Basic Meat Grinding, Part 1: Why You Should Grind Your Own Meat

Grinding meat
Grinding meat

     I’ve never been asked to do a write-up on a certain topic before, but this week a reader and a fellow member on the Big Green Egg Forum, who goes by the name Hibby, asked me if I would consider doing one on grinding meat. I thought about it for probably half a millisecond and decided I would. After all, I’m just here to help out where I can. If anybody else has any questions or suggestions, throw ’em at me.

     So, you’ve decided to grind your own meat? Maybe it’s because you are concerned about safety, maybe you are concerned about taste or maybe you want to make sausage. Don’t know if you should grind your own meat? Here are some reasons:

Safer – You can’t control the cleanliness of the factory or butcher shop your meat was ground in. Maybe its clean, maybe it’s not, but meat is more likely to be exposed to E. Coli and other harmful bacteria in a factory than if you do it in your own clean kitchen. Your kitchen is clean, right?

Fresher – Contrary to what you may believe, most meat is not ground at your local grocery store. No, its more likely to be ground at a factory somewhere, then shipped to your store where it sits around for another few days or a week before you buy it. As it sits there, patiently waiting for you to pick it up, its losing quality and flavor.

Fat – You can control the fat content in your own grind, whether you want a super low and healthy 95/5% blend, or a good ole 80/20% blend (I wouldn’t use anything less for my burgers), wouldn’t you rather decide how much is in your blend?

Customize – Different cuts of meat offer different tastes and textures, not to mention fat content. Try experimenting with cuts like chuck, sirloin, brisket, short ribs and even ox-tail. Check out the article on Serious Eats about Mastering the Art of Burger Blending for an in-depth look at how various cuts will affect your burgers. BTW, save skirt steak for fajitas, it doesn’t do much for taste or texture in burgers. Trust me on this one. 😉

Quality – You have no control over the quality of the meat being used in the grind when it comes from a factory. It could be an old dairy cow for all you know. By blending your own burgers, you can control the quality from select to choice to prime. Corn fed or grass-fed? Locally raised? That’s all up to you. Heck, you can even spring for Wagyu if you like.

Economics – face it, like most things in life, if you do it yourself, its cheaper. Next time you are at the store, compare a chuck roast to ground chuck. Which ones cheaper? The chuck roast. They are both the same thing, you’ve just paid somebody to run it through a grinder. Why pay somebody else when you can easily do it at home.

Ground Pork – I don’t know where you normally shop, but where I’m at, finding ground pork is pretty much hit or miss. Sometimes they have it, sometimes they don’t. When they do have it, it’s stupid ridiculous on price, considering the price of pork butts. Ground pork butt is the primary ingredient in sausage. I’d rather pay the $1.99 a lb for a pork butt and do it myself than pay what they are asking for…that is if they even have it.

Wild Game – I know…this probably won’t concern most of you, but if you are a hunter, why wouldn’t you grind your own meat? Sure, you can take your deer, wild hog or other game to a game processor and have them do it for you and there is nothing wrong with that. They’ll even turn it into sausage for you if you like, but there is a certain pride knowing you shot an animal, skinned it, field dressed it, broke it down, ground up the meat and made your own ground meat or sausage. At least to me there is.

     Wow…when I decided to write this, I thought I could do it all in one short post. Guess I got more to say than I originally thought. I’m going to break this into a 3 part section with Part 2 being materials you need and Part 3 covering how to grind your own meat. I’ll try and have Part 2 up tomorrow and Part 3 the following day. If not, I’ll definitely try and get both up by the end of the week, so stay tuned and if you have an idea or a topic you would like me to cover, I’m all ears.

Up close view of meat being ground up
Up close view of meat being ground up
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28 thoughts on “Basic Meat Grinding, Part 1: Why You Should Grind Your Own Meat

  1. Wow that was fast! Thanks for the write-up. I, as well as others I’m sure am looking forward to the remaining sections.

