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.
Buying: When purchasing, avoid anything with a grey tinge and try to pick the most vibrantly colored meat you can find. If you are not sure what is in your supermarket pre-packaged mince, then head over to the butcher’s counter and ask them to take a whole piece of meat and mince it for you then and there.
Also, when buying, consider the fat content of the mince. Beef mince, and sometimes lamb, is graded by its fat content, and remember that some fat is desirable as it adds flavour and helps keep the meat moist during cooking.
The standard fat content of mince is 20%, but you can opt for 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, while leaner turkey or chicken mince work best when served as smaller meatballs or in a sauce.
Lamb mince: This type of mince can be quite fatty, so make sure to look for mince that has more meat than fat. If you are buying from a butcher, then ask for neck or belly for a rich mince, and leg for a leaner version. Lamb mince can be used to prepare kofta kebabs and merguez sausages (red, spicy mutton or beef - based fresh sausage).
Turkey mince: This leaner mince is cheap and plentiful. It works well when served with strong herbs and spices as it is not as rich in flavor as the red.
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 make sure to envelop it in lots of sauce. If you are planning on shaping it into patties or meatballs, try not to make them too thick.
When preparing, separate the mince with your fingers, fry until crumbly and then serve with the sauce of your choice.
Beef mince: This mince is used in a lot of classic dishes such as spaghetti Bolognese, beef burgers and chili con carne. Choose the leanness carefully.
While Bolognese and other rich sauces benefit from the flavorsome 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 retain the juiciness throughout - chuck or flank are both well-marbled cuts.
Vegetable mince: There are lots of different versions of textured vegetarian mince. It is often found in the freezer section of supermarkets, and is commonly made with soya beans. While soya mince lacks the natural flavour of mince made from meat, it absorbs other flavours easily and is also low on fat which is quite suitable for vegetarians. Vegetarian mince does not need to be browned, so it can be stirred directly into dishes.
Prepare your own: If you are 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 are in the mood for a lengthy kitchen session, you can always try chopping your own mince, but the result would be as perfect as with an appliance.
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. Adding extra celery, sweet potato and other chunky vegetables to a sauce will help create body and reduce the need for more mince.