The other night I made my first meat pie. I even made the crust myself. It was delicious!
But, although the recipe had called for ground chuck meat, I used pre-packaged ground beef from the grocery store, and I have no idea what cuts of beef went into it. Wouldn’t it be nice to grind up my own beef and know exactly what’s in there?
So now I’m looking into meat grinders: what to look for, what’s on the market, and which is the best meat grinder available!
Table of Contents
- I. Why Get a Meat Grinder
- II. Shopping for a Meat Grinder
- III. Product Reviews
- IV. The Bottom Line
I. Why Get a Meat Grinder
I alluded to the reasons for getting a meat grinder up top, but here’s a short list with a bit more explanation.
1. Know What’s in Your Ground Meat
Ground meat is often seen as the lowest form of meat. It’s the leftover bits after the premium cuts are made, and you never really know what’s in it. And there’s evidence that you don’t really want to know what’s in it! Just take a look at this in-depth investigation from Consumer Reports. Ick…
Nevertheless, even the best chefs will make use of ground meat for anything from hamburgers to steak tartar. Grinding your own meat takes the mystery out of it. You put the meat into your grinder and therefore you know exactly what’s in it—no odd animal parts, no preservatives, no fillers.
2. Customize your Ground Meat
If you’re making a special dish that calls for ground meat, you may want to make use of better cuts of meat than you’ll find in your standard store-bought package of ground meat. With a grinder, you have full control over this. Wagyu burgers? Sirloin meat pie? Chicken wing nuggets? Duck sausages? It’s up to you!
Many people also use meat grinders to make their own pet food. They throw the bones right in and everything. If this is your aim, be sure to look for a powerful machine that can handle these tough bits.
3. Have Fresher, Safer Ground Meat
Ground meat is just another step in processing, which increases the time from when the animal is butchered to when you actually cook the ground meat, and it increases the chance of contamination. But if you’ve ground it yourself, you know you’re getting ground meat that’s as fresh and safe as possible (especially if you’re butchering meat you’ve hunted for yourself!).
As a result, your ground meat will be tastier and moister. You’ll also have the option of making dishes like rare burgers or tartar.
II. Shopping for a Meat Grinder
Now you know you want one, so what should you look for?
It helps to know the parts of the grinder and how it works. This post on Serious Eats has a simple diagram.
Check out this California market’s meat grinding operation!
1. Manual vs Electric
The first main consideration in finding a meat grinder is whether it’s manual or electric. With a manual grinder, you turn the screw yourself with either a crank arm or a wheel. With an electric grinder, a motor turns the screw and blades.
If you have a big stand mixer, like a KitchenAid or Cuisinart, you can buy a meat grinder attachment to fit onto your mixer. These companies make their own grinders to fit specifically with their machines, and there are aftermarket options that can improve upon the company’s design. This Chef’s Choice attachment for the KitchenAid stand mixer is a popular choice.
Take a look at how the meat grinder works on a KitchenAid.
Most cooks tend to feel that if you’re planning to do a large amount of grinding, a bigger, stand-alone electric grinder is the way to go. If you’re planning to do just the occasional meat grinding, you may be fine with a manual grinder, which tend to be cheaper and will give you less worry of expensive parts breaking.
2. Size Number
When shopping for a grinder, you’ll notice they are categorized with a number. This number refers to the diameter of the actual blade and will impact the speed at which the machine can operate (i.e. how much meat it can handle per minute). They range from #8 up. Here’s a quick little guide to the size specifications.
Most meat grinders marketed for home use are in the #8-12 range. If you are an avid hunter, a restaurant owner, or just plan to make a large quantity of ground meat and sausage at home, you will probably want to look at machines that are #22 or higher (but these will be, of course, more expensive!).
When shopping for a grinder, you’ll find that they’re either made of metal, plastic, or a combination of the two.
Metal grinders tend to feel sturdier. They won’t be at risk of taking on any smells or colors, and many people simply like the look of metal over plastic. They will be heavier, however, and some users have even found that cheap metal grinders actually put bits of metal into the food—definitely not desirable!
Plastic grinders are more lightweight. There are several on the market that seem to hold up as well as their metal counterparts, according to many home chefs.
III. Product Reviews
Now let’s have a look at the options!
1. Weston No. 8 Commercial Meat Grinder and Sausage Stuffer
- Price: $349.99
- Rating: 4.5 stars
- Specs: Size no. 8, 1/2 horsepower
Overview: This Weston grinder is billed as a true work horse. It comes with two different sized plates and 3 sausage funnels so you can also use it to make your own sausages.
