Grinding Your Own Meat 101

November 18, 2018

If you want to enjoy freshly ground meat but are afraid you may do something wrong if you try to grind it yourself, we are here to make sure your first grinding project is a success. The good news is that grinding your own meat is pretty easy, as long as you follow a few simple rules. In this quick guide, we will cover every step of the process, so you can try your hand at grinding worry-free.

Grinder meat with onions black pep

Choose The Meat

First of all, you need to know that you do not have to waste money on fancy cuts when grinding. Expensive cuts are expensive because they boast more luxurious textures, which does not make much of a difference when they pass through the grinder. In fact, a cheap cut with plenty of fat is an even better choice. Thus, feel free to buy chuck, shoulder or any other fatty budget cut. The end product is guaranteed to be great and you are sure to save tons of cash.

Prepare The Tools

You do not need any special equipment for grinding. However, it goes without saying that you need a good grinder. It is up to you to decide whether you want to get a manual or electric model, depending on your needs and budget.

Fresh Minced Meat in a meat grinder

The good news is that even the best manual meat grinders are highly affordable, so you do not have to break the bank to get one. On the other hand, the highest-quality electric meat grinders require less effort and they are better for grinding large amounts of meat.  

Once you get the best meat grinder for your needs, you only need one container for the prepared meat, one container for the ground meat, and something to act as a food pusher if your meat grinder does not come with one.

Prepare The Meat

Before grinding, you should trim the meat, removing excess fat and connective tissue. The best meat grinders easily deal with a bit of sinew, so if you have a high-quality unit on your hands, you do not have to make it perfect. Just be sure there is not too much connective tissue left since it diminishes the quality of ground meat and does not make grinding any easier. You can choose the amount of fat in accordance with your taste.

Then you should chop the meat, so it can pass through the grinder more easily. Choose the size of the cubes in accordance with the size of the grinder’s hopper. If you want to play it safe, you can cut the meat into 1-inch cubes, but if your grinder can handle larger pieces of meat, feel free to save time and cut it into bigger chunks.  

Chill It A Bit

There are two important reasons why you should always chill meat before grinding. First, chilled meat is easier to grind and it does not get mushy by the time it exits the grinder.

Second, grinders often get hot during the grinding process. If the meat is cold, it cools the unit and does not get warm enough for bacteria to grow freely.

Usually, it is enough to keep the meat in the freezer for 30 to 60 minutes before grinding. You can check the user manual that comes with your grinder to find out if the manufacturer has any extra advice on this subject, based on the characteristics of the grinder. Keep in mind that the meat should only be cold, not frozen.

Keep It Cool

If you are working with small amounts of meat, you can start grinding as soon as you get the meat out of the freezer, no additional steps required. However, if you want to grind large amounts, you need to make sure all the meat stays cool throughout the grinding process. You can prepare a container with ice that can keep the meat cold or you can simply return the meat into the freezer if you notice that it is starting to get warm. Never allow it to go back to room temperature.

It is also wise to cool the parts of the grinder that come in contact with food. These include the plates, the cutting blade, and the auger. Just pop them into the freezer when you are chilling your meat. Another good idea is to get a grinder that employs a smart cooling system that keeps it cold during operation, like Cabela’s Meat Grinder, which comes with the super-handy Cool Tek Ice Pack.

Choose The Plate

Once you have made sure your meat will stay cold, it is time to decide what you want to do with it after grinding. If you want to make chili or Bolognese, you can use a grinding plate with large holes for a coarser grind. If you want to make sausages, you can use a grinding plate with smaller holes for a finer grind. Of course, the choice is up to you. You can make burgers with both finely and coarsely ground meat depending on how you like them, it is just important to choose the plate accordingly.

meat grinder knives and two grates for meat grinder

Keep It Clean

To avoid any potential health issues related to food contamination, you need to make sure that everything is clean, including your hands. Thus, thoroughly clean the countertop, the grinder, and the containers before use and wash your hands immediately before grinding. It is a good idea to use sterile latex gloves for optimal food safety.

Keep It Safe

Now that everything is ready, it is time to start grinding. Whether you are using an electric grinder or turning the crank, there is not much you need to remember apart from the fact that you need to keep it safe. What matters most is that you do not use your fingers to push down the meat. That is what food pushers are for. If you use your fingers, you may get injured, so if you do not have a proper food pusher, use anything that can replace it, but keep your fingers away from the hopper.

Cook & Store It Properly

Once you have finished grinding, you can take a short break, but you should not leave the meat sitting at room temperature for half an hour while you are having a cold drink. If you are going to cook it shortly after grinding, place it in the fridge. Otherwise, you should pack it any way that works for you and pop it in the freezer.

When cooking ground meat, you can get creative and make anything from comforting lasagna to mouthwatering burgers. Just make sure that the internal temperature of the meat is not lower than 160°F at the end of the cooking process. Once it reaches 160°F, it is perfectly healthy and ready to make your palate happy.