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Is buying a meat grinder worth it?

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I know the title question is a bit open ended, but that's really what I want to know.

I grocery shopped yesterday and bought everything I would need to make up a batch of bolognese. Tonight, my ground beef and veal were fine, but my pork had already turned. (I am familiar with the sulfur odor that often comes off of pork that has been packaged, and this was bad pork.) In fact, over the last year, I am about 50-50 on grocery-store ground pork spoilage when using it within 48 of my shopping trip. It's really disheartening. Heck, much of the time, I am loath to cook even hamburgers less than medium-well, because I am skeptical of the beef's freshness. This all has me ready to throw in the towel on grocery store ground meat and get myself a grinder.

I tend to use ground meat about once a week, but if I had a grinder and were buying beef and pork to grind, I might use a little more. I have a KA stand mixer but do not want to deal with the attachment and it's grey ooze.

So, with this in mind, is it worth getting a grinder? What would fit my needs? I would want something that will last--I hate using something for a few years and dumping it because it was poorly made. I am not too particular about manual v. powered, as long as it's well made, durable, and produces a quality grind.

Thanks so much!

Jeremy

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  1. Most grocery stores will grind whatever you pull out of their meat case for you and wrap it as you prefer. That said, I like Bolognese done with a very fine mince instead of grinding. I use the KA attachment now and then and am ok but not bowled over by the result. I have alo ground meat in an FP. The resulting grind is more like Jimmy Dean sausage.

    5 Replies
    1. re: tim irvine

      My thought too. My butcher will grind my meat however I would like and there's none of the grey ooze to deal with.

      1. re: tim irvine

        "Most grocery stores will grind whatever you pull out of their meat case for you and wrap it as you prefer."

        Yes they will, however, depending on the size of the shop and the equipment they have available, they will not grind pork unless they are grinding pork, the same for other meats. Also, again depending on the size of the equipment there is typically more than a half pound of meat in the grinder at any given time. If they break down the equipment and clean it, then put your 1 lb of pork in it, you may only get 1/2 lb or less. This is alo why they don't want to follow with different meat. If they were grinding beef and you asked them to grind more beef, again, only a 1/2 lb or less would actually be what you gave them. My grandfather was a butcher, his small grocery store and my dad had a supermarket for a number of years.

        I have a small electric grinder we bought at Sears years and years ago and I grind my pork for meat balls all the time. The grinder isn't anything fancy, I know places like Caballas sells small grinders for game meat and one of these should work great for a very long time. The one I have has three different plates to get different grinds. Since I've used one for a very long time, I think it's a great idea, especially if you want something other than ground beef.

        1. re: mikie

          I went to my local "organic" grocery store butcher and he ground 1/2 pound of pork for me, so there are some who will do so. What I got was what went in.

          1. re: escondido123

            There's always an exception, but to grind 1/2 pound they must have a very small grinder. If I asked my local supermarket butcher shop to do that, I'd barely get a chuckle. If you have a small shop that can and will do a 1/2 lb special then there's no need for a grinder and you should consider yourself fortunate.

            1. re: mikie

              It's an average size organic/health food market and I do consider myself fortunate.

      2. I have the meat grinder attachment for my Kitchen Aid mixer, and wouldn't part with it. It is not intended for many pounds of meat at once, but for one or two meals' worth of beef or pork or veal, it does the right job. For beef, I use the bigger holes and grind twice. My favorite cuts for hamburger are brisket (use the end that doesn't slice nicely into a roast), sirloin and chuck, in that order. Chuck is a little harder to grind because it has a lot of connective tissue, and you find yourself cleaning out the grinder in mid-job just a little too often for my taste. The stuff literally wraps around the mechanism. Veal shoulder is a fine cut to grind for most applications.

        Nothing tastes as good as fresh ground hamburger. You will never go back. BTW, you can give the meat a light rinse prior to cutting and grinding, then dry it with paper towel to avoid some of the pathogens that tend to stick to the surfaces of meats in the butcher shop.

        Pork is harder to grind because it has a wetter texture, but if you buy loin or shoulder and can satisfy yourself that it is fresh, it always tastes better than pre-ground pork. You have to work with smaller pieces.

        One suggestion I have for you is to consider buying meat that has been cryovac wrapped. I know that it went against everything I ever thought I knew about meat when I first saw it in the supermarket but I have come around. Meats that are cryovac wrapped are actually safer and fresher than food that is re-wrapped at the grocery store. For one thing, the meat is handled a lot less, and there is much lower chance of cross-contamination from other meats, or people. For another, the cryovac does keep meat fresher for a longer period of time because it is air tight. I notice a little bit of a strange storage odor when I open pork or beef, but again, a light rinse and pat dry with paper towels alleviates all of my concerns about the esthetics. I know that the FDA is recommending that you don't wash chickens or other meats anymore, but I am hyper-vigilant about cleanup afterward, and if washing was good enough for my Grandma, it is good enough for me.

        I'd go for a meat grinder in a heartbeat again. Buy either a dedicated machine, which would probably be able to handle a larger volume without getting hot, or add the contraption to your Kitchen Aid for home use. Good luck.

