Brisket, ABTs and the New Flame Boss 100

Flame Boss 100 Trial 1
Flame Boss 100 Trial 1

This is the follow up post on the new Flame Boss 100. For its trial run, I figured go big or go home and nothing tops brisket! I had a 13 pound brisket all trimmed up. I rubbed it down with mustard and a mix of Fiesta Brisket Seasoning and Dizzy Pig Cow Lick. Normally, I just use a 50/50 mix of salt and freshly ground black pepper by weight for brisket, but after realizing just how many spices and rubs I have during our move, I thought it was time to clear some out. No more Fiesta. Started the Egg around 10:30 Friday night to allow plenty of time for the Egg to get dialed in with the new controller. I wasn’t sure how long it would take to get up to temp and didn’t want to mess up the finishing time on the brisket. Nothing worse than having a horde of starving masses at your house and you don’t want them filling up on chips and dips and such.

Brisket on the Egg
Brisket on the Egg at 235F

Played with the temps a bit between 10 and 12 and it did a really good job responding. Brisket went on at midnight with B&B oak lump and mesquite (both chips and chunks scattered in the lump) for smoke. Temp set at 235F. Went to bed around 1:30 and all looked good. Not sure what time I got up, but the Egg was steady at 236. 1 degree difference. I think I can live with that.

What a sight to greet you first thing in the morning!
What a sight to greet you first thing in the morning!

I’m pretty sure I pulled it at 1PM (13 hours or so) when the temp had hit around 200F in most places and the probe went in like “buttah”. Forgot to take a pic. Sorry, totally gotten out of the habit of writing posts and documenting the cook with pictures. The brisket was wrapped in foil and placed in a cooler (FTC or foil, towel, cooler) to rest for a few hours as it wasn’t time to eat just then. Then it was time to bump the temp to 250F the ABTs on.

ABTs, poppers, ass burners (new one to me)...whatever you want to call them.
ABTs, poppers, ass burners (new one to me, JB Smith)…whatever you want to call them.

Yes, there were 3 nekid, vegan ones for my cousin. How a Griffin became a vegetarian? I blame it on living in California for a few years. 😕

Just in time for the Baylor game!
Just in time for the Baylor game!

The brisket was so tender after sitting in a cooler for a few hours. I was able to separate the point and the flat with the back of a knife. Here’s the flat. For some reason I can never get a smoke ring on a brisket on the Egg. Not that effects taste, just cosmetic.

The flat
The flat

Some people really like the flat or the “lean” portion of the brisket. Not me.

Look at that!
Look at that!

I could cook a whole brisket, toss the flat and just eat the point or “fatty” portion of the brisket and be totally happy. A little bend test. Fork tender.

Yep. That's bendy and tender and juicy!
Yep. That’s bendy and tender and juicy!

After pulling the ABTs, I raised the temp from 250 to 375 so my cousin could cook his vegan patties. The Flame Boss had no trouble bringing it up to temp in less than 15 minutes. No pictures of that cuz well they  were frozen vegan patties. Who cares?

So what are my thoughts? I did notice when installing the Flame Boss, that the new fan does not have those two bendy wires that attach it to the adapter. Kinda freaked me out finding that at first after having a few drinks. I thought mine must have been defective.  Turns out it has a new lip design that keeps it attached. Forgot to take pics of that.

Old fan. You can see the 2 bendy wires?
Old fan. You can see the 2 bendy wires?

Do you need a pit controller to take care of your Egg? Absolutely not. Is it nice not having to worry about the possibility of your fire going out overnight? You betcha!! Is it nice to just light you egg, plug it in, walk away and know that it will hit your desired temp and not overshoot while you’re prepping your meal? Or watching tv? Or having a cold beverage? You’re darn tooting!

As far as performance, I’m totally happy. Works like a champ. Besides the way it attaches, the new design of the controller itself (the most obvious change and appears to be just cosmetic) and new wires that I have no info on, it works just like the original…perfect IMHO. Quickly brought the egg up to temp, held it there for over 13 hours then quickly brought it up to a higher temp to direct grill some burgers. The “Open Dome” function works just as it should, stopping the fan from coming on when you are checking your meat.

