Being married to a beef farmer we do eat mince at least once a week. Not only is it handy having it (generally) to hand in the freezer, it’s tasty, very versatile, and is great to bulk cook. It doesn’t have to be pricy either, and will be happily eaten by the whole family. Whenever we cook mince dishes for friends, we always have comments on how rich and good it tastes. Yes we obviously have great beef off our farm, but there’s a few mince hacks I do to add to the meals I cook with mince.
Hacks to make tastier mince dishes
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Buy the best quality beef mine you can
We’re lucky because we do mostly just have beef off the farm. But if there’s none in the freezer, I buy from the butchers or if that’s not open, the finest ranges from supermarkets. I always buy British, and those ranges are generally Angus or Hereford, and generally a big higher fat content to add to the flavour. Mince doesn’t have to be expensive though – look out for promotions, end of the day discounts or buy in bulk. Our butcher usually offers 3 packs for £10 (3kg), and it’s easily frozen.
Bulk it out
I do usually add bacon or pancetta if I’ve got that in the fridge to add to the flavour. But otherwise it’s all about adding chopped veg. For me it’s not just to bulk out the mince and help it go further, it’s about getting more vegetables into the rest of the family. I always add onion, usually garlic, plus courgette, peppers, and sometimes celery and carrots depending on the dish i’m cooking. If I’ve got fresh tomatoes I’ll chop those up and add to the sauce as well. Adding vegetables is great for using up older bendy vegetables or going soft tomatoes.
One of my favourite childhood mince dishes was pasta and bean bake with mince, pasta shells and baked beans. The OH wasn’t impressed when I served it for tea once, but adding beans can be another way to builk out mince and get extra goodness in.
Alternatively if you want to use less mince, add in lentils to make a half and half version of your dish.
Cook once eat twice
What’s great about mince is how good it is for leftovers. It’s also good to freeze a base of mince, to get out and defrost then make into another dish.
Whenever :I make spaghetti bolognese I always use 1kg worth of mince. We get 1 meal of bolognese out of it, then the next day I make lasagne which will usually cover 2 dinners for the 3 of us. Lasagne tastes so much better made with leftover bolognese as it’s had time to absorb any liquid back up. And it’s more stable layered up using cold bolognese, less sloppy. Plus of course it’s a fast dinner to make if your mince base is already cooked.
Mixing your mince types can add to flavour, but also help beef mince go further. Pork mince goes well as is cheaper. In particular using a mix of beef and pork can work well with meatloaf or even in a bolognese/ragu sauce.
Cook long and slow
Yes, we use really good quality minced beef, but most of the flavour we get is from the cooking process. No 20 minutes cooking it through on the hob. After it’s browned off, I cook mince for as long as possible on low heat in the oven.
For us it’s easy as we’ve got a simmering oven in the aga. Once it’s browned off on the hob, the sauted/softened veg are added to it, and the sauce is mixed in, I let it bubble. Then it’s transferred into an ovenproof dish, covered and put in the oven on a low heat for most of the day, or at least from lunchtime.
Cooking mince longer means all the flavours become richer, and the mince breaks down really nicely too. It can then be used as a mince base for all the usual dishes – I cook mine this way for cottage pie too. If there’s too much sauce for the dish you want, you can always reduce the ‘gravy’ or sauce down by adding a little cornflour/water in to thicken it.
If you don’t want to use the oven for so long, then a slow cooker is perfect for mince and doesn’t take much electricity to run. (If you don’t have a slow cooker this is the Russell Hobbs one I have – or find crockpots* – US)
Add flavouring through sauces
It’s the little tweaks that pimp up a mince dish and add to the flavour. Give it that star flourish.
Worcestershire sauce. People joke that they’ve had the same worcestershire sauce bottle in their cupboard for years. But I get through a lot of it. I add a good glug of it to bolognese, to beef hash, to cottage pie. Basically anything I use beef mince in. It just add some tanginess.
Caramelised onion chutney. Add a bit more depth of flavour by adding this to mince for a cottage pie.
Tomato ketchup. Any tomato based dish, add your tinned chopped or fresh tomatoes, tomato puree, and some ketchup. It adds a bit of sweetness and tang.
What are your favourite mince dishes, and how do you get the best flavour out of your mince?
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