Many users find this machine to be extremely well-suited to the average home cook’s needs. It is powerful, comparatively quiet, smooth, and allows the cook to grind a large amount of meat at a time.
The primary complaints with this model is from people who attempted to use it for pet food (grinding up bone as well as meat), or who wished to use it at a commercial level. A machine with a larger motor would probably be better suited for these tasks.
Some people have experienced rusting with parts of the machine if they weren’t dried adequately. Another defect with this unit seems to be that it does not run well at cool temperatures, which can be an issue, as you’re typically grinding up cold or frozen meat.
|Powerful||Not for heavy-duty use|
|Includes sausage funnels||Some issues with rusting parts|
|2 year warranty||Sometimes malfunctions at cool temperatures|
|No reverse setting|
2. LEM Products .35HP Stainless Steel Electric Meat Grinder
- Price: Out of stock
- Rating: 5 stars
- Specs: Size no. 8, .35 horsepower
LEM is well-known for its powerful meat grinders. This all-stainless steel unit includes 3 different sized plates and 3 sausage stuffers. It claims to handle about 240 lbs of meat per hour!
Overall, I think this would be a great choice for home cooks, and even those looking to make pet food into which they will grind up bones. It is powerful and rarely has issues when used properly.
The main complaint seems to be that it can get stuck when dealing with particularly fatty meat like bacon, or sinewy parts like chicken feet. It would be useful if it had a reverse setting to try to manage a clog without having to disassemble the machine (but this is true of many home use grinders). If you are looking to do a huge amount of meat grinding and want something a bit lager and more powerful, a bigger investment will get you LEM’s next step up, the No. 12 .75HP grinder.
|Powerful||No reverse setting|
|Includes sausage funnels||Sometimes clogs with fatty or sinewy meats|
|Includes 3 plates|
|2 year warranty|
3. Chef Goss Manual Meat Grinder and Pasta Maker
- Price: Out of stock
- Rating: 4 stars
- Specs: Manual grinder
Overview: This is a nifty little manual grinder made of BPA-free plastic. It fixes to the countertop with a suction cup that is surprisingly powerful on smooth surfaces like granite, marble, and laminate.
A friend of mine recently tried out this little grinder and was pleasantly surprised. It is sturdy and seems well-built, especially for the price. It really handles soft meats and vegetables very well and is totally adequate for occasional use and simple tasks like making ground beef for hamburgers or those types of meals.
The most cited complaint is that the machine could be taller. Because of its compact size, you might find yourself constantly bumping your hand against the countertop as you crank the grinder, unless you’re able to position it it on your work surface just right. It also does not stick well to certain surfaces, like wood.
|Affordable||Can’t handle bone|
|Suction cup is powerful||Not tall enough|
|Includes 2 plates|
4. Gideon hand Crank Meat Grinder
- Price: $26.95
- Rating: 3.5 stars
- Specs: Manual grinder
Overview: This is another manual grinder with mostly plastic pieces and stainless steel plates and blades. It, too, suctions to your work surface.
This is a handsome piece of equipment. The see-through pusher is a nice touch, so you can see your meat as it works its way into the grinder. It is also dishwasher safe. It will do a decent job of grinding up small amounts of well-prepped meat.
However, many users point out a few design flaws that make it very difficult to clean and also clog the grinder easily. Given that keeping a grinder clean is very important for food safety, this is a big thing to consider.
|Affordable||Can’t handle bone|
|Suction cup is powerful||Design flaws such as hard-to-clean places|
|Includes 2 plates|
Meat grinding is tough business. If you’re a home cook looking to do simple, occasional jobs like grinding up your own hamburger meat, an inexpensive manual grinder may suit your needs just fine. In that case, I recommend the Chef Goss manual grinder.
But if you’re looking to grind all your own meat, you’re a hunter, or you want to do more complex tasks like making your own pet food, I think you really need to go with a motorized, stand alone grinder.
In that case, the best meat grinder you can invest in is a LEM. The .35 horse power grinder I reviewed here should be adequate for most home cooks. (Consider going with a large, more powerful model if you’re really cranking out a lot of ground meat!)
And once you’ve ground up some delicious, mouth-watering beef, make some Aussie-style meat pies like I made the other day. So yummy!
Have you gotten into grinding your own meat? Share some tips and recipes below!