If you’re one of those people who enjoy making their own sausages and burger patties, then you’re going to want to get yourself a meat grinder. This way you can know exactly what type of animal and which parts of that animal is going into your food and that the equipment used is clean.
Meat grinders are becoming more and more popular as people prefer to have control over the freshness of the meat and like that they can add a blend of spices to it to personalize the taste.
It’s something relatively new so it might seem a bit mysterious but using a meat grinder is surprisingly easy to do. Let’s look at some benefits of grinding your meat yourself.
Why should I grind my own meat?
1 It’s safer
Once meat is exposed to air the quality starts dropping as it begins to seep and dry out. It also becomes vulnerable to bacteria and impurities. When you’ve bought minced meat from the supermarket or prepackaged from a butcher, you have no idea how long it was exposed to air or what has been put in it to preserve it for longer periods of time.
And, of course, you don’t know for sure what is in it. It might be beef, but which parts of the animal? When you’re grinding your own meat, you have full control over all those factors and you can rest assured that it’s super safe and super fresh.
2 It just tastes better
As you’ve ensured your ground meat is clean and fresh, you can bet that it’ll taste better than anything you’ve bought prepacked. It hasn’t lost its special meat juice and taste because you haven’t added any preservatives to it. When you want it, you make it and that ensures the fullness of the flavour stays intact.
3 Make it your own
An awesome thing that you may not have considered is that you can throw any assortment of spices or cheeses or vegetables into the grinder along with your meat. You decide how much fat you want, and you can even add different kinds of meat, like lamb or veal. You’re in control!
So how do I use the meat grinder?
Step 1: To get the meat into the grinder easily, you’ll need to cut it into finer pieces. You’ll want to cut your meat into cubes or strips between 3 and 5 cm at the widest point.
Step 2: You should wrap the meat in a plastic refrigerator bag or sheet of foil. You’re about to put the meat into the freezer and you want it to get cold and harder but not actually frozen.
Step 3: Everything goes into the freezer – the meat, the cutting blades, the auger, and the grinding plate. By putting the meat in the freezer, you harden any fat inside and hard meat is better in the grinding process to make neat clean slices that ensures an even consistency in the resulting mince.
Step 4: After 30 minutes in the freezer, take everything out and assemble the grinder. Then you’ll put the meat and any other spices and veggies like onions or garlic or parsley in the hopper (feeding tray).
Step 5: Ensure the receiving dish is cold. It could also have been placed in the freezer or you can put it inside another dish that has ice in it. After you’ve ensured the dish is cold in whatever way, put the dish/s under the grinder’s spout to receive the ground meat.
Step 6: Turn it on. With many models you receive a meat pusher as an additional accessory in the box – if so, use that to push the meat safely into the hole leading to the grinding auger/spiral and blades. Do not use your fingers! Rather use the handle of a wooden spoon if you don’t have a meat pusher.
Some advice, on the house!
Be prepared – don’t try to shove a whole slab of beef down the feeder. You want to make sure your grinding experience is smooth and uncomplicated. To achieve this, you should cut your meat into cubes or strips before you even put it into the freezer. Also, while the meat and machine parts are being chilled, use this time to slice and prepare the rest of the ingredients you’ll be using.
Keep it cold – don’t mince warm meat. The fat in meat has a different consistency to the meat itself and will tend to separate during the grinding process leaving the rest of the meat a little dry. Also, the consistency of the mince won’t be uniform, and some clumps may be found because the blades won’t be cutting the meat but more like squishing it.
Another advantage of keeping the meat cold is that there won’t be any oil extracted and this’ll make the grinder easier to clean.
Sausages like it extra cold – if you’re planning on using your ground meat for sausages, you’ll need to use the dish in the bowl with ice strategy. It goes in cold and needs to be kept cold when it comes out. This keeps the mince smooth in texture.
Keep it sharp – if the grinding blades aren’t sharp, they can’t cut through your meat. Which means it’ll just be mushing it around and you’ll get a horrible result. This part of the machine needs a lot of attention and should be monitored often.
Prepare yourself for the eventuality of your blades needing to be sharpened. If you’re not sure how or you just don’t feel like going through all the fuss, you should be able to buy replacement blades. Your results will always be better with sharper blades.
Don’t forget the plate – you’ve got to keep it clean. Old meat remnants that end up in your fresh mince can make you sick and let’s face it, it’s gross. You need to make sure it’s 100% clean after each use. Check your instruction manual to see if the material it’s made of is dishwasher safe, and if not, use hot soapy water to get the job done. You should also dry it with a towel after and this will ensure it’s completely hygienic.
Even the plate will need to be ‘sharpened’ at some stage. It’s not like the blade that has a cutting edge, but it needs to be completely level on the side facing the blades. After several uses, you’ll find that the plate has become a bit concave and needs to be levelled off again by using a grinding stone or sandpaper. Luckily, you can buy replacements for these as well if you’d prefer not to do it yourself.
But do I have to cut the meat up?
You do need to cut the meat up and trim it properly as well. You have to remove the sinews, gristle, bones, and any large veins you see. Grinders don’t cut through these well and it’ll end up wrapping around the auger (grinder spiral) or clogging the grinding plate. When this happens, you might have smears in your meat – inconsistencies where some of the minced meat will be thicker in some parts than others.
Some grinders have a reverse function, and if you notice any smearing, you can reverse the process and the problem will be fixed. If your grinder doesn’t have this function, you’ll need to disassemble it, clean it, and then start again from the beginning.
Therefore, we suggest that you just cut your meat up carefully to ensure all the unhelpful pieces are out and the resulting cubes/slices aren’t bigger than 5cm to avoid all the fuss.
The Bottom Line
Worldwide there are foodies who absolutely love the fact that they can grind their own meat at home now. Meat grinders are actually really easy to use, and once you’ve grasped the basics, you’ll be grinding up your own secret recipes in no time. Now that you are equipped with the knowledge of how to use one, there’s nothing holding you back! Just go out and get one.