The meat grinder was first invented at the end of the nineteenth century, in 1897, when it served the same function as modern food processors do: it enabled fast chopping of meat and vegetables for cooking.
Over the years, the basic design of manual meat grinders has remained the same but it is not much more specialized, with its various components being optimized for meat grinding.
As such, it has become almost a household staple for many people, easily letting you grind meat without any of the hassles of having to use your knife skills to mincemeat.
It is also invaluable in restaurants and catering services as it drastically reduces prep time for cooking.
As such, knowing the basics of meat grinders as well as how and whether to buy one can be an invaluable time saver.
- Meat Grinders: The Basics
- Benefits of Using Meat Grinders
- Meat Grinder Buying Guide – What to Look Out For When Buying
- Electric Meat Grinders
- Grinder Attachments and Add-Ons
Meat Grinders: The Basics
As their name suggests, meat grinders are, obviously, used to grind meat.
However, beyond this superficial definition, they have more technical definitions and specifications which are useful to know if you own once so that you can understand how your grinder works, thus making assembly easier to perform.
Meat grinders are machines which push meat or meat cuttings and trimmings through a tube or barrel and use pressure, provided by the handle in manual grinders, to push it through a knife, which cuts the meat down to size, after which it is pressed through grates with specially shaped holes in them.
These holes determine the texture, thickness, and consistency of the ground meat that comes out of your grinder.
This basic design is used by both types of meat grinders available today: manual and electric.
Manual grinders are extremely simple in design, consisting of a hopper in which the meat is initially placed, the internal grinding mechanism described above, and a plate on which the ground meat comes out. The pressure for grinding the meat is provided manually by rotating a handle.
As such, manual meat grinders require a considerable amount of physical effort on your part to grind meat. Because of this, they are only used to grind small quantities of meat and are common for private use, especially in households which don’t eat ground meat too often.
Due to these limitations, they are also generally quite small in size.
Electric meat grinders, on the other hand, are ideal for grinding large quantities of meat and are hence the preferred grinders for private users who incorporate a lot of ground meat into their diet or for professional catering and restaurant services as well as for large-scale industrial meat grinding.
Electric meat grinders are much more specialized and complex in their design than manual grinders. They too contain a hopper and a plate for placing and collecting the meat but are different in most other aspects.
They consist of a motor which is responsible for providing the pressure for pushing the meat through the grates .
This motor generally ranged from 100W to 500W in power and the greater the power rating, the more meat it can grind in an hour .
The cutting blades in electric grinders are generally made of stainless steel, to prevent rusting and excessive dulling over time.
Generally, an electric grinder will come in three sizes for the grates: fine, medium, and coarse, although specialized attachments are also available.
Finally, electric grinders can also come with different sized funnels through which the meat is pushed.
These funnels are often used while making sausages and the size and shape of the funnel is instrumental in determining the type of sausages you can make .
As such, these specialized funnels are another specialized feature that manual grinders don’t have.
Benefits of Using Meat Grinders
Everything from burger patties to sausages requires ground meat and many people do not like buying pre-packed ground meat from the store due to its dryness and lack of taste.
Furthermore, most professional chefs and caterers require freshly ground meat every day and do not and cannot rely on store-bought substitutes.
In cases like these, meat grinders are capable of making life in the kitchen much easier for everyone from rookie cooks to seasoned professionals.
Speed up the things!
They significantly speed up the time required to grind meat. If you do not grind meat too often, then a manual grinder is an easy-to-use alternative for small portions of meat.
For large portions of meat, electric grinders don’t require any physical strain on your part to produce large amounts of ground meat, producing anywhere from 140 lbs to 360 lbs of ground meat per hour for smaller grinders to thousands of pounds for industrial-level meat choppers.
Improve Consistency of meat
Apart from the ease and efficiency of use, grinders are also capable of changing the consistency of the ground meat in a range from fine to coarse, letting you customize it to your dish. They also come with a variety of attachments for specialized purposes.
For instance, some grinders come with sausage tubes as well as specialized plates for sausage stuffing which lets you make sausages of varying shapes and sizes at home.
