The Zucchini Trick

I've mentioned this trick already a few times on my blog, but it is one of the things I do most often that I figured it was worthy of its own post, and not just to be buried within other posts.

I like ground meat. I find it versatile and tasty, not to mention being quite quick to cook. It also has the added benefit of being straight meat, so you know how much you're actually paying per pound of meat and don't need to factor in the bones to your calculations.

Locally, I can usually find cheaper ground meat that's stretched with TVP, also known as "vegetable protein" also known as "soy flakes" which I tend to not like buying. I can't say I avoid soy tremendously, but I do like limiting the quantity of soy I consume. And I also like to know what exactly I'm paying for. If I'm getting meat, I want to know that I'm paying for meat, and not actually soy flakes mixed with who knows what percentage of meat.
Fortunately, in one store I am able to find pure ground beef, no additives, for not that much more than the soy stretched ground beef costs.

And with this, I do my trick.

Oh, another thing.

There's one thing I don't like about ground beef. Ever find that it ends up tasting dried out if it isn't super fresh? You know how non freshly made hamburgers taste? Even freshly made, if it is more lean, it can feel especially dry.

So my trick, "the zucchini trick" makes ground beef even more awesome.

It makes it moist, and delicious even when reheated.

It stretches the meat so it goes further.

And most of all, you can't even notice it's there.

My second son, Ike, cannot stand zucchini. He thinks it is the most vile thing ever and will pick out little tiny bits of zucchini if he can see them in a bowl of soup.

But when I make shepherd's pie, he tells me "Mommy, did you put zucchini in it?" Because he knows it comes out better when there is zucchini in it. "Yes, of course, I always do" I tell him. And the one time I didn't, because I was out of zucchini, he noticed, and didn't like it as much.

So, the zucchini trick is this:

Take a zucchini, ideally a large one (but not giant), and grate it. The first few times you do this, you may want to grate this on the smallest holes on your grater, but once you get used to it, and once your family is used to it, and you aren't trying to hide it anymore, you can use the regular holes on your grater.

Mix one grated zucchini with 2 lbs of ground beef.

Knead it well, so that your mixture is completely uniform.

And then use your beef as you would in any recipe. You won't be able to tell the zucchini is there, not in taste, not visually either (if you grate it small), but you'll end up with a greater yield, and more moist meat.

And if you like zucchini, feel free to stretch your meat with even more zucchini. This is just the amount that I find is the perfect balance between stretching it and not taking away the properties of the beef (in terms of binding) and not changing the flavor.

Enjoy your meat like never before!

Do you stretch your ground meat with anything? What do you stretch it with? How do you find the taste? Does this look like a trick you'd try? If you've tried it before, what are your thoughts?

Penniless Parenting

Mommy, wife, writer, baker, chef, crafter, sewer, teacher, babysitter, cleaning lady, penny pincher, frugal gal


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  1. A bit of carrot will give it more body and reddish color.

  2. Hi Penny, such a great idea! I think ground meat is VERY versatile when it comes to stretching it using other more frugal ingredients. I havent tried zucchini yet, but i'm very well known for stretching my meat as much as possible. For example i've used brown lentils, seitan (i know you cant tolerate both gluten and legumes, sorry- but maybe other readers would appreciate it though), mushrooms, eggplant, onions and what we call spaghetti pumpkin. I also use ground chicken as ground beef is really expensive here and never at a discount price, i just cut chicken breasts or thighs in small chunks and food process them. You could do the same with Turkey but since my husband doesnt like the taste of Turkey i usually only use chicken.

    I now feel really bad about the zucchini that i cut and froze yesterday (because i was afraid it would turn bad) BUT i do know that tomorrow evening we'll eat sheperd's pie! Thanks for the inspiration : )

  3. You know, your post about how you use zucchini in your hamburger for dinner parties really made me think about trying that too so I'm glad you explained exactly how you do it.  My kids love veggies and particularly zucchini, squash, carrots and chopped broccoli stems over pasta topped with parmesan but your idea sounds really good for moist hamburger. I'll definitely try this! Thank you!

  4. I have been known to do some amazing things with zucchini, and our family can eat its weight in zucchini, as you can see by my call sign. However, I have never used it to stretch ground beef! I have pounds of shredded zucchini in my freezer...I am definitely going to do this! What a great idea!

  5. Thanks for the idea! I generally use mushrooms or lentils to stretch meat, but never thought of zucchini (or many veggies others mentioned!).

  6. I have also added finely chopped carrots to ground beef, especially in bolognaise sauce.

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