    1. No problem, thanks for the suggestion. I know I’ve talked a bit about grinding meat before, but its buried in posts about burgers or sausage, might be hard to find and didn’t go into much depth. Already working on Part 2. Should have it up tomorrow.

    1. I’m actually enjoying it. Going to have to go home from work today and shoot extra pictures as I don’t have all I want for the posts. Already working on Part 2.

  2. Thank you for the little series on grinding meat. I have decided to do my own burger, that way I know what is going into it. I now go to my local Safeway to their clearance bin on meat. I buy the cuts of beef that is marked down and come home freeze it. When I have amassed enough beef (top sirloin, short rib, chuck roast is my favorite combo) I will grind it all up and freeze it up. My question is one grind enough or run the beef through the grinder twice?

    1. Well,that kind of depends on how you like the texture of your burger and the size of your grinding plates. We usually do a single grind through a medium grind plate (3/16″) and that’s good enough for us. I like the sound of your blend.

  3. My meat grinder is definitely one of the most useful pieces of equipment that I own. In fact, I’m pretty sure I will be putting it through it’s paces this weekend for an upcoming cook/post. Very nice write-up, by the way.

      1. Really? I had a friend in college that was from Italy and I remember him talking about horse, but I didn’t think people really ate that over there, that it had gone out of fashion, so to say.

      2. There was a big scandal as people didn’t know they were eating it, it was being sold to manufacturers as beef and labelled as such. It was really quite shocking, it mainly affected budget and frozen ready meals. Personally I was more surprised there was any meat in them at all… Google UK horse meat scandal.
        http://cookingwithcorinna.wordpress.com/2013/02/10/how-to-avoid-having-horse-in-your-lasagne-or-burgers/

        That being said people do actually knowingly eat it, and it’s meant to be very lean and good for you.

  4. What a great post (posts – looking forward to Part 3)! Very informative … and I love that you mention it as kinda ‘entry level’ but NOT cheap quality entry level … good point. Is also what I was looking for in a meat grinder when I researched/purchased my LEM … and you’re right, only two grinding plates (stainless steel) – coarse & medium. Oh, hope you don’t mind … looks like I’m replying to what you said in Part 2 as well, lol.

  5. Really enjoy your site and the food. Sure would be good if you had a printable version for my cooking notebook—Thanks Norm

    1. Thanks, Norm. I appreciate that. I looked into it at one time, but I would have to upgrade my wordpress account (costs money), would have to find a site to host it (costs more money) and would probably have to get somebody to help me move all my content (even more money). This is really just a hobby and a labor of love for me and I don’t feel like throwing money at it. I would love to throw up a PRINT button if it was free, but I don’t really want to invest in it. Sorry. If you want, you can always copy and paste it into word, then print it out for your cooking notebook. Anyway, I do appreciate you following along and I hope it’s helped you and you have found some recipes that you have enjoyed. Take care and go fire up that grill or smoker. 🙂

  6. I’ve done it but I need to do it more often. Most of the custom blends that I read about end up running about $9 a pound, which is steep, but worth it when done right.

  7. Reblogged this on 323 Archery Shoot and commented:
    The wife and I saw a segment of “Good Eats!” with Alton Brown a few years ago about making the perfect burger. The next day, we bought some manager’s special pork chops and beef at Krogers, then went home, trimmed the meat, added our own seasoning blend to the cubed mix, and put it through my Kitchen Aide’s grinder attachment. Those were the best burgers we had ever eaten. If you’re like me, you HATE hitting gristle and ‘mystery bits’ in ground beef, by trimming and taking care of the grinding yourself, you can eliminate it altogether.

  8. We don’t grind our own beef, but we may start soon. We do grind our own venison, though. We processed our entire deer ourselves. The price to have it processed for you is just ridiculous, and if you get more than one deer? It’s cheaper to do it on your own. I made two or three posts about the process back in March. We had to freeze our deer quarters due to the high temps last fall. But when the venison is fresh, it’s very easy.

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