        2 Replies
        1. re: RGC1982

          I'm with you.. if the OP has a kitchenaid mixer already, just buying the attachment is the way to go.

          And let me add.... You know how you need some fat in the meat for moistness and flavor? As much fat as I've ever added to my grinder, I have never had to pour fat out of the skillet when browning. The stuff the supermarket sells must be half lard!..... regardless of what the label says.

          1. re: Dave_in_PA

            Same here, and in fact, no matter how much fat I add, it is still way leaner than 85-15. Some of that grocery stuff is pink, not red, because of all of the fat mixed in (beef that is).

            If I didn't have the KA, I would go with a stand alone. I have tried running five or six pounds of meat through the KA attachment, and I noticed the machine feeling hot, so you need to be sensitive to that. But, for most of the time, it is perfect.

        2. Absolutely get a stand alone grinder, I've had one(I'm about to go onto my 3rd) for about 14yrs . I never buy ground meat due to the store being unable to identify it, even one of our bigger butcher shops here doesn't gring their own anymore. I picked my last one up at a B&D outlet for 50$ and it lasted 5yrs untill I lent it to someone,(the unit it fine but they stripped the auger drive, probably jammed it). I also have the KA attachment and I use that for smaller jobs, the grey ooze isn't really a big deal, the cause is heavily debated but if you have one you know what it is and how to get a minimal amount of ooze.
          This is the one I have but it's branded Black&Decker and I paid 50$

          http://www.sears.ca/product/waring-pr...
          There are hundreds out there, pick one!!!

          1. Feelings about this seem to be highly personal. Some people swear by a grinder but I find them a bother. A couple of things we like at our house have been made for years in a grinder (by other people, not me)---ground ham salad and cranberry-orange relish. I find it's not worth the trouble of setting up and cleaning a grinder and that my Cuisinart can do a good-enough job if I watch it and don't let it go too far. As for meat, I have never had a butcher refuse to grind anything I asked him to grind and I don't doubt he's got a better grinder than I am likely to have.

            5 Replies
            1. re: Querencia

              I'm with you. In a pinch my Cuisinart does a decent job and that includes meat for meatballs, dumplings etc.

              1. re: Querencia

                I concur on the Cuisinart. It is quick and much easier to clean than the KA attachment which we also have and used in the past. But I cannot call what the Cuisinart does 'ground' meat. Chopped is more accurate and the coarseness is easily controlled so that you can have relatively coarse meat for a chili or a meat sauce to a medium for burgers and loafs to a fine for filling a batch of lumpia. I and my wife find it more convenient and versatile. It is a personal choice.

                1. re: Querencia

                  Cleaning a grinder takes 6 min, if you can't spare that time, well I guess you are busier than me.

                  1. re: Querencia

                    I use the FP for my cranberry relish, but I never use it for meat.

                    1. re: Querencia

                      I used to use my Cuisinart, but there is no comparison in the final texture. No matter how I used it, lightly or more toward overprocessed, the texture of the meat is very different from what you get out of a grinder. I would only return to using my Cuisinart if my KA broke and I had to do something in a hurry.

                      IMO, cleaning my attachment is easy. I run the pieces under hot water in the sink to get the meat off , and then I put all but the blade and the little round thing with the holes in it in the dishwasher (blade and round thing are too small), I can wipe the KA off with a sponge and dry it. Cleaning my Cuisinart seems as easy, but more...dangerous. I think the blades seem harder to clean. They certainly seem to be sharp, and harder to handle.

                    2. Given the description of the pre-ground meat available to you - YES

                      I think a standalone grinder made of metal is a no brainer. I've used manual grinders, electric grinders made with as much plastic that the manufacturer can get away with, and electric grinders made with metal. Metal wins, whether manual or electric.

                      Manual
                      - advantages - should last several lifetimes
                      - disadvantages - lot's of arm work especially for large batches and the need to clamp it down
                      Electric
                      advantages
                      - all metal (no fan of plastic)
                      - good for large batches
                      - good lifespan if one doesn't overwork the motor

                      As far as cleaning goes, it's no harder than cleaning a food processor. The ability to control grind quality, with 3 grinding plates, is far superior. I've used a food processor, when visiting friends who didn't own a grinder. It doesn't grind. Useful, for a small batch in a pinch.

                      The one notion not yet addressed. I enjoy using my grinder.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: rosetown

                        Normally I would be with you 100% on the plastic issue, but, and I may be the exception here, the Sears grinder we have that's about 35 years old has a plastic screw to move the meat towards the blade and plate. Now the screw is overmolded on a metal, likely SS shaft that goes to the drive gear and the grinding blade. Also the housing is plastic and the tray and pusher are plastic. We used it a lot with 4 kids back in the day and it still works great now. It's a much less expensive way to get into gringing your own meat and it weighs a lot less so it's easier to more and store when not in use. Like I said, normally I would be in full agreement, but this one has performed well over the years.

