How to Cook Ground Beef for Sloppy Joes in a Skillet


Whoever said that sloppy Joes are just for kids? When you add bulk to simple tomato sauce or ketchup – think in terms of diced tomatoes and tomato paste – and make some hearty additions, your Joes will taste more like Josephs. In other words, you'll wind up with a more substantive dish that can give chopped steak a serious run for its money. The adventure begins by cooking ground beef in a skillet, so get the food bibs ready – not just for the kids, but for the adults gathered around the table, too.

Things You'll Need

  • Skillet
  • Wooden spoon
  • Salt and pepper
  • Vegetables (optional)
  • Seasonings
  • Sauce
  • Set your stove to a medium flame and put the ground beef inside the skillet. Break up the meat with a wooden spoon. Crumbling ground beef is much easier when the meat is soft, so continue to turn, mash and separate it.

  • Season the ground beef with salt and pepper. Add aromatics and more durable vegetables such as onions and red and yellow peppers so that they cook along with the ground beef. Drain the fat from the beef into an old coffee can or glass jar after the pink is fully gone and the ground beef is brown. Return the beef to the skillet.

  • Add other seasonings to the meat and stir over a low heat. You might add minced garlic, onion powder, garlic powder, chili powder or dry mustard. Add soft or quick-cooking vegetables, if you like, such as mushrooms or chilies. For a Southern-style Joe, add corn or beans.

  • Crown your sloppy Joes with sauce. Make a simple mixture of ketchup, a few teaspoons of brown sugar and dashes of deli mustard and Worcestershire sauce. Or try a winning mixture of tomato soup, tomato paste and minced tomatoes. A Southern-style Joe might call for barbecue sauce. Taste your concoction and don’t be afraid to alter it. If it’s too tart, add some brown sugar. If it’s too thick for your taste, add a little water.

  • Stir the ingredients thoroughly and let the sloppy Joes simmer for about 15 minutes, or until the sauce begins to bubble. Sprinkle the Joes with your favorite cheese, if you like.

Tips & Warnings

  • In addition to regular hamburger buns, consider serving your thick sloppy Josephs on pretzel rolls or crisp Texas-style toast.
  • Sloppy Joes are well-suited to slow cookers. Follow the same technique after browning the ground beef and draining the fat to prepare them. A slow cooker set on “low” can keep several pounds of sloppy Joes warm most of the day – perfect for large gatherings or when you expect people to come in and out during the day.

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