It’s that time of year when the days are growing a little cooler and hunting season is kicking off. Before you end up overwhelmed with beautiful freshly harvested venison and other goodies, here is how you can get extra points for making the juiciest burgers and tastiest meatballs all year long – by learning how to grind meat at home!
How to Grind Meat at Home:
Watch Georgia take you step-by-step in her latest Modern Pioneering episode:
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Here is the visual step-by-step:
One thing I learned from this is that once you make the commitment to grind your own meat, you’re never going to want to go back. If you don’t have the time and need to go with pre-ground, don’t be afraid to ask your local butcher to grind your cuts fresh for you. My local grocery has no problem accommodating me when I ask. (The only caveat to this is groceries and butcher shops can’t grind meat you bring in; it has to be purchased there.)
Another perk to grinding your own meat is that you get full control over what goes into it. It is also a good way to stretch your budget by buying cheaper or discounted cuts in bulk, freezing them, and putting them to use later.
Which Cuts to Choose
Picking your meat comes down to one basic question; what do you have? I was making meatballs so I went with a blend – 3 lb. chuck roast with a nice vein of fat through it, 3 lb. of venison (1.5 lb. ham and 1.5 lb. back strap) I had in my freezer and, because the butcher was out of fat trimmings, a little over 1 lb. of fatty pork belly. This gave me a roughly 20% mix of meat to fat which is just right for meatballs. (Almost all recipes call for some fat; more on that later!)
When it comes to meat grinding supplies, there are a few essentials. A meat grinder being the most obvious. I use the basic KitchenAid KSMMGA Metal Food Grinder Attachment, 2.5 lbs, Silver attachment because, while it maxes out at 5-7 lb. per session, it suits my needs. It’s not the quickest nor most powerful option, but was relatively inexpensive at $40 (mine came with the sausage extruder) and gets the job done. If I find my life goals shift and I suddenly need to grind 150 pounds of meat in an hour, I’ll probably upgrade to one of these bad boys.
- Meat Grinder with 2 grinding dies – 1 coarse and 1 fine
- 2 large stainless bowls or other receptacles – one for storing your meat and one for catching your ground product
- Kitchen scale – A must for any kitchen; allows you to measure by exact weight
- A calculator – To calculate fat percentage there is a simple mathematical formula:
Total weight of lean meat Xs Desired fat percentage = Total weight of fat needed
(Example: 7 lb. meat x 20% = 1.4 lb. fat (or) 7 x .20 = 1.4; Final weight totals will be 5.6 lb. lean to 1.4 lb. fat)
Once you have your supplies together, a few things to take into consideration are the capacity of your home grinder and what you are planning to do with the final product. In other words; how much can you grind and are you going to use it all or store some for later? The basic KitchenAid grinder I use maxes out pretty quickly so it was important for me to figure out its capabilities ahead of time. This is no harder than taking a look at your owners manual for technical specifications and warnings. (For example – leaving your best neckties and other dangling head and neckwear in your closet (that’s no joke!) before hitting the ‘on’ switch.) If you don’t have a paper manual, all major manufacturers post their manuals on-line and a quick search using your grinder’s model number will get you what you need!
Fat to Lean
Fat ratio matters! Whatever your intended end state may be – burgers, meatballs, sausage, salami, etc – will determine how much fat you need to throw into the mix. While you can get away with grinding 100% lean meat (like venison or elk), a little fat can go a long way to enhancing mouthfeel and texture. It is also more difficult to form 100% lean meat into a patty because fat is what helps it all stick together. For burgers, 10% fat is a good minimum. For sausages or meatballs however, the 20% range is best. I could also get all food sciencey here and explain how fat affects our sense of taste and how feeling full depends on a certain amount of fat in our diet, but I’ll spare you…
With a calculator, the math isn’t that scary at all! If you know your total end weight (lean meat + fat), you multiply it by the percentage of fat you want in the end and the number that comes out is the weight of fat you need to add. You can pick up fat in the form of beef or pork trimmings at almost any butcher shop or grocery store. You may also find it pre-packaged in the pork display. Here it’s called ‘hunters mix’ and can be easily located during the fall hunting season.
The only other ‘tricks’ to home meat grinding are to make sure that you cut your meat into appropriately sized chunks for your grinder and freeze it ahead of time. Freezing your meat after it is cut keeps the texture from getting gooey as your grinder works. It may also prevent overheating.
And once you’re done grinding the meat, try making Georgia’s sausage recipe.
Whether or not this is your inspiration to try this at home OR you’re a seasoned meat grinding veteran; let us know what you think in the comments section below! You can find us on Instagram @georgiapellegrini and on Facebook for more delicious ideas for your game meat this season!
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Grinding Meat at Home Using a Kitchenaid Meat Grinder
- 3 lb. Beef Chuck Roast
- 3 lb. Venison
- 1 lb. fatty pork belly or fresh pork fat trimmings
- Cut all meat pieces into approximately 1 inch by 1 inch cubes
- Mix together in a large bowl and place in the freezer for 1-2 hours - or until the pieces are semi-solid
- Assemble your grinder per manufacturer, using the grinding die with the larger holes and place it in the freezer to chill; about 15 minutes
- After attaching the grinder and placing a bowl under the 'business end', fill the hopper loosely with meat pieces and turn the mixer on to the recommended setting - for Kitchenaid that is level 4
- Working at the pace of your grinder gently press the meat through the hopper, alternating somewhat between lean and fatty pieces as you go, until all of your meat has been used
- Cover the bowl of ground meat and place back in the freezer for another hour or two
- Clean and reassemble grinder attachment using the fine grinding die; place in freezer again for 15 minutes
- Repeat grinding procedure, this time with the coarsely ground meat from earlier