MEAT GRINDERS 101

What is a meat grinder?

A meat grinder is a kitchen appliance used to finely chop or mincemeat. It can be either a manual device or an electric one. The meat is fed into a funnel on top of the grinder and then goes through a screw conveyor where it is minced by a cutting blade and a series of holes on a plate. This process produces ground meat, which can be used for making various dishes like burgers, meatballs, sausages, and more.

Parts of meat grinder?

Hopper (or Feed Tube): This is the part where you insert the chunks of meat to be ground. The hopper guides the meat into the feed tube, which then directs it towards the screw.

Screw (or Auger): The screw is a long, twisting blade that pushes the meat through the grinder. It moves the meat from the feed tube towards the blades and the grinding plate.

Blades: Sharp blades are located at the end of the screw. These blades cut the meat into smaller pieces to be ground.

Grinding Plates (or Die): These plates are round with holes throughout. They determine the fineness or coarseness of the ground meat. Different plates can be used depending on the desired texture of the meat.

Cover: A cover is typically placed over the blades and grinding plate to ensure that meat is safely and efficiently pushed through the grinder.

Motor (in electric grinders): The motor powers the screw and enables the grinding process. In manual grinders, this function is performed by a hand crank.

Hand Crank (in manual grinders): This is used to manually turn the screw and move the meat through the blades and grinding plate.

Stabilizing Feet or Base: This helps to keep the grinder steady during use, especially important for manual grinders that require physical effort to operate.

Pusher: A meat pusher may be included to safely push the meat into the grinder without risking injury to the hands.

Sausage Attachment (optional): Some meat grinders come with attachments for stuffing sausages, enabling the ground meat to be directly funneled into sausage casings.

What’s the difference between an Electric Meat grinder and vs Manual Meat grinder?

Comparing electric and manual meat grinders reveals several key differences:

Manual Electric
Operation Requires physical effort, as you need to turn a hand crank to grind the meat. Operates with an electric motor. Just turn it on, and it does the work for you.
Speed and Efficiency Slower, best suited for smaller batches. The speed depends on your physical effort Much faster and more efficient, especially for large quantities of meat.
Ease of Use Requires more labor and can be tiring, especially for large quantities.

 

Easier to use, and it is particularly beneficial for those who might find manual grinding physically challenging.

 

Portability and Size

 

Often smaller and more portable. Can be used anywhere, making it ideal for places without electricity.

 

Generally larger and less portable. Needs an electrical outlet to operate.
Cost Typically, less expensive and more budget-friendly. More expensive due to the motor and additional features.

 

Control

 

Allows for more hands-on control, which some cooks prefer for certain textures. Offers less tactile control over the grinding process.

 

Maintenance Generally easier to maintain with fewer complex parts.

 

Requires more careful maintenance, especially for the motor and electrical components.
Durability and Longevity

 

With fewer moving parts, it can be more durable and easier to repair.

 

Can last a long time with proper care, but repairing electrical components can be complex.
Noise Level

 

Much quieter, as it only involves physical cranking.

 

Tends to be noisier due to the motor.
Volume Capacity More suitable for smaller volumes. Better suited for grinding large amounts of meat quickly

Your choice between electric and manual meat grinders will depend on your specific needs, preferences, volume of meat to grind, budget, and physical ability. Electric grinders are great for frequent and large-volume grinding, while manual grinders are more suited for occasional, smaller tasks where control and portability are important.

How to use it?

Preparation: Cut the meat into pieces that fit the grinder’s hopper.

Feeding the Meat: Place the meat pieces into the hopper.

Grinding Process: The meat is pushed by the screw (or auger) towards the blades and grinding plate.

Cutting and Grinding: The blades cut the meat into smaller pieces, which are then forced through the holes in the grinding plate, determining the texture of the ground meat.

Output: The ground meat exits the grinder. If a sausage attachment is used, it can be directed into sausage casings.

Continuous Operation: The process continues as long as the meat is fed into the grinder and it is in operation, either by hand cranking (manual grinders) or powered by an electric motor (electric grinders).

What are the sizes?

#5 or #8 Grinders: These are smaller grinders, suitable for home use. They are ideal for grinding smaller quantities of meat. The number corresponds to the diameter of the grinding plate in millimeters.