No it doesn’t have internet or wi-fi. No it won’t keep track of your temps and graph them. No it won’t tie your shoes or open your beer, but then again I don’t want or need a pit controller that does all those things. If you do, hey, that’s your thing and this one isn’t for you. No biggie. Different strokes and all. Actually, if it could open my beer…

If you want a controller that just controls your pit and that’s all without all the fancy bells and whistles, this one deserves looking at. Obviously, I’ve only used it once, but I’ll keep testing it to see how it does over time and how durable it is. So far, I am pleased with it. In fact, I’d love to try it out again this coming weekend but I’ve already got plans on Saturday. Maybe there will be some time for ribs on Sunday…

 

**Edit – since I wrote this, I was asked on the Egghead Forum by a fellow named BRushOO “Here’s the bottom line of the Flame Boss 100 as I see it:  If this flame boss was stolen/broke/you were no longer it’s owner….. would you buy another one at retail cost?” I thought about it and quite honestly I would say that yes, I would. I would not hesitate to buy one. Unless, I opted to check out the DigiQ just for sake of change and in order to do review a different brand.

Italian Meatloaf

Italian Meatloaf cooked on the BGE
Italian Meatloaf cooked on the BGE

     Mrs. G has been off in Atlanta doing her work thing for the past 8 days. On one of our last conversations, she asked if I would cook up some home cooked food for her return and who could blame her? I like eating out now and again just like everybody else. But 8 days in a row, three meals a day? That can get a little old quick. The only question was what to cook for her?

     When I think of home cooked meals, one of the first things that pops into my head is meatloaf. I’ve been wanting to take ordinary meatloaf and put a little bit of a spin on it for a while now and I figured this would be the perfect time to try my hand at making an Italian Meatloaf. I scoured the ole interweb looking for ideas, took a few from here and a few from there and came up with our own version.

All the palyers into the bowl to be mixed up.
All the players into the bowl to be mixed up.

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs of ground beef (80/20. You don’t want to go leaner unless you like dry meatloaf. 20% fat is key.)
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, chopped fine
  • 1/2 cup of parsley, chopped fine
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cup of Italian breadcrumbs
  • about 15 oz of marinara sauce, 1/2 cup for the meatloaf + 1/4 cup to glaze the top*
  • 1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes with basil, garlic and oregano (drained)
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 tsp each of Italian seasoning, oregano, basil, salt and fresh ground black pepper

* You can use your own home made marinara if you have the time and/or inclination. For this recipe, we used Giovanni Rana Marinara sauce. Generally, we would use Buitoni if we weren’t making it from scratch, but the store was out. *

Directions

  1. Set up your grill for an indirect cook and preheat to 400. For how to set up your grill, see the section on Setting Up Your Grill at the bottom. If using an oven, preheat to 350.
  2. In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients and mix until uniform. Don’t overmix as it will make the meatloaf dry.
  3. Measure out two sheets of aluminum foil about the size of a cookie sheet and lay on a cookie sheet. Take a knife and poke small holes in the aluminum foil to allow the grease to drip out. (The purpose of the aluminum foil is to allow easy transfer onto and off of the grill. You can skip this step if so desired.)
  4. Remove the meatloaf mixture from the bowl and handform into a loaf shape on the aluminum foil. Refrigerate for 30 minutes prior to cooking to help the loaf hold its shape.
  5. Place the meatloaf on the grill and cook until the internal temperature reaches 150 . If desired, add wood chips at this time per your grills instructions (We opted for orange wood just because I happened to find them at the store for the first time and wanted to give them a shot). Go easy on the wood, however, as ground beef will absorb the smoke like a sponge.
  6. Once the meatloaf has reached 150, glaze the top with about 1/4 cup of the reserved marinara sauce and continue to cook.
  7. Once the meatloaf has reached 160, remove from the grill and allow it to rest for 5-10 minutes before slicing.
Italian Meatloaf on the Big Green Egg
Italian Meatloaf on the Big Green Egg

Total cooking time should be around an hour to an hour and fifteen minutes, but remember, you want to cook to temp not time. Use the time as a rough guideline, but going by temp will ensure that you don’t end up with a dry, overcooked hunk o’ beef.

