Do you know what the most popular cut of meat is? Minced meat! A simple ingredient known in most places of the world and loved by many cultures and cuisines. What’s so special about it though? What makes it so popular?
Let’s start with the basics. Minced meat, or ground meat, is finely chopped pieces of meat. Usually it’s minced through a meat grinder. You can make minced meat at home, but you’ll need very sharp knives and lots of patience! All different kinds of meat and poultry can be minced: beef, veal, lamb, goat, chicken, turkey and more. Nowadays, chuck steak (that’s beef) is usually used to make minced meat because of the rich flavour and the fat-to-meat ratio. In the 19th century, the invention of the meat grinder made it possible to mince meat quickly and efficiently on a large scale. And that's when minced meat started to become so popular.
We still haven’t convinced you enough? There’s more!
There’s one quality in minced meat that the rest of the cuts lack: it’s very versatile! With one ingredient, you can make endless recipes: you can fry it, use it for stuffing, bake it, give it any shape you like or even eat it raw. It can also be seasoned with a variety of spices and herbs to add flavour. Some recipes also call for the addition of breadcrumbs or eggs to bind the meat and help it retain its shape during cooking.
Another reason that makes minced meat so popular is that it’s easy to store in the fridge after you’ve cooked it. It’s perfect for meal preparation as it maintains its flavour in the fridge for up to 4 days. It can also be stored in the freezer either cooked, or prepared to be cooked. For example you can shape delicious burgers, store them in the freezer and just cook them when you need them.
Once or twice minced?
How many times do you grind the meat? Our butchers recommend that it’s best to grind it twice. But it depends on the kind of meat and of course the recipe you want to cook. If the meat is minced once, it will remain quite thick cut with small pieces. When minced twice, the meat becomes leaner, thinner and softer, with a more consistent final product. For poultry meat, like chicken or turkey, that has thin and soft fibres, a single mince is enough. If it’s minced twice, it will become slimy, as the meat is already soft.
How much fat should minced meat have?This depends on your taste and preference. Some people like it with very little fat, others prefer it with more fat! You might prefer a juicier final result, in which case you’ll need meat with fat, or you might want to be careful of how much fat you consume or you want to add the fat in other ways, like olive oil or butter, in which case choose a pure cut. Whatever you prefer, there are options for everyone and for all different kinds of taste.
Mince meat recipes from around the world
Now let’s see minced meat in action.
One of the first ever written recipes with minced meat is in Rome from the 1st century AD, called Isicia Omentata, which combines minced meat with pine nuts, pepper, and flavourings of garum.
Today you can find minced meat in so many different countries and with so many different spices and ways of cooking. Here are some of the most popular ones:
One of the most popular and loved comes from the US. Burgers ! Do we even need to talk more about burgers? Juicy minced meat in buns and any toppings you can think of! In Mexico, tacos are a must: delicious combination of minced meat, vegetables and cheese in a taco shell. In the UK, there’s Shepherds’ or Cottage Pie, a combination of minced meat with peas and mashed potatoes in the form of pie. In France, you’ll find Steak Tartare, raw minced meat with egg yolk.In Italy, there’s bolognese, a pasta sauce with tomatoes and minced meat. In Greece, the popular Moussakas, which are layers of minced meat, aubergine, potatoes and bechamel sauce. In Egypt, hawawshi is an absolute favourite: minced meat stuffed into delicious fluffy bread! In Turkey there's dolma, stuffed vine leaves with rice and minced meat, a dish that has been loved and adopted by many countries. In Armenia, lahmajun is very popular and that’s bread with minced meat and topped with vegetables. In the region of the Levant, the recipes are endless: kebbeh, kabab, kofta, sambousek and many more.
Middle Eastern recipes with minced meat
Halal minced meat is a staple ingredient in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisines and is used to create flavorful, hearty dishes that are enjoyed by many. Let’s dive into some popular recipes and quick advice on how to cook them!
For kebab or kabab, halal minced lamb is the most popular option. We recommend you use minced lamb with fat so you can have a juicy final result.
For kebbeh, the number one option is halal minced lamb: for the stuffing you can use lamb with fat, but for the outside it’s better to use pure minced meat, so you can create a more solid paste that’s more easy to work with!
For delicious sambousek you can use a combination of halal minced lamb and beef.
For the Egyptian hawawshi the most common option is halal beef, but there’s plenty of room for experimentation here
For lahmajun, fatty halal minced lamb or beef are ideal.
To yalanji or not to yalanji?
We’ve spoken about minced meat, but what about when there’s none? There are two ways to make stuffed vine leaves: with or without minced meat. The second one is called yalanji .The word yalanji is actually a Turkish word that translates to "liar" to show that these are fake stuffed vine leaves. Fake compared to the original Syrian recipe called Yebrak, which is stuffed vine leaves with minced meat, that are cooked in a pot with potatoes and other pieces of meat. Yalanji dolma are stuffed vine leaves with rice and spices, served as mezze, appetisers. Yalanji is common in the Levant, especially Syria, in Turkey and Greece. All of these countries have their own versions of dolma. What do you think? Is yalanji really a fake dolma?
You can find all the ingredients to make yalanji from MyJam here or even try ready-made yebrak by a popular Middle Eastern restaurant here. There are so many different things to talk about when it comes to minced meat. From the type of minced meat, how many times it should be ground, to recipes and advice on how to cook it. Before you go though, take a look at our collection of halal minced meat from the UK's largest online cultural store.