolognese and other rich sauces benefit from flavoursome full-fat mince, neglecting to drain off excess grease after browning may flood the sauce with an oily layer.
On the other hand, burgers work well when made with fatty beef as they stay juicy throughout – chuck or flank are both well-marbled cuts. UK Government recommendations for cooking beef burgers suggest that eating undercooked patties that are rare in the middle is dangerous, so to be on the safe side, ensure your meat is piping hot throughout.
Try out burgers from around the world, from skinny Thai burgers, Aussie burgers with all the trimmings and jerk beef burgers inspired by the sunny climes of Jamaica- this rich meat can handle vibrant flavours.
Or try out something different- our minced beef Wellington swaps expensive fillet for mince flavoured with onions, garlic and sage. Indian keema is lightly spiced, as is our Turkish pizza with pomegranate beef.
There are lots of different versions of textured vegetarian mince. It’s often found in the freezer section, and is commonly made with soya beans. While soya mince lacks the natural flavour of mince made from meat, it absorbs flavours easily, plus it’s lower in fat and usually suitable for vegans.
Vegetarian mince often doesn’t need to be browned, so it can be stirred directly into dishes, like our Moroccan spiced mince with couscous. It’s best used in sauces – often vegetarian burgers and meatballs will come pre-prepared as its hard to shape soya mince yourself at home – and makes for a great shepherd’s pie, lasagne or chilli.
Extra budget tips
Make your own
If you’re lucky enough to own a suitable appliance, mincer attachments can be bought separately so you can feed your choice of meat through to your desired coarseness. If you’re in the mood for a lengthy kitchen session, try finely chopping your own mince. You wont end up with very fine strands, but giving your mix a once-over with a sharp mezzaluna should leave you with a rustic but perfectly acceptable homemade mince.
Pad it out
While mince is a budget product, it is still made from expensive meat. Stretch it a little further by packing your sauces full of vegetables and lentils. Halve the amount of lentils in this vegetarian ragu and add some browned mince for extra flavour- pork would work well with the light sauce. Adding extra courgettes, celery, sweet potato and other chunky vegetables to a sauce will help create body but reduce the need for lots of mince.
How do you like to serve mince? We have lots of other suggestions in our recipe collection.