Finished
Finished

Resting your meatloaf is just as important as resting a steak or brisket. Let it sit and cool off a bit and allow the aromas to perfume your house. Take a load off and enjoy a nice, refreshing glass of your beverage of choice or use this time to put the finishing touches on your side dishes.

Plated up with a side of pasta.
Plated up with a side of pasta.

     I was torn on whether to serve this meatloaf with the traditional side of mashed potatoes or go with pasta. I really wanted mashed potatoes, but offered the choice, Mrs. G choose pasta. No big shocker there, and since she had been out of town for over a week, we cooked some linguini we had laying around and used the last of the marinara sauce to top it off. I’ll just have to get my mashed potato fix later this week.

     For some reason, it never dawned on me until Mrs. G took a bite and said, “This tastes like one giant meatball! In meatloaf form!” I mulled over her statement for a few seconds and had to agree with her. It has all the ingredients you would typically find in a meatball, but in a loaf instead. I was really pleased with how it turned out. The flavor was phenomenal and the meatloaf was juicy, tender and moist.

     If I had the time and inclination, next time I might make my own marinara sauce to add into the meatloaf and to glaze the top at the end, but you will be pleased using a store bought version that you enjoy. Sometimes, you just have to take those short cuts in life.

Setting Up Your Grill

My set up on the Egg for this cook was to use the Adjustable Rig from The Ceramic Grill Store with the oval ceramic stone (wrapped in foil for easy cleanup) on the bottom level and the oval grid on the third level. If you do not have the AR, I recommend using the plate setter legs up (wrapped in foil for easy cleanup) and the original grate resting on top of that. For a charcoal grill, bank the coals on one side and cook the meat loaf indirectly on the other side with no coals. For a two burner gas grill, light the grill on one side and cook on the other unlit side. For three burner or more, light the outer burners and leave the center off. Cook the meatloaf in the center above the unlit burners.

The Only Stew I’ve Ever Liked

Beef Stew with Sherry and Mushrooms

Ice-pocalypse. Ice-mageddon 2013. Call it what you want, but it got cold here in the DFW this past weekend.
Ice-pocalypse. Ice-mageddon 2013. Call it what you want, but it got cold here in the DFW this past weekend.

     For those of you outside of the DFW area, if you saw the news, you saw that we got hit pretty bad this past weekend. Not as bad as some areas of the country that get it every year on a weekly basis, like Colorado or Wyoming or the North Atlantic Coast. But this is Texas y’all. We don’t see this but once or twice a year and when it does happen, it is like the end of the world.

     It started sleeting before 3 PM on Thursday and quickly dipped below freezing (for what would end up being 72 hours and 45 minutes if my memory serves correctly). Schools and businesses shut down. There was a mad rush on grocery stores, hardware stores and liquor stores. As if we couldn’t survive being shut in our houses for a few days. Seriously?

     That being said, I found myself in the mob of people at the grocery store Thursday fighting for the necessary staples to make it through the weekend and eyeing the shelves in wonder as they emptied right in front of me. I was armed with a list provided by my lovely wife for soups and a stew to keep us warm throughout the storm and I was going to get everything on that list by golly!! (which I mostly did)

Mrs. G's stew
Mrs. G’s stew

     Some have said that there might be something wrong with me. And I would probably have to agree. I have to confess something. I HATE STEW!! Always have and thought I always would. I refused to eat it growing up as a kid much to my mother’s chagrin. When we went off to camp every summer and it was stew night at the cafeteria, I wouldn’t eat a bite. Somewhere in college, I developed an appreciation of Guiness and I thought if I liked Guiness, I might like Guiness stew. Made a big ole pot of it one night, took a bite and ended up going to Whataburger. And it’s been so long since I’ve tried it, I can’t quite recall if it was the taste. Or the texture. Or a combination of both. It’s not the smell as I think it smells great while cooking.

