How to Grind Your Own Meat
Despite the fact that we primarily eat a plant-based diet, if my husband and I were stranded on a desert island and had to choose just one meal to have for the rest of our days, we would pick hamburgers. But not just any old burger. It would have to be a juicy, perfectly seasoned hand-packed patty in between a soft yeast hamburger bun and piled high with fresh toppings.
Oh man, that would be quite an island.
For the last two years, I have been wanting to try grinding my own hamburger meat. I already owned the KitchenAid food grinder attachment (Amazon), which sadly I’d only used for fruits and vegetables. I wanted to see what else this baby could do.
Recently The Oregonian‘s FoodDay section featured Secrets to Building a Better Burger. Tip #1? Grind your own beef. With a summer’s worth of grilling ahead of us, I was ready to take the plunge.
I started doing my research. By the third online forum, I was getting seriously bogged down. People have some strong opinions about what makes the best burger. Short ribs! Bacon! Fat! Brisket! Urgh. I was starting to have second thoughts about this whole experiment.
Then I came across an article by Ryan D’Agostino, featuring Bobby Flay, grill master extraordinaire. In Esquire, of all places. It was so clear and simple; I was back on track and ready to grind some meat.
First stop, New Seasons meat department, which is pretty much the only place I buy meat anymore. (New Seasons is a Portland, Oregon-area market focused on more natural/organic food.)
While my kids entertained themselves with mini carts, I explained my plan to one of the butchers. He grinned at me, leaned across the counter, and told me about the best burger he’d ever eaten. It was created one night when he was working late. He ground up some leftover beef cuts and grilled it into the stuff of legends. All of this was spoken in a quiet, conspiratorial tone, as apparently after-hours meat grinding is frowned upon. I knew I was talking to the right guy.
According to Bobby Flay, keep it simple. 85% chuck steak and 15% sirloin steak will give you a good meat to fat ratio. Different cuts will give different results, but for now my goal is just to figure out the basics. Throw in some extra trimmings to bump up the fat content a bit; I prefer burgers with around 20%. Don’t be intimidated by this step. It really does come down to personal preference (a good butcher helps, too).
Butcher Guy and I settled on a combination of chuck roast and Denver steak, which is a nicely marbled cut and a bit cheaper than sirloin. My grand total for meat came to just under $16, or about $8/pound.
So here’s the rub. I can buy ground beef for almost half that price per pound at New Seasons. It is ground daily and tastes great. So if you are comparing home-ground beef with high-quality, locally-raised ground beef, you probably won’t notice much of a difference. It would be hard to justify the extra expense.
However, if you are comparing it to a frozen pre-formed patty or a tube of neon pink ground beef shipped from Kansas and made from who-knows-how-many different cows, you will definitely taste the difference.
Once ground, the two pounds of beef that I purchased resulted in seven good-sized hamburger patties. Figuring in the cost of homemade buns and simple condiments, we still ended up with seven delicious restaurant-quality hamburgers for around $20. Not bad.
The first step is to cube the beef into 1-2″ chunks. Freeze on a parchment-lined baking sheet until firm but not frozen, less than an hour.
I think my hands might have started shaking a bit at this point. The anticipation was killing me. And this is coming from someone who really, really hates dealing with raw meat. I set up the grinder attachment and started dropping in cubes of beef. The machine immediately became clogged. I was making mush. Ack! My husband, who happened to be walking through the kitchen at just that moment, came to my rescue. “Um, I think you forgot the blade.” Right. I could see how that would be important.
With the blade installed, the grinder worked like a charm. Seriously, I had a dumb grin on my face and had to resist the urge to run out the front door and announce to the world, “I have ground meat! From meat!” Pretty much like Tom Hanks in Castaway. There is just something incredibly satisfying about gaining greater independence by figuring out a new skill.
The ground beef was light and moist and perfectly flecked with specks of fat. It was not slimy or mushy at all, more like steaks that had been ground into hamburger meat. Imagine that.
Because the meat will still be cold, it is really easy to handle. Working quickly, shape it into uniform patties. You don’t want to overwork the meat or pack it too tightly. According to Flay, “You want a little bit of separation so the juices can run through and actually create lots of moisture from the fat when it melts.”