#12 or #22 Grinders: These are medium-sized grinders. They’re used in both home kitchens with higher meat grinding needs and in smaller commercial settings.

#32 or Larger Grinders: These are large grinders designed for heavy-duty commercial use. They are ideal for restaurants, butcher shops, or any place requiring large quantities of ground meat.

Each size has its specific use case, with smaller grinders being more suited for occasional, personal use, and larger ones for frequent or commercial use.

What are grinding plates, and knives?

Grinding Plates (or Die):

 

Knives (or Blades):

 

Function: Grinding plates are responsible for determining the texture of the ground meat. They have holes through which the meat is extruded after being cut by the knives.

 

Function: The knives are responsible for cutting the meat into smaller pieces before it’s pushed through the grinding plate.

 

Design: These plates are typically round, flat discs made of durable metal. The size of the holes in the plate can vary.

 

Design: They usually have a cross-shape or a star shape and are placed against the grinding plate.

 

Variety: Plates come with different hole sizes for varying textures. Smaller holes result in finely ground meat, suitable for sausages or hamburger patties, while larger holes yield a coarser grind, often used for more chunky applications like chili or filling.

 

Sharpness: The knives must be sharp to ensure efficient cutting. Dull knives can lead to poor grinding, smeared meat, and increased strain on the grinder.

 

What’s different between plates?

The primary difference between various meat grinder plates lies in the size of the holes, which directly affects the texture of the ground meat. Here are the key distinctions:

Hole Size: Small Holes: Plates with small holes (around 1/8 inch or 3 mm) produce finely ground meat, often used for making bologna, hot dogs, or hamburger patties.

Medium Holes: Medium-sized holes (about 1/4 inch or 6 mm) are versatile and commonly used. They are suitable for most ground meat applications, including sausages and ground beef for tacos or pasta dishes.

Large Holes: Plates with large holes (1/2 inch or 12 mm and up) yield a coarser grind. This texture is ideal for more rustic sausages, chili, or recipes where a chunkier consistency is desired.

Specific Uses: Each plate size is designed for specific types of meat and end products. For instance, a finer grind might be preferred for making certain types of sausages, while a coarser grind is better for dishes where the meat’s texture should be more pronounced.

Number of Holes: The number of holes in a plate also varies, which can impact the speed of grinding. More holes generally allow for faster grinding.

Understanding the differences between the plates allows for better selection based on the desired outcome of the ground meat. It’s common for meat grinders to come with a few different plates to accommodate various cooking needs.

What’s the difference between knives?

The differences between various knives (or blades) in meat grinders mainly relate to their design, compatibility with grinder size, sharpness, and material. Here are the key aspects:

Design and Shape: Most grinder knives have a standard cross-shaped or star-shaped design, but the specifics can vary slightly between models. The design ensures the knife can effectively cut the meat before it’s pushed through the grinding plate.

Compatibility with Grinder Size: Knives must be compatible with the size of the meat grinder. A #12 grinder, for example, needs a #12 knife. The size of the knife must match the grinding plate for efficient grinding.

Sharpness: The effectiveness of a grinder knife depends largely on its sharpness. A sharper knife will cut the meat cleanly, resulting in a better texture and easier grinding. Over time, knives can become dull and may need sharpening or replacement to maintain the quality of the grind.

Material: Most grinder knives are made of stainless steel or carbon steel. Stainless steel is resistant to rust and is durable, while carbon steel can retain a sharper edge for a longer period but may be prone to rusting.

Frequency of Use: The choice of knife can also depend on how frequently the grinder is used. In commercial settings, where grinders are used more intensively, more durable and higher-grade knives might be preferred.

Maintenance of a grinder?