     So when Mrs. G mentioned that she wanted to make a stew a few weeks ago, I was less than enthusiastic. I warned her of my disdain for the dish and told her not to take it personally if I didn’t like it and wouldn’t end up finishing it. Being forewarned, she went ahead and made some and told me to keep an open mind.

      I must say, I am glad that she did. I may not like traditional stews, but this is one I will eat and sop up every last drop in the bowl with a piece of bread. Which I have done a few times since she first made it, including this past weekend during the Ice-pocalypse. 

     Let me tell you, that there is nobody more surprised (well, maybe my parents) that a recipe for stew is making an appearance on my blog, but this one is so good, I just had to share it.

Most of the necessary ingredients
Most of the necessary ingredients

 Above you will see most of the ingredients used in this stew. The beef broth and flour are missing, but I think everything else is there.

Our choice of meat
Our choice of meat

     The first time my wife made the stew, she used stew meat. It was good, but honestly was a bit dry and not the most tender. I was instructed to procure a chuck roast for this batch and while I’m pretty sure positive that is what I was looking at in the store. Somehow, when trying to find one as close to the required three pounds, I picked up this hunk o’ beef instead. I’m no butcher and no expert on what a chuck top blade steak boneless is, but I do know that it comes from the same area of the cow (shoulder). Pretty sure, anyway.

Cubed and carmelizing up
Cubed and carmelizing up

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil ???
  • 4 slices bacon
  • 3 lbs of chuck roast (cubed) or  stew meat
  • 4 cups mushrooms, sliced
  • 6 large carrots, roughly chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 2 yellow onions, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups beef stock
  • 1/2 cup sherry
  • 3 bay leaves
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley  
  • 1 bag petit frozen peas
  • Large egg noodles, for serving
Adding the beef broth
Adding the beef broth

Directions

  1. In a large cast iron skillet, over medium-high heat, add the olive oil and bacon. When the bacon begins to lightly brown, remove it from the pot with a slotted spoon and set aside. When cool, chop the bacon into 1/4-inch pieces.
  2. Add the beef and let the meat brown on all sides, about 3 minutes per side. Remove the meat with a slotted spoon and set aside.
  3. In a large pot, add the mushrooms, carrots, garlic, onions and bacon. Mix in the flour and stir well.
  4. Add the beef stock, sherry, bay leaves and beef. Add salt and pepper.
  5. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer. Cover the pot but leave it slightly cracked for the steam to escape. Cook for about 2 hours or until the meat is tender.
  6. When the meat is tender, slowly stir in the heavy cream, parsley and peas.
  7. Serve the stew in shallow bowls over egg noodles.
When the meat is tender, add in the cream, parsley and peas.
When the meat is tender, add in the heavy cream, parsley and peas.

     If you are gonna have stew, you need some nice warm, hearty bread to sop up all those juices. Lately we’ve been using the Master recipe from The New Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day. So simple and easy and we’ve gotten great results every time. Watch their YouTube video if you are interested. I may or may not do a post on it later. Haven’t quite decided yet.

Artisan bread in 5 minutes a day. No kneading required. Just mix the ingredients and store in the refrigerator until wanted. Will hold up to two weeks.
Artisan bread in 5 minutes a day. No kneading required. Just mix the ingredients and store in the refrigerator until wanted. Will hold up to two weeks.

     I never thought I would say it, but this is one stew recipe that I love. I think it has something to do with the cream and the sherry. Quite possibly the addition of bacon.

A rustic dinner is served.
A rustic dinner is served.

     I’ll say it again…I HATE STEW!! But not this one. I absolutely love this stew and I don’t mind if Mrs. G makes it over and over again this winter. Maybe its the cream. Maybe its the sherry. Maybe its both, but I adore it. So if you are like me and hate stew, or are just looking for a new take on an old classic, try this one out and don’t forget to let me know what you think.

Cottage Pie

Cottage Pie with Brisket
Cottage Pie with Brisket

     A few weeks back, a guy named Doc Eggerton on the Egghead Forum made a cottage pie. Seeing his pictures started a craving that I just couldn’t put off any longer. Even though I love cottage pie, it’s not something I’ve tackled much. I think I’ve tried cooking it one or two times. Years ago. I seem to recall trying to use jarred gravy. Yeah…that doesn’t fly around our house anymore. So it was off to the good ole interweb to scour for recipes.

