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Nov 23, 2009 05:45 AM

Pros/Cons of in house grinding for burgers

Its easy for any jerk off the street to say that a burger restaurant should grind in house. However there are many factors that have to be considered such as capital for equipment, source costs, labour costs, etc.

How do you chowers feel about this in comparison to outsourcing a grind of beef?

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  1. A meat grinder - even a professional grade one - is not that expensive. Labor costs? Any prep cook can learn how to put the meat through it without getting his/her fingers into the mix. As for source cost - cheap cuts make the best burgers.

    So I don't see any reason other than laziness for any place above crap level (I.e., places that serve only Sysco prefab frozen entrees) not to grind their own.

    2 Replies
    1. re: BobB

      I agree with everything BobB has written but I can think of one reason why a place wouldn't grind their own meat. Space issues. I've seen some tiny restaurant kitchens and a grinder could compromise space. There are some really great purveyors so if you get your grind fresh from them daily or several times a week I can excuse not grinding in house but I can't see any reason you someone would use lousy Sysco crap.

      1. re: BobB

        I agree with BobB; it's not expensive to grind your own meat..the place I worked has a industrial mixer that comes with a meat grinder attachment. We used the trimmings from our prime rib and other cuts of beef to make burgers. Everyone in the kitchen could figure out how to shove the meat through the grinder; it's not hard. One could actually save money by making their own burgers.

        You can find a reasonable priced grinder by checking with restaurant supply houses, restaurant auctions and online.

      2. And the biggest plus: ability to offer customers burgers cooked to specification (rare, medium rare) without worrying so much about e. coli.

        1. Years ago in Los Angeles there was a restaurant group (2 restaurants) called Hamptons that ground their own meat fresh daily. I think they're gone because people
          could care less whether the burgers were ground fresh or not, but were being charged a premium price. Maybe they were ahead of their time?

          Looking at machines, I think at around $3,200 this Hobart would be the smallest you could get away with using for an operation of that type.
          What if the machine breaks down? You don't have a spare.
          Would take a full time person to trim, grind and mix the meat (it's not only one cut of chuck, but a mixture) and push through a 100 lbs. or so a day through that machine.

          There's a famous place in San Francisco called Joe's Cable Car Restaurant which was featured on Diners, Drive-In's & Dives where Joe's been grinding his own burgers fresh since 1965.
          (Look...Joe's uses the same Hobart machine I was talking about
          )$10 for a plain quarter pound burger. How many people are going to buy that?
          Some mixed Chowhound reviews

          I don't think it's being lazy, is it a cost effective business model.

          5 Replies
          1. re: monku

            Houston's does it everyday. I think it helps explain why their burgers are so popular, even though they're close to $20.

            1. re: Azizeh

              Houston's isn't a "burger" restaurant.
              Had it once and said it was great, but what am I thinking paying $16 for a burger.
              There's a limited market for a $16 burger.

            2. re: monku

              You wouldn't need a $3200 Hobart - right here on Chowhound is an article ( that highlights a Hobart for under $2000. And even the $160 Waring Pro on that page (full disclosure: I own that model) could easily do 100 lbs a day if you wanted it to, it's solidly built and has a 450W motor. At that price a restaurant could afford to own several, or even keep one as backup to a Hobart. You're way overexaggerating the cost.

              1. re: BobB

                "You're way overexaggerating the cost"
                Hobart Model 4412 you're quoting has a 1/2 HP motor the Hobart Model 4422 I'm quoting has a 1 1/2 HP motor and will grind 12-20 lbs/minute as opposed to the 4412 which will grind 8 lbs./minute.

                As far as that Waring Pro, you'd burn the motor out in in less than a week at 100 lbs/day. 450 watt motor is nothing, a hand held hair dryer is rated at 1,000 watts.

                I've worked in restaurants and bought restaurant equipment, it's expensive and no matter what you think, stuff for your kitchen doesn't hold up in a commercial environment and isn't as practical or economical. Even a simple appliance like a home blender wouldn't hold up for long behind a commercial bar.

                1. re: monku

                  A home model is probably not NSF-approved nor as easily sanitizable.

            3. Outsourcing ground beef to specs is definitely done, but it isn't practical for a mom and pop operations that's why they use places like Sysco. There are contract minimums and prices will fluctuate with the price of beef suppliers.

              1. It really depends on the restaurant... size of the menu, number of covers they do, size of the staff, amount of space, etc. Grinding burgers in house isn't particularly hard, but there are hidden costs in it that may be unappealing for restaurant owners.

                And yes, equipment built for home use will generally break down in a matter of a few months when used constantly in a restaurant environment, not to mention parts that constantly get lost or broken.

                Besides, restaurant burgers aren't simply limited to ground-in-house vs. frozen box from Sysco... there is a wide spectrum in which one can still say burgers are made "in house".

                3 Replies
                1. re: Blueicus

                  Suppliers like Sysco also sell 10 pound rolls of fresh ground beef that restaurants can use to make burgers....

                  1. re: Cherylptw

                    What does "fresh" mean? Does it mean it isn't "frozen"?

                    McD's must use frozen because they never use the word "fresh" and In-N-Out uses "fresh" (they say so). Between those two places I can tell the In-N-Out burger is tastier and sometimes jucier. Wendy's says "never frozen" and their burgers seem to be juicy most of the time.

                    Went to a place called "The Bucket" (known for their burgers and long ago owner who would insult everyone who came in--that was his schtick) in the Los Angeles area. Watched the guy remove a large beautiful looking patty (it was a nice bright red) from the fridge grill it up it looked nice and juicy while it was cooking, but it didn't have any "beefy" taste to it at all.

                  2. re: Blueicus

                    "Besides, restaurant burgers aren't simply limited to ground-in-house vs. frozen box from Sysco... "

                    Yup. In NYC, some of the best burger restaurants don't grind their own meat, including one that charges $26 a burger.