Having a pound of ground beef in the fridge is my insurance plan for weeknight meals since I know I can quickly transform it into anything from a pot of chili to easy bulgogi bowls. But there’s one problem that always frustrates me: breaking the ground beef into evenly-sized crumbles as it cooks.
Partly, this is because I’m impatient. Ground beef is easier to crumble into smaller bits once it starts to brown and loses its gluey, raw consistency, but hovering over the stove with a spatula has never been my forte when there are other ingredients to chop, counters to tidy, and dishes to put away. (Chronic multitasker? Hi, it’s me!)
And even once the meat is fairly well-browned, trying to use the edge of my spatula to break large chunks into smaller pieces, especially if I want really tiny pieces for something like Shepherd’s Pie, feels tedious and strangely akin to whack-a-mole.
Enter my new favorite tool for cooking ground beef: the potato masher. I was introduced to this trick via Tiktok creator Notorious Foodie, and have never looked back.
How To Use a Potato Masher To Cook Ground Beef
First, I use a spatula to break the ground beef into large-ish chunks, which I spread around the pan and toss a few times. After those are fairly browned, I go in with a potato masher and press the larger pieces flat against the pan.
If the chunks are mostly cooked through, due to my inattention while multitasking, they will start to crumble into smaller and smaller bits under the force of my mashing, just like in Notorious Foodie’s video above. If the chunks are still a bit raw in the middle, they will flatten against the pan like smash burgers, which is just fine with me because these thin patties cook quickly and are super easy to break into smaller crumbles with either the potato masher or a spatula.
The Best Potato Masher for the Job
You want a hand-held potato masher for this particular kitchen task, not a ricer or a food mill. I have an old-school potato masher with a wavy head, similar to this one. It works just fine, though larger crumbles do occasionally get caught between the waves.
If you’re in the market, I suspect that a masher with a perforated head would work better, like this one.
Either way, I recommend one made of stainless steel. Plastic mashers are fine for softer projects, like mashing potatoes, but I like the heft and sturdiness of a stainless steel tool for this particular job.
30-Minute Ground Beef Recipes
- Walking Tacos
- Chopped Cheese
- Hamburger and Macaroni
- Burger Salad
- Beef Stroganoff