     And while searching for recipes, why not dig up a bit of history? I know lots of people will tell you that shepherds pie contains lamb and cottage pie contains beef. Makes sense, shepherds tend lamb, it’s readily on hand, why would they use beef? Contrary to popular belief, that is not quite correct. Seems like the term cottage pie was coined in 1791 and the dish was a means of using leftover meat of any kind. The term shepherds pie didn’t come around until 1870 and since then it has been used interchangeably with cottage pie. It has only a recent trend to specify shepherds pie with lamb and cottage pie with beef. And while we’re on the topic of recent trends, the use of previously uncooked meat is a new addition as well. So call this cottage pie. Or call it shepherds pie. I don’t mind which one you decide to go with.

Half a pound of leftover brisket, cubed.
Half a pound of leftover brisket, cubed.

     Since the main focus of this blog is barbecue and grilling, and it just so happened that I had some leftover brisket that I smoked overnight Friday, why not incorporate that into our cottage pie? I wasn’t 100% convinced that this would be a good idea due to the smokiness of the brisket and how it would turn out texture wise. Most of the recipes I was seeing called for 1.5 lbs of ground beef. Something in my brain kept saying “Use half a pound of brisket. You know you want to. Just do it.” Who am I to argue with myself? And wouldn’t that look silly anyway? I know it would probably confuse the dogs who are always staring at me while I cook, hoping that a choice morsel will get dropped.

     And what about vegetables? What vegetables should or should not be included in cottage pie? I wasn’t really able to dig up/finally gave up looking for information on that. Considering it was probably invented by frugal peasant housewives looking to serve leftover meat, it only makes sense that they probably used whatever vegetables they had on hand. Whatever was in season. We just happened to have carrots, peas, corn and mushrooms, so that is what we used.

The filling simmering away.
The filling simmering away.

Ingredients

For the potatoes:

  • 2 lbs  russet potatoes (about 4 medium)
  • 1/4 cup whole milk
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 4 T unsalted butter
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 3 green onions, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste

For the meat filling:

  • 2 T canola oil
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 lb 93% lean ground beef
  • 1 lb of leftover brisket, cubed
  • 4 oz cremini mushrooms (Baby Bellas) chopped
  • 2 tsp fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp flour
  • 1 Tbsp concentrated tomato paste
  • 2 Tbsp Marsala
  • 1 1/4 cup beef broth
  • 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 cup frozen corn
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas
  • 3 green onions chopped + more for garnish if desired
  • salt and pepper to taste
Who doesn't love creamy mashed potatoes?
Who doesn’t love creamy mashed potatoes? You can make the mashed potatoes ahead of time or prepare the filling while the potatoes are boiling.

Directions

For the potatoes:

  1. Peel the potatoes and dice. Place in a saucepan and cover with cold water, bring to a boil. Cook until tender and easily pierced with a fork, about 15 minutes. Drain and return to burner for approximately one minute to cook off any excess moisture.
  2. Remove from heat and mash the potatoes with a potato masher. Stir in the butter.
  3. Mix the milk, heavy cream and egg yolk together and add to the potatoes. Add the scallions and salt and pepper to taste. Cover the saucepan until you are ready to top the dish.
The meat filling spread evenly in a casserole dish. Now would be a good time to taste and adjust any seasonings.
The meat filling spread evenly in a casserole dish. Now would be a good time to taste and adjust any seasonings.

