You’ve made it this far and now you are ready to grind your own meat…almost. What? There’s more? When do we get started grinding meat? Patience, Young Grasshopper. Remember, part of the reason you want to grind your own meat is for sanitation and safety reasons.
Before you get started, you need to thoroughly clean your grinder and all your materials. This isn’t hard, but its a good habit to get into. Just soap, hot water and some scrubbing. Make sure to get in all those nooks and crannies, that’s where the “nasties” hide. Even though I clean all the parts of my grinder before I put it away after each use, I still like to clean it before using it again. Sometimes it sits dormant for months on end between uses. Call me anal or over cautious, doesn’t bother me, but it gives me a peace of mind. Once you start grinding your own meat, you tend to start cooking your burgers a little bit more on the rarer side, or I did anyway. Heck, half the reason to grind your own meat is that you know its clean and you don’t have to cook the bejesus out of it to get rid of any harmful bacteria or other “stuff”.
One last thing before we get started, cold is your friend. You’ll see me mention chilling and freezing in the steps below. This is very important, do not skip these steps. Fat melts. Let me emphasize that…fat melts very easily. The heat of your hand can melt the fat in ground beef as well as the heat that builds up due to friction while grinding your own meat. This will leave you with what is called “smear” and “smear” is no bueno. When grinding meat, you should be able to clearly tell when fat and meat are coming through the grinding plate as distinct little pieces. If your meat begins to heat up, it will begin to come out looking like indistinct pink strands, then you’ve got smear. You will have to stop what you are doing, chill your meat, take apart, clean and chill your metal grinder parts and start over again at a later time. Do yourself a favor and chill your meat and grinder parts ahead of time.
- Thoroughly clean and dry all parts of your grinder.
- Toss the metal parts (feeding tube, hopper, auger, grinding plates, knife and locking ring) in a bowl or on a baking sheet and toss in the freezer. 30 minutes is good, an hour is probably better.
- Cut your meat into cubes (some people like to do strips, depends on your grinder) and remove all sinew, connective tissue and silver skin. Grinders have a problem with this and they will end up wrapping around the auger and clogging up the grinding plate, not to mention they aren’t good eats. I like to toss my meat into the freezer for 15-20 minutes before I cube it up. I find that the time in the freezer, firms it up and makes it easier to cube.
- Spread the meat out in a single layer and put it in the freezer for 30 minutes. You want the edges to be firm, but the middles are still pliable.
- One tip that you may or may not find useful. We like to place a kitchen towel under our grinder before beginning. For one, it helps with clean up. But more importantly, have you seen our counters? They are white…Yuck! The little black plastic feet can leave marks on light colored counters. You can get them off, but its a pain and I’m all about easy. Or lazy. Take your pick.
- Assemble your grinder. First, attach the feeding tube to the grinder and tighten down. Next insert the auger, making sure it lines up properly. Slide the knife onto the end of the auger, followed by the grinding plate (use the medium grinding plate for ground beef) and finally tighten it down with the locking ring. Once you have it assembled, place the hopper on top of the feeding tube. One thing to take notice of is the blades of the knife. They should be in contact with the grinding plate. If you turn them the other way and they won’t be able to grind up your meat. You don’t want that.
- Place a large bowl, casserole dish or baking sheet under the end of the grinder to catch your ground meat. Some people will say to fill a bowl with ice and then place another empty bowl on top of it to keep your meat chilled. I don’t do this as I’m usually working in batches of 5-10lbs and can get the meat ground in under 10 minutes. If I was working in larger batches or in a hot environment, I would probably do this, but I don’t find it necessary for the amounts I do.
- Fill up the hopper with the partially frozen, cubed meat.
- Turn on the grinder.
- Slide the meat over the neck of the feeder tube and push down using the meat pusher. Continue until all the meat has been ground.
- When finished, don’t forget to take apart your grinder and thoroughly clean it. I often let it soak in hot water for 10-20 minutes before hand. You maybe able to place your parts in the dishwasher (and sometimes I do except for the grinder plates and knife), read your instructions first. And those grinding plates? If yours are made out of carbon steal, don’t forget to thoroughly dry them, spray them down with cooking spray, wrap in paper towels and seal in a zip-lock bag. All that might be over kill, but you don’t want them to rust, do you?
Now you’ve got your own home ground meat. Obviously you can use it right away if you are so inclined, but we always have more than we need. Why go through all that work just to grind up a pound or two? Go ahead and do five or ten or more. What we usually do is weigh the ground meat out into batches with a digital scale. We like to wrap our scale in plastic wrap to avoid any contamination. Then we, place a bowl on it and tare it. You remember that term from science class, right? When you re-zero a scale? Most digital scales will have a button for that. Then, weigh it out into desired batches, vacuum seal it, label it including date and type of meat and toss it in the freezer for later. Now you’ve got ground meat on hand that you know is safe and what is in it, ready to be used at a moments notice.