Kibbeh attachments are also extremely common. Some grinders can also be used to grind meat with bones for pet food and also chop vegetables or grind nuts, thus making them all-in-one food processors.
Thus, meat grinders don’t just ease your work in the kitchen and drastically increase your efficiency but also let you make a number of dishes at home which you would otherwise have to purchase.
Meat Grinder Buying Guide – What to Look Out For When Buying
Meat grinders are not extremely complex machines and are thus generally easy to decide on.
They only have a handful of factors that you should consider while narrowing down your options, thus making it possible to get the ideal grinder without spending too much time worrying about specifications and technicalities.
The general factors that you should consider are listed below.
1) Consider Your Usage Patterns
This is the first thing that you should consider when you are deciding what type of meat grinder to buy, since the answer to this while determining the subsequent considerations.
If you do not intend to use a meat grinder too often or you do not use ground meat in your diet or prefer to buy it from the store, then you should consider a manual grinder.
Manual grinders are extremely straightforward to use, although they generally require a bit of assembly when you buy them, and do not have the kinds of specifications that electric grinders do .
In case you purchase a manual grinder, you need only consider things like the size of the hopper and plate and the kinds of grates that come with your grinder.
In case you intend to use a grinder frequently or need larger quantities of meat ground, then manual grinders are extremely impractical and you should definitely go with an electric grinder. Electric grinders need more consideration before buying, and the subsequent points shall deal with them.
Electric grinders, too, however, are of different types. Small electric grinders, which fit on a kitchen top, are ideal for small to medium catering services and restaurants.
However, if your order sizes and clientele are extremely large or if you require industrial-scale meat grinding, then there are large electric grinders called stuffing grinders which sit on the floor, rather than on a kitchen surface, and can produce large quantities of ground meat.
2) How much you want to spend
Price is, of course, an important consideration while deciding any purchase but it is generally an easy factor to negotiate when it comes to meat grinders because of how uniformly many of them are priced.
Manual meat grinders, for instance, tend to be much more inexpensive when compared to the electric grinders.
Electric grinders are also generally very similar in price, with most grinders being below $100.
Furthermore, online retailers such as Amazon tend to sell these grinders at significantly marked down rates, which makes them even more affordable.
Speciality grinders, which can cost upwards of $1000, also exist but are generally of no interest for private users and even for most commercial users. Manufacturers of such grinders include companies such as LEM.
Generally, professional grinders such as the Weston (08-0801-W) or LEM Products .75 HP cost between $200 and $500 .
3) Motor specifications
This applies solely to electric meat grinders.
The specifications of your motor determine the amount of meat that is ground per minute and hence the stronger your motor the more efficient is your electric meat grinder.
Generally, electric grinders for domestic purposes have motors which range from 100W to 500W of power, with 300W being the average amount .
Industrial sized grinders can have motors which can go as high as 3000W, which results in extremely fast-paced production of large amounts of ground meat .
Depending on how much meat you intend to grind and how fast you want it done, you should buy a grinder with higher power for larger amounts while regular amounts can be managed with smaller power ratings.
For instance, the Gourmia GM525 has a motor power of 500W and is capable of grinding chunks of meat at the rate of 1 pound a minute, with larger cuts of meat taking slightly longer to up to 1 pound of meat every 2 minutes.
4) Functionality and Features
The kinds of tasks that your grinder can accomplish are extremely important in deciding what sort of grinder to purchase. Manual grinders can only perform the most basic function of meat grinding and hence do not serve any other purpose.
However, electric grinders have various functions. For instance, they should be capable of grinding not just cubed meat but also large cuts at a fast rate.
Furthermore, you should always check whether your grinder is capable of grinding bones as well if you require boned ground meat .
Apart from this, you should check further specifications of your grinder, such as whether it is also capable of making ground meat for sausages.
As such, these functions should be considered alongside the additional attachments that are available with your grinder.
As stated before, most grinders come with three grates for meat grinding, allowing you to change the consistency between coarse, medium, and fine.
However, grinders can also come with other specialized grates and you should always check the number and kinds of grates that are included in a grinder.
