These days it is common to find a variety of appliances in a modern kitchen although the trend is not restricted to all kitchens. In fact, today’s kitchens are often designed to cater for the use and storage of a range of electrical kitchen appliances. One such appliance that is growing in popularity is the meat grinder because many people are choosing to grind their own meat to forego additives that are often found in store bought ground meats and to experiment with different blends of meats and herbs.
This is not the only reason why people buy meat grinders, however the fact remains that these appliances are more popular than ever so it makes sense to take a look at some of the reasons surrounding buying, caring and using a meat grinder.
Buying a Meat Grinder
There are several reasons why people buy a particular type of grinder and the particular reasons are closely related to which type of grinder they eventually choose to purchase. Of course, meat grinders have been used for a long time, since the hand operated models of the late nineteenth century. In fact, some people today prefer to use a hand grinder so they can grind their own meats manually.
The portability of a small hand grinder is also an attractive feature to those who travel yet still want total control over food preparation. These hand operated grinders are ideal for grinding small quantities so it’s worth keeping in mind that unless you want to spend the entire day turning a grinding handle, a larger electrical model might be a more practical choice.
Fresh venison is free of preservatives and other additives that are liberally found in store bought meats. As well as roasts and steaks, ground venison for hamburger is a popular way to use the meat, either fresh or frozen for later use. Hunters need a grinder to do this and there are plenty of options to choose from. Because of the large quantities that can be involved, the best choice is a model that is capable of sustaining heavy use and grinding larger quantities as it will likely be used a lot during the hunting season. There are many models available to meet these requirements, ranging from moderately priced through to top of the range commercial models.
Regular Home Use
Not everyone hunts their own meat yet regular families are increasingly opting to eat home processed meats to avoid potentially harmful additives. A large industrial model is not required in this instance, but rather a meat grinder that is able to sustain moderate use over a long period of time. These are available in a range of sizes and price points, and while a cheaper appliance may save money in the short term, it is always a good idea to balance quality materials and build against cheaper materials and sometimes questionable construction. Over the longer term, it is likely you will buy several cheaper models which will likely be more costly than the initial outlay for a more expensive model.
Making Pet Food with a Meat Grinder
Making pet food is also a popular reason to purchase a grinder and people like to do this because it is less expensive over the long term than buying canned or store processed pet foods. You can buy bulk meats at discounted prices and freeze the ground meat in small quantities for weekly or daily use. The important thing to remember here is that you need to make sure the grinder is able to easily grind through bone without damaging the appliance, unless you plan to de-bone the meat. Again, cheaper models might not necessarily be the best buy over the long term.
Taste of Your Own Ground Meat
It may be that taste is the overriding reason for making your own ground meats and committed ‘foodies’ will often refuse to use anything else, simply because of the superior flavors that can be achieved from home ground meats. Even the humble hamburger is said to be a taste sensation, and other concerns aside, taste is an important part of food consumption. If this is the reason you would consider purchasing a meat grinder, then all that is necessary is to choose a model that provides value for your money and meets your individual usage requirements. Foodies should also consider a model that is able to grind other items, such as nuts, for example.
Using a Meat Grinder
If you have purchased a hand operated model, you simply need to attach it firmly to a table or bench with the device provided, add strips of meat to the funnel, press them down with the pusher and turn the handle with your other hand. You will see the ground meat emerging from the ‘nose’ of the grinder, where you will have placed a bowl to neatly catch it. Then keep adding more meat strips and grind until you have the desired quantity of ground meat in the bowl.
Meat Preparation Before Grinding
Chill the meat
Regardless of the type of meat grinder you use, there are a few steps that you will need to take before you start. Whether you use an electric or a hand model, it is easier and more efficient to process the meat in a chilled state. It also helps to prevent the machinery from becoming clogged from the fat from the meat. So preparation involves cutting the meat into strips or chunks and making sure the meat is cold. Then you can set up the grinder and process the amount you choose without clogging up the machine, which can add a lot of time to the job if you have to keep stopping to clean it out.
Some people like to prepare their meat the day before they plan to grind it or alternatively, you can prepare it when you purchase your meat, then place it in the freezer until you are ready to grind it. If you do it this way, you will need to partially thaw it before placing the prepared pieces into the grinder. If time is not important and you don’t mind ‘unclogging’ your grinder, then pre-freezing the meat will not really be necessary however most people who use a meat grinder prefer to partially freeze the meat.
Chill the Grinder
Along with the meat, also be sure the grinder parts are chilled as this will help reduce “smearing” caused by the fat dissolving. You can store the blades, pan, screw, hopper, everything in the freezer until you are ready to use it.
Trim the meat
Trimming your meat will also help to reduce smearing and give you a better grind. Sinew (ligaments and tendon) will dull the blade and cause the meat to squash out of holes in the plate instead of a producing a nice tight grind.
Keep the blade sharp
The meat grinder blade should be the only thing that ever needs to be maintained. It should get sharper over time as you use it. A symptom of a dull blade will be smearing of the meat as it exits. A dull blade will result in meat coming out in a mass, that looks wet and collects on the surface of the die. It should come out in small little pieces. If you are a heavy user then you might need to get the blade sharpened once a year, or you can purchase a new blade relatively inexpensively.
Cleaning and Storing a Meat Grinder
There are two main things to remember when it comes to caring for an appliance and meat grinders are no different. The first is hygiene and it is important when it comes to meat because of the bacterial ‘nasties’ that can cause havoc with your health if they are allowed to flourish. This simply means that it is necessary to thoroughly clean the grinder and its accessories, including knives, chopping boards, bowls and anything else that has had contact with the meat.
Cleaning the Meat Grinder
Hot soapy water works best to clean utensils and appliances that have been used for meat preparation. It is also worth carefully reading any product manuals that apply to the particular appliance you have purchased because the product manufacturer might have certain instructions about how your grinder should be cleaned and cared for. For instance, it may or may not be appropriate to use the dish water for cleaning purposes. It depends on the materials that have been used in the appliance. Scrubbing with a small brush (even a purpose specific toothbrush) is an effective way of ensuring all residue is removed.
Careful drying of grinder parts and accessories is also important if you want to maintain it in good working condition. A dry cloth works well and then you can leave it to dry before storing it away to ensure that no moisture remains, particularly on small enclosed parts. Some users simply set the cleaned parts on a dry cloth or paper towels for a while. After everything is completely dry you can reassemble the grinder and store it ready for its next use. Depending on how often you will use your grinder, you might consider storing the parts, other than the main housing in the freezer so it is always ready for use.
Storing Your Meat Grinder
The second aspect of grinder care relates to storage. Some people like to store appliance units in a closed cupboard while others prefer to leave them on a countertop, particularly if they use it on a regular basis. Regardless of how you choose to store it, handling with care is a useful practice to adopt with any appliance that has an electric motor. This is particularly true of cheaper more flimsy models that do not always stand up to regular handling. It is also important to carefully check the warranty of any meat grinder to take note of what it does and doesn’t cover, as well as any handling provisions that could void the warranty.
Overall, adding a meat grinder to your appliance collection is a good idea if you have strong reasons for wanting to grind your own meat. You will find value for your money if you match the type of grinder to your individual requirements and purchase a unit that is made from quality materials and built to last, assuming that you care for it in the appropriate manner. Concerns about including chemical additives to processed foods are ever growing and consumers seek to have control over the way foods are prepared and stored. Taste is also important and anyone who grinds their own meat will happily attest to the superior taste of their home ground meats.