Lettuce Belongs in More Than Just Salad!

BY America's Test Kitchen TIMEFebruary 1, 2023 PRINT

For ground beef that’s moist and tender instead of tough, we turn to an ingredient that’s more common in cookie and cake recipes: baking soda. Mixing the raw ground beef with baking soda changes the meat’s pH (how acidic it is), making it harder for proteins to link up as the beef cooks. (Too many linked-up proteins create tough meat.) The result: a tender filling that’s a perfect match for crunchy lettuce, tangy pickles, and a spicy sauce.

Sizzling Beef Lettuce Wraps

Serves 4


  • 1 cup (8 ounces) unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 Persian cucumbers, sliced into half-moons
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons sriracha sauce
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1 pound 85% lean ground beef
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 head Bibb lettuce (8 ounces), leaves separated
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves
  • 4 scallions, dark green parts only, sliced thin


1. For quick pickles: In a medium microwave-safe bowl, combine vinegar, sugar and salt. Heat mixture in microwave until it’s hot and begins to bubble at the edges, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir mixture with spoon until sugar dissolves. Add cucumbers to the bowl and stir to combine. Let mixture sit, stirring occasionally, for 45 minutes. (Pickles can be refrigerated in brine for up to 1 week.)

2. In a small bowl, stir mayonnaise and sriracha until well combined; set aside.

3. In a second small bowl, combine soy sauce, brown sugar, garlic and oil.

4. In a medium bowl, use wooden spoon to mix beef, water, and baking soda until well combined. Let beef sit at room temperature for 5 minutes.

5. Add beef mixture to 12-inch nonstick skillet. Cook over medium-high heat, breaking up meat into small pieces, until no longer pink, 8 to 10 minutes.

6. Add soy sauce mixture to skillet (sauce will bubble up) and stir to combine. Cook until most of liquid evaporates, 3 to 4 minutes.

7. Transfer beef to 1 side of serving platter. Arrange lettuce leaves on the other side of the platter.

8. Place pickled cucumbers, cilantro, and scallions in individual serving bowls. To serve, fill lettuce leaves with beef mixture and top with pickled cucumbers, cilantro, scallions, and sriracha mayonnaise.

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