                        1. re: mikie

                          I've owned an electric Moulinex grinder (plastic screw and housing) and really put it through it's paces - up to 30 pounds at a time and I also used it as a sausage stuffer. I can't remember which - but either the housing or the collar ring cracked. Still, it served me well. I'm not unhappy that I purchased it.

                      2. Jeremy,

                        First quit buying your ground meat at the mass market places. Try a specialty butcher. Yes, it costs more. That's because it doesn't have all the bad practices and processes that keep making your mass market store bought meat go bad.

                        Really, I pay ~$1 pound more for ground beef at a boutique beef butcher shop. That's all the sell ... BEEF! Comparing their ground beef to a grocery store bought package is like night and day. Theirs tasted like REAL BEEF and the grocery store stuff tasted sort of like beef with off flavored filler.

                        Find a good butcher shop first before you spend your money on the grinder. A grinder makes the most sense to me if you are making your own custom sausage, not for generic ground meat.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Sid Post

                          Thanks for this suggestion. I have tried this to some extent, but I think I need to investigate a bit more. I am in Boston, which has an interesting dynamic. Using ground beef as an example, in my experience, when the grocery store costs $3 / lb, smaller specialty stores like Whole Foods cost $6 / lb, and direct from farmers costs $8-9 / lb. There is a place a few miles from me called the Meat House, and they specialize in meat (go figure!). I should check their prices on ground meats. I know of a few butchers in places like the North End, but as I do most of my grocery shopping with 3 small children in tow, I need my food sources to more readily accessible, at least for now.

                          Thanks

                        2. I love home grinding meat. I refuse to buy ground meat from the store. When I grind at home I'm starting with a clean grinder that is only used for that batch. Yes it is worth the piece of mind and the quality for me to do it at home.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: rasputina

                            Yes I forgot to mention that when grinding at home you can have a nice rare burger without worrying too much, or even a tar tar, wouldn't do that with store bought.

                          2. I got one a manual grinder at Goodwill - $5 with all the cutters, and it has a latch so you can easily open and clean the inside of it.

                            1. For excellent individual grinders with reputable customer service, check out the Cabela's models on their website. Totally worth the money and a blast to play with!

                              1. I used a KA attachment for years but they really do a poor job and smear as much as they grind. The plastic housing on mine split in half.
                                A free standing grinder is well worth the investment. One of the best brands for electric grinders I know of is LEM products.

                                TJ

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: TraderJoe

                                  My wife and I grind all of our meat for soup, pasta sauce, sausage, and other recipes.

                                  We usually do this on Saturday mornings, twice per month, using a stand mixer attachment ( Not KA ). I rinse the attachment out first, and fill one of the kitchen sinks with hot soapy water at the same time.

                                  We then grind according to our coming needs for the next two weeks, and then rinse the attachment and tools off, before letting them soak in the hot soap water. This lifts particles off that might be stuck, and also any fat oils. We return to the ground meat, seasoning, mixing, packaging, and storing in the fridge or freezer.

                                  Returning to the attachments, bowls, push tools, and parts, we take them apart, check, and rinse off before drying and storing away for the next use. Team effort and it takes no time at all.

                                  What do you gain by doing this ?

                                  First, you make the ground product you want and like, and know what is in it ( and what is not ). Second, you save on using the cuts of meat you want, rather than the charge added by the market or butcher. Sometimes ground round is not round, but other " leftover " meats.

                                  And in this case, you control or eliminate any fat in your mix. Take a look at ground hamburger the next time you shop. If " pink slime " got through the description process, how do you know the fat content is really " limited to 15 or 20 % " ? You do when you grind your own meat.

                                  Third, you know that your grinder and attachment is clean, functioning, and sanitary for the next use.

                                2. In a word, yes...it's worth it...for all the points made above.

                                  1. Oh, absolutely! I don't use it frequently, but when time comes for a meatloaf or a pate, I just couldn't go without it. Sure, any butcher would grind a piece of beef or pork, but would they also grind chinken livers tor a nice liverwurst-y spread? Maybe, but I would rather do it all myself - cut off some fat here, add some fat there.
                                    And then of course there is a matter of homemade sausages, prepared with this special attachment. Well, never actually made any, but at last finally bought the attachment :)

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: Bigos

                                      Be carefull, you and your family(and the in-laws,close friends) might just get hooked on your homemade sausage, just as mine did. Here's a site I found most helpfull with getting me started.
                                      http://www.lets-make-sausage.com/inde...

                                      1. re: Dave5440

                                        Sorry, I haven't see your post sooner. Thanks a lot for the link! I really have no excuse now :)

                                    2. I only eat my burgers med rare & am lucky to have a friend who is a butcher that I get my ground meat from. He will eat it raw in front of me so I am confident cooking med rare.

                                      If not for him, for both "taste" and "safety", I would not hesitate buying a meat grinder. LEM makes a #8 heavy duty homeowner electric grinder that if not abused (run for hours on end) should last a lifetime. It can be had for about $235.00 to your front door. Ebay also has used grinders of all qualities on a regular basis.

                                      If you like high quality ground (beef, pork, turkey, chicken or homemade sausage) $235.00 spread over a lifetime is not a bad deal as long as you use it on a regular basis.