OK, here’s the truth of the matter – in the South, a lot of people raise their own meat, slaughter their own meat and/or hunt their own meat. But, if you can’t or won’t do any of that, the next best thing is to grind your meat.
Why Grind Your Own Meat?
1. It tastes better.
And by “better,” we mean WAY better. It’s the difference between fresh eggs from backyard chickens and the cold as ice kind at the supermarket. Fresh ground meat tastes like pure beef, which is pretty darn good if you ask us.
2. It looks better.
We eat with our eyes and let’s face it, ground meat from the store does not look appetizing. It’s a mound of slightly pink, greyish (and getting greyer) unidentified meat parts. We’ve heard something called “pink slime” is involved? Fresh ground meat is ruby red, speckled with fat and as no knowledge of anything called pink slime.
3. It smells better.
Gone are the days of picking up your nose as you carefully cut that plastic off your mound of ground meat parts. You know the smell – it’s not quite spoiled, but it’s not quite right either. Well guess what freshly ground meat smells like? Nothing! No smell = pure beef flavor. Smell = on-the-verge-of-spoiling flavor. You decide.
How Do You Grind Your Own Meat?
1. Get a grinder (duh)
We admit it: We use a grinding attachment for our stand-up mixer. We should use an old-school heavier than a pile of bricks manual grinder. But we don’t. The attachment is easier, quicker and there’s less clean up. If you don’t have either, you could get by with a food processor, but we wouldn’t advise it for anything other than emergencies.
2. Keep it cold, and by “it” we mean everything.
Bacteria grows in warm, wet areas. The solution then is to keep your grinding materials and your meat cold and dry. Thankfully we have, in modern society, the perfect place for that – the freezer! We keep our grinding gear in a heavy Ziploc bag in the freezer at all times so it’s always ready whenever we need it. As for the meat, keep it cold too. Some say it grinds better if it’s even a little frozen, but we’ve never noticed a difference. As long as it’s fresh and reasonably cold – you’re good to go.
3. Choose your meat, Grind Your Meat
The beef standard in our homes is a chuck roast. It’s flavorful, fatty, cheap and will do a masterful job at anything that calls for ground beef. Sirloin works well to, but it’s a little pricier. Just make sure it’s cold, trim off a little of the silver skin and cut it into 1/2 inch chunks or so. You’ll want to keep an eye on your fat content as you trim, but we won’t tell you how much fat to leave in or leave out – that’s a personal preference, a right really. Now, it’s time to grind.
If you’re using a mixer like we do, the best speed to set your grind at is 3 or 4. Anything slower and things start to get stuck, anything faster and things start to get messy. It’s a simple process really – plug it in, turn it on an drop a 2-3 chunks of meat in at a time. Use the plastic hammer tool to give the meat some help going down (don’t substitute a wooden spoon for this. We learned the hard way that ground meat and wood shavings don’t mix). Just let a bowl or pan catch the meat on the other side. Voila!
Once you become accustom to grinding your meat, you may get the itch to do some experimenting. Our favorite is a secret combination for burgers of chuck, ribeye, pork fat and brisket. Oh, and before we forget – you can grind more than your own beef. Poultry works great too.
No matter what cuts of beef you use, take care of it. Don’t man-handle the grind too much or you’ll lose the tenderness. Don’t spice it up too much or you’ll cover the amazing fresh-ground-beef flavor (the whole point). A little salt and pepper will do.
4. Clean, Clean, Clean
Listen, anyone who tells you grinding your own meat is just as easy as buying it pre-ground, is lying to you. It’s not, but nothing worth anything ever is. And frankly, if adding two or three simple 5-minute steps to the process is just too much work for you, then you’ve got bigger problems than pre-packeged ground beef. But, we digress – after you’re done cutting and grinding, put your fresh ground meat in the refrigerator and clean your station. Disinfect your knives, cutting boards and grinding parts. If you’re using an attachment to do your grinding, most of those parts are dishwasher safe (see, we told you it was easier). After all your grinding parts are cleaned, put them in a Ziploc and back in the freezer for the next time.
5. Eat. Smile. Eat Some More.