I won’t deny that grinding your own meat can be a lot of work. Firstly, know that supermarket ground meat and your own ground meat are two different ingredients altogether. Follow these steps to get something with excellent flavour, texture and traceability that will have you upgrading your grinder sooner than you thought.
Anyone can buy a piece of meat, throw it through a grinder and achieve some kind of result. The following tips will help you get the best possible product while hitting the fewest potential pitfalls.
A note on Ingredients:
- The quality of the meat you purchase and the quality of your final product are directly proportional. You can buy 40 day aged Ribeye, grind it and make the best burger of your life if you want. Some circles might declare this blasphemous, but then again, everyone likes a great burger. My advice is to start with something of relatively low cost, with decent flavour and fat content. If this is your first grind, I recommend picking up a nice piece of chuck, or a chunk of top sirloin.
- You can grind any meat you like. Duck, Venison, Chicken Bacon or Horse will all go through a grinder. Keep in mind, you want to find a balance of protein to fat in the resulting product. Ground bacon alone isn’t going to make a good meatball for example. It’s going to have poor texture and will probably render down to nothing. You can use something lean to cut into something fatty or vice versa. Pork loin would cut in well to give your bacon meatballs some substance. Also, pork fat works exceptionally well with lean meats because its flavour is relatively neutral. Ground into venison, pork fat will improve flavour and texture by adding much needed richness.
- Buy great meat. To really experience the joys of your own ground meat, you should buy meat from a high quality animal. Look for something naturally raised, hormone-free and local if possible. It will certainly cost more. Sadly, grinding small quantities of meat at home isn’t going to save you any money. Look for cuts like stewing beef or just ask your butcher how to make it easy on your wallet, he might have something in excess and you could get a deal. In Toronto, try Sanagan’s Meat Locker, The Healthy Butcher or Cumbrae’s.
A note on Equipment:
- You don’t need a great grinder to get great results. You’ll certainly want it sharp and greased. It can be manual or electric, large or small. As you will see, there are many options.
3lb Top Sirloin
Freshly Cracked Black Pepper
1. Inspect your grinder. What size cube is going to fit in the intake? My grinder takes roughly 1.5″ cubes pretty well, but yours will be different. If in doubt cut your meat on the small side.
2. Disconnect your grinder, put it in the freezer. You want this thing cold.
3. Remove excess fat from your cut of meat. You’ll want some fat in the end, but if there is a big fat cap, remove it. You can grind it in later if you think it’s looking leaner than you like. It’s easy to add more. While cleaning your meat, take not of any connective tissue or thick silver skin. Connective tissue will clog your grinder and slow you down.
4. Cube your meat into cubes you think will work. Lay the cubes onto a parchment paper lined tray that will fit in your freezer. Season the cubes liberally with salt and pepper. Typically proteins take a lot of seasoning. If you like you can go easy, and add more later. Adding salt and pepper before grinding helps really incorporate the seasoning. This becomes more important when making sausages, but it’s simply a good practice.
5. Spread the meat out on the tray as much as possible. Freeze until partially frozen. The time will vary depending on the freezer used and the temperature of your meat. You’re not looking for completely frozen meat, you want the surface of the meat to be just beginning to freeze. This usually takes around 20-30 mins. Check it every 10 mins after that.
6. Make sure your grinder has been freezing for at least an hour. Piece it back together, turn it on and begin feeding in the meat. Start slowly. Only give it as much as it wants to take at a time. If you try and force it, it will back up on you, overheat and you’ll be back to square one. The meat should come through easily. If your grinder starts to warm up on you, it can really slow things down. You can always throw it back in the freezer to cool down. I prefer my ground meat more course but if you’d like a finer grind, simply pass your meat again.
Use your new ground meat in whatever recipe you like. Try ground Salmon Burgers, a Duck Bolognese, some Bacon Meatloaf or ‘Gameday’ Lamb Chili. Of course grinding your meat allow for new creative recipes, but not only that. The flavour and texture will blow you away. You’ve got a fresh product, made from cuts you know. Enjoy it!
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