Browning is the process of partially cooking the surface of meat to help remove excessive fat and to give the meat a brown color crust and flavor through various browning reactions. Ground meat will frequently be browned prior to adding other ingredients and completing the cooking process. The process is commonly used when adding ground meat to casseroles or other prepackaged food products like Hamburger Helper, where the final cooking temperature will not be high enough to initiate the Maillard reaction.
It is typically done using a skillet or frying pan, which generally should be preheated to a medium high temperature to avoid sticking. In order to brown properly, the meat should first have surface moisture removed. This is usually achieved by patting the meat with a paper towel. The function of this is to remove water which creates steam instead of evenly browning the meat.
When browning ground beef, the meat is stirred during cooking to break it up and to promote even browning. Onions and seasonings are sometimes added during the browning process. When the pink color has disappeared and the meat has reached the desired degree of brownness, the pan is removed from the heat and the excess fat is drained off.