2011 April: Ground Days

Good, old-fashioned hamburger has adorned pizza across America for decades now. Using ground beef is simple, but bear in mind that there are different levels of leanness to consider when purchasing the ingredient. The leaner you go, the more expensive it gets.

It’s important to figure out how to cross-utilize all the ingredients on your menu. For example, would it make sense to add hamburgers to your sandwich section? Could you use the ground beef in a marinara meat sauce? These are just options to keep in mind. But for this story, let’s focus on ground beef as a pizza topping.

Regardless of the lean-to-fat ratio you use, make sure you buy real ground beef. There is no need to use beef that has fillers. Trust me, that inferior product won’t really save you a buck in the long run because it will cost you customers.

Once you’ve decided on the ground beef that you’re going to purchase, you need to cook it off in a big skillet. I prefer to season my ground beef slightly with a little salt and pepper while I’m cooking it to give it some flavor. Once it’s cooked, drain well and then cool it as quickly as you can for safety reasons. Laying it out on sheet pans and cooling it in the refrigerator or freezer is a great way to achieve this. Next, you want to portion the ground beef in appropriate size containers or bags. If you want to prepare plenty in advance, you may freeze this product and thaw it as you need it.

If you want to spice things up a little, no problem! Just like we take plain wings and toss them in different sauces, we can do the same thing with our ground beef to create new masterpieces on a pizza crust for our guests. Consider the following options:

Mexican pizza: Right after you drain your beef, set some aside and add taco seasoning. Use this both for an amazing taco salad and a Mexican pizza. To create the latter, use salsa on crust instead of pizza sauce. Top with peppers, onions, tomatoes, black olives and taco beef, and blend some cheddar cheese with your pizza cheese for extra oomph. Also, garnishing with a little bit of shredded Romaine makes for a great finishing touch.

BBQ beef pizza: Mix a little BBQ sauce in with your ground beef. Top your dough with BBQ sauce, bacon, ham, BBQ beef, onions, cheese and bake to perfection. BBQ lovers will praise you for this one.

Buffalo beef pizza: Buffalo chicken has been popular, but there’s no reason not to season some cooked ground beef with spicy Buffalo sauce. Use this as a topping, along with peppers, onions and cheese. Serve this with celery sticks and ranch dressing for dipping and you’ve got a hot seller. u

Jeff Freehof owns The Garlic Clove in Evans, Georgia. He is a frequent contributor to Pizza Today and a speaker at the Pizza Expo family of trade shows.