Ground beef is a forgotten topping that can pay off
One of my first pizzeria visits when I started working at Pizza Today 18 years ago remains one of my most memorable. The destination was Omaha, Nebraska, a city to which I had not previously been. I went to a family owned independent that had enjoyed — and continues to enjoy — longevity and customer loyalty. What surprised me was that this spot’s top selling pizza wasn’t a pepperoni pie. It was a ground beef pizza.
Ground beef may not be as trendy as soppressata or as artisan as speck, but it can be a menu workhorse. It’s tough to beat when it comes to food cost, and its flavor profile and texture work well on pizza, both red and white.
I’m not suggesting you roll out a full line of pizzas that feature the topping by any means. However, running a ground beef pie as a limited time offering gives you the opportunity to promote a new pizza that is profitable and low cost. And it might surprise you and do well enough to earn a permanent spot on your lineup card.
Of course, you don’t want to bring in an ingredient that can’t also be used in a handful of other ways. Versatility is never an issue with ground beef. Check out the meatballs recipe later on in this article that will be a surefire hit with your customers! Use them in pasta dishes or serve in marinara with cheese and basil as a small-plate starter.
In terms of marrying the item to other toppings, ground beef pairs well with numerous ingredients. John Gutekanst of Avalanche Pizza in Athens, Ohio, is an avid experimenter who contributes to this magazine and runs a variety of food demonstrations at International Pizza Expo in Las Vegas and Pizza & Pasta Northeast in Atlantic City. He provided Pizza Today with this list of complementary toppings for ground beef:
Cream; onion; Parmigiano; jalapeño; tomato; mushrooms; cheddar; potato; black olives; Asiago; ricotta; roasted red peppers; roasted garlic; beans; curry; cumin; parsley; coriander; eggplant; green pepper; acorn squash; cashew; curry; cauliflower; cucumber; romaine lettuce; ranch; greens; sausage; butternut squash; sage; basil; cilantro; bacon; sweet potato; chipotle; cinnamon; walnuts; broccoli; pineapple; mango; avocado; tortilla; lime; peanut; fava bean; Manchego cheese; Gruyère cheese; BBQ sauce and celery.
Those ingredients allow for a broad range of options, ranging from a “Taco Pizza” to a “BBQ Beef & Cheddar.” Gutekanst suggests going high-end with a Truffled Beef with Mushrooms from Sienna.
“Spoodle a béchamel sauce on your pizza dough, followed by fresh spinach and your cheese blend,” he says. “Then add mushrooms, cooked ground beef and bake. When the pizza comes out, drizzle with black truffle oil and balsamic vinegar. Oven-ready potato chunks rock on this pie as well!”
If you’d like a ground beef pizza that’s a little more “down home,” it doesn’t get any simpler (yet delicious) than this recipe. The bacon and jalapeños work in concert to provide plenty of flavor. This is one your kitchen staff will be able to knock out today.
Beef & Bacon Pizza
Get the Beef & Bacon Pizza recipe.
Finally, let’s get to those aforementioned meatballs! This is a very classic rendition that’s simple to execute. You can’t go wrong here. This recipe will yield around 100 meatballs.
Get the Classic Meatballs recipe.
Jeremy White is editor-in-chief of Pizza Today.