Maintaining a meat grinder properly is crucial for its longevity, efficiency, and hygiene. Here are key steps and tips for maintaining a meat grinder:

  • Clean After Each Use: Dismantle the grinder and wash each part thoroughly. This includes the hopper, screw, blades, and plates. For electric grinders, make sure the motor and electrical parts do not come into contact with water.
  • Use Warm, Soapy Water: Clean the parts with warm, soapy water. Avoid harsh chemicals that might damage the metal.
  • Dry Completely: After washing, dry each part completely to prevent rusting. This is especially important for carbon steel parts.
  • Regularly Sharpen Blades: Keep the blades sharp for efficient grinding. Dull blades can ruin the texture of the meat and strain the motor.
  • Lubricate Moving Parts: Apply food-grade mineral oil to moving parts like the screw/auger to ensure smooth operation.
  • Check for Wear and Tear: Regularly inspect your grinder for any signs of wear and tear, such as cracks or dullness in the blades.
  • Storage: Store the grinder and its components in a dry place. For plates and blades, consider wrapping them in oil-soaked paper to prevent rust.
  • Avoid Grinding Hard Objects: Do not grind bones or other hard objects unless your grinder is specifically designed for it, as this can damage the blades and plates.
  • Sanitize Regularly: Sanitize the parts occasionally to prevent bacterial growth. You can use a solution of bleach and water, but ensure thorough rinsing afterward.
  • Consult the Manual: Always refer to the manufacturer’s manual for specific maintenance instructions and recommendations.

Safety?

Using a meat grinder safely is crucial to prevent accidents and ensure hygienic processing of meat. Here are some important safety tips:

  • Read the Manual: Before using a meat grinder, whether manual or electric, thoroughly read the manufacturer’s instructions. Understanding how your specific model functions is essential for safe operation.
  • Keep Hands and Fingers Away: Never put your fingers or hands into the feed tube or near the grinding plates and blades. Always use the pusher or stomper provided to feed meat into the grinder.
  • Use Sharp Blades: Dull blades can cause the grinder to jam or work harder, which can be dangerous. Always keep the blades sharp.
  • Cut Meat into Proper Sizes: To prevent overloading and jamming the grinder, cut meat into sizes that comfortably fit into the hopper.
  • Keep Meat Cold: Grinding meat while it’s cold reduces the risk of bacterial growth and makes the grinding process smoother.
  • Assemble Correctly: Make sure the grinder is correctly assembled with all parts securely fastened before use.
  • Unplug Electric Grinders When Not in Use: To prevent accidental start-up, always unplug electric meat grinders when not in use, especially when assembling, disassembling, or cleaning.
  • Avoid Grinding Bones (Unless Permitted): Don’t grind bones unless your grinder is specifically designed for it. Grinding bones in a regular meat grinder can damage the device.
  • Wear Appropriate Clothing: Avoid wearing loose clothing or jewelry that could get caught in the grinder.
  • Clean and Maintain Regularly: Keep your grinder clean and well-maintained to prevent food contamination and ensure it operates safely.
  • Use on a Stable Surface: Ensure the grinder is placed on a stable, level surface during use to prevent it from tipping over.
  • Be Cautious with Electric Grinders: Electric grinders can be powerful. Be aware of the power switch, and be prepared for the force when the motor starts.

By following these safety measures, you can minimize the risk of accidents and ensure a safe and efficient meat grinding process.

Things to avoid?

When using a meat grinder, there are several things you should avoid to ensure safety, maintain the quality of your grinder, and achieve the best results in grinding meat. Here are some key points to keep in mind:

  • Don’t Overload the Grinder: Feeding too much meat into the grinder at once can strain the motor (in electric models) and make it difficult to grind the meat efficiently.
  • Don’t Use Damaged Equipment: If any part of the grinder is damaged, such as cracked plates or bent blades, don’t use it until these parts are repaired or replaced.
  • Avoid Putting Hands or Fingers Near Blades: Always use a stomper or pusher to feed meat into the grinder. Never use your hands to push the meat into the feed tube.
  • Avoid Leaving the Grinder Wet: After cleaning, thoroughly dry all parts of the grinder to prevent rust and corrosion.
  • Don’t Ignore Safety Instructions: Always follow the manufacturer’s guidelines and safety instructions, especially for electric models.
  • Avoid Using the Grinder on an Unstable Surface: This can lead to accidents or spills, especially with heavier electric models
  • Don’t Rush the Grinding Process: Forcing meat through the grinder too quickly can result in a poor grind and put unnecessary strain on the grinder.

    In addition, always remember to keep your equipment clean and sharp, as this greatly affects the quality of the grind and the longevity of your grinder. This pro-tip, combined with regular maintenance and safe operation practices, can make a significant difference in your meat grinding process.