Furthermore, additional add-ons should also be kept in mind while making your choice.
For instance, some grinders come with varying funnel types which means that they can also be used to make sausages, a feature which not all electric grinders have.
A popular grinder which comes with sausage attachments is the STX International STX-3000 Electric Meat Grinder.
Other attachments include different sized hoppers and plates as well as attachments for making dishes such as kibbeh .
6) Durability and Size
The final factor to consider is the physical specification of your grinder.
Generally, most grinders are made of stainless steel as this tends to be extremely durable, prone to rusting, and the sharpness of the blades doesn’t dull too quickly. This also makes it easier to clean out with water.
Some electric grinders do also have plastic bodies, but stainless steels ones are generally more preferable.
Furthermore, some older style manual grinders use grates which can rust, so you should always check the grate specifications before purchasing such a grinder.
Size considerations are also important, especially if you intend to buy your grinder for personal use. This is generally not a problem for manual grinders, which tend to be much smaller in size than electric grinders.
However, if you tend to use your electric grinder quite often and don’t intend to constantly dismantle and re-assemble it for use, then you need to consider its dimensions when making your decision.
However, very compact grinders also tend to have smaller and less powerful motors so if your space is extremely constrained then you’ll have to make a trade-off between your grinder’s power and efficiency.
Electric Meat Grinders
Electric meat grinders have become extremely popular over the last few decades, easily surpassing the conventional manual grinder in terms of popularity.
These grinders have a number of features which make them preferable to manual grinders.
The most obvious feature is the fact that they increase efficiency, with models such as the STX International STX-3000 being marketed as being able to grind up to 360 lbs an hour.
They also require no physical effort on your part, thus making them very easy to use.
Electric meat grinders also come with a number of attachments which make them suitable for specialized uses and for making a variety of different dishes.
Apart from this, some grinders are also capable of grinding bones, which means that you can make pet food using boned meat with them.
These grinders can also come with reverse switches which help in unclogging plates which have meat stuck in them, a process which has to be done by hand in manual grinders.
As such, they can increase safety in certain respects.
Industrial level meat grinders are capable of extremely high outputs of ground meat, between 35 and 40 pounds of fresh meat in the case of the Hobart 4732-35-STD # 32 Meat Chopper, for instance.
They also come with a number of features, such as specialized seals, which prevent moisture from entering or escaping, thus ensuring hygiene and preventing the meat from drying out at the same time.
Grinder Attachments and Add-Ons
Most grinders, even manual ones, come with a number of attachments and add-ons which can greatly enhance the functions of your grinder.
Indeed, while considering a grinder you should definitely look at the attachments and add-ons that you will get when purchasing it.
Almost all grinders come with 3 plates which allow you to change the consistency of your ground meat between fine, medium, and coarse.
Alongside this, grinders can come with multiple knives. You should always check for the number of knives and grates you get and whether you need to purchase them separately or not.
You should also look for stainless steel plates and knives since these don’t rust and last longer.
Furthermore, specialized grates with different holes also exist, which can range from use in making stuffing to preparing mixtures for sausages.
For sausages, some grinders also add sausage tubes of different sizes along with kibbeh attachments.
Another common add-on is a meat pan which can collect the meat after it has been ground as well as meat pushers, which push the meat into the auger, and meat knives to separate the ground meat from the plates as it comes out.
Finally, some companies also send cookbooks or recipe pamphlets which let you explore the various features of your grinder while cooking.
Meat grinders are one of the most useful kitchen appliances around, being able to easily provide you with freshly ground meat which has greater flavor and a better texture than the commercially available versions.
Electric grinders can also greatly reduce the effort you have to put in to grind the meat, thus making it possible to use them on large scales, from house-run catering services to restaurants and even industrial-level production.
These grinders also come with a variety of attachments which let you specialize your grinder for certain dishes, such as sausages, and even let you decide the consistency and texture of your ground meat, giving you greater control over how and what you can cook.
By keeping in mind only a handful of salient factors while looking for an electric grinder, you can easily purchase one which lasts for a long time as well as satisfies all your needs.