For the meat filling:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400F
  2. Pour the canola oil in a 12 inch skillet and heat over medium high. When hot, add the onions and carrots and cook approximately 3 to 4 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook an additional minute.
  3. Add the ground beef and cook until browned through. Next, add the brisket, mushrooms and rosemary and thyme. Cook an additional minute or two.
  4. Sprinkle the flour onto the meat mixture, stir and cook for about a minute. Add the tomato paste, Marsala, Worcestire sauce and beef broth and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes or until the sauce has thickened slightly.
  5. Add the corn, peas and green onions and cook for an additional minute or two. Spread evenly into a casserole dish.
  6. Spoon the potatoes on top of the meat filling and spread evenly with a spatula. Try to create a seal around the edges to prevent the mixture from bubbling out while cooking.
  7. Place on a cookie sheet (to prevent any messes if it bubbles over) and into the middle rack of the oven for 25 minutes or just until the potatoes begin to brown.
  8. Remove and allow to cool 10-15 minutes before serving. Garnish with extra green onions if desired.
Scoop the mashed potatoes on top of the meat filling
Scoop the mashed potatoes on top of the meat filling

I found using a large spoon to scoop the potatoes onto the filling worked best. Try to spread them around evenly.

Spreading the potatoes out
Spreading the potatoes out

A rubber spatula worked wonders in getting the scoops of potatoes spread out evenly.

Ready for the oven
Ready for the oven

Do your best to seal the edges up with the potatoes to prevent the mixture from bubbling out while it cooks. You could probably spend a lot of time doing this. Don’t worry if it’s not perfect.

Resting after 25 minutes in a 400F oven
Resting after 25 minutes in a 400F oven

I had a feeling I was going to have some leakage on that back edge. Oh well. It’s not like its going to kill anybody. Fight back that urge and allow it to rest for at least 10 minutes.

Ready to eat. Can you see those cubes of brisket hiding in there?
Ready to eat. Can you see those cubes of brisket hiding in there?

     This dish takes quite a bit longer to prepare than a lot of our other dishes, especially if you consider smoking the brisket as part of the process, which I don’t (BTW, if you don’t have leftover brisket on hand, just use 1.5 lbs of lean ground beef). It’s not so much that any of it is hard, there is just a lot of prep work and a lot of steps, but it is so worth it in the end. I think I started around 5pm and we were sitting down to eat around 6:50-7ish. Granted, I took my time and that is from start to finish including emptying the dishwasher, getting the ingredients out, cleaning dishes along the way, total cook time in the oven and allowing it to rest afterwards. Still, it was very rewarding.

     My original fears about the smokiness of the brisket and the texture were proved wrong. The brisket did add a note of smokiness to the dish, but it was subtle. And as for the texture, the brisket was soft and melt in your mouth tender. The gravy beats any store bought jar stuff hands down. Rich, complex and beefy. And creamy mashed potatoes? How could you not like a dish like this? Perfect for anybody in your life who is a meat and taters kind of guy. Not to mention it slips some vegetables in their diet as well.

     I almost cooked this on the Egg, or at least the final baking. Almost. I’m sure it would have been fine, but I didn’t want the mashed potatoes to absorb any smoke flavor and thereby add more to the whole dish. Not to mention I just didn’t want to add that extra step of lighting the Egg and getting it stabilized. If I had, I would have set up the Egg for an indirect cook, with the plate setter legs down and then placed the casserole dish on spacers to allow air to flow underneath it. Cook temp at 400F. For other grills, light the coals or burners under half the grill, preheat to 400F and set the casserole over the unlit side. You may need to turn it 180 degrees halfway through. Cooking time should be roughly the same. Honestly, I don’t think this dish would really benefit from being cooked outdoors on a grill.

Basic Meat Grinding, Part 3: Grinding Your Own Meat

Time to grind your meat
Time to grind your meat

     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.

Meat cut for grinding, this was 50/50 pork butt and venison for a venison jalapeno cheese sausage I made
Meat cut for grinding, this was 50/50 pork butt and venison for a venison jalapeno cheese sausage I made

Directions

  1. Thoroughly clean and dry all parts of your grinder.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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. 

    The proper order for assembling yoru grinder
    The proper order for assembling yoru grinder. Left to right: Locking ring, grinder plate, knife, auger, feeding tube (note: for illustration purposes this was laid out, but the feeder tube should be attached to the grinder before assembling the rest of the parts)
  7. 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.
  8. Fill up the hopper with the partially frozen, cubed meat.
  9. Turn on the grinder.
  10. 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.
  11. 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?
You may need to spin your bowl or dish as it fills up.
You may need to spin your bowl or dish as it fills up.

     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.