I made an indentation in the middle of each one with my thumb; this prevents them from getting too thick as they shrink during cooking. Thanks for that, Rachael Ray. It is quickly becoming apparent that I would be lost without the Food Network.
Season both sides with salt and pepper. Roasted Garlic also tastes amazing.
I flash froze the extra hamburger patties on a parchment-lined baking sheet before sliding them into a storage bag for a quick dinner down the road.
Cook on a hot outdoor grill or indoor grill pan, flipping once, until desired doneness. Don’t press the burgers down on the grill, as this causes the juices to run out. Add cheese? Yes, please.
An internal temperature of 160, or well done, is what is recommended by the USDA. If you are buying fresh meat from a reputable source, you should not get sick from meat that is still a bit pink, so consider the source.
And as always when dealing with meat, avoid cross-contamination by keeping your work area and serving platters separate and cleaning everything with hot, soapy water or a mild bleach solution.
By grinding your own meat, you can create a seriously delicious, perfectly customized hamburger. Add Homemade Hamburger Buns to the equation, and the results will pretty much blow you away. Both are great opportunities to be more of an active part in creating the food that you place on the dinner table.
The steps for grinding meat were so much easier than I thought they would be, and the results were more than worth that small time investment. In the future, I plan to watch for sales ($4-6/pound) on quality beef cuts that contain a good meat to fat ratio for use in hamburgers, tacos, or meatloaf. I would also like to try chicken or pork. Sausage? Somebody stop me!
Do you grind your own meat? What advice do you have for the rest of us?
The KitchenAid Food Grinder Attachment for stand mixers is compact, affordable, and easy-to-clean. Available on Amazon, this versatile tool grinds everything from meat to beans to produce.
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Linda Silbernagel says
Buy half of a beef from a farmer and have it butchered. Way cheaper.
Try going online to find a Stainless Steel Attachment for your KA..
MUCH more durable from comments I’ve read on various sites
You can find them online, or on eBay…. That’s what I’m going to do
CANNOT WAIT !!!
I love to bring my meat with my kitchen aid. It has an amazing taste. Even home made sausage is amazing with being able to control everything. I would put my sessions on the meat as I grind it. Through a few fresh dices onions and jalapenos.
Fascinating article; I love the way you write and your humorous take on things. But I hope there will NOT be a subsequent article on how to slaughter the animals before grinding the beef.
Love the article and thanks for the “reminder” about the blade! 😛 I am going to try this for meat loaf, add some other items for seasoning and see who’s world I can rock!
I’m not a fan of the kitchaid grinder when I could hear the motor and it took so freakin long to grind meat. So honestly we went back to the hand grinder which really isn’t that bad and put out way more meat and faster. I love my kitchaid mix but there are just some things I won’t do with it. We do a lot of meat since my hubby hunts, and even his first use of the KA grinder he was not impressed. I think we got our hand crank grinder for less then $50 at cabelas. I’m so glad we didn’t get rid of it before trying the KA.
I love my kitchenaid grinder! We usually grind it with 75% beef and 25% bacon for bacon cheese burgers. Not particularly healthy but definitely good! The leftover ground meat goes into meatloaf or meatballs for later.
I have one and I love it. Have made sausage (ohhhh, it was goooood) and tandoori chicken burgers (no need to chop all the herbs/green onions etc… just rough chop, pop them in the grinder with the meat and spices and delicious pours out!)
Sheri E. says
My mom used to grind some of the leftover of too tough venison and elk and would mix it with a little mayo and chopped celery and who knows what else for sandwiches. I want that attachment for my Kitchen-Aid.
I too use Safeway and Albertsons to grind my steak into burger. Way tastier and often as lean as I want it! For about half the price of lean burger elsewhere if I wait for sales.
Jan is right about Safeway. When London broil is on sale, I ask the butcher to grind it for me and into the freezer it goes. I especially love it when I can combine it with some other offer Safeway has going at the moment. I had about 50 pounds ground the first of the year and only paid about $1.40 a pound after a Just4you and ranchers reserve offer.
I am sure you have done tons of research on your plant based diet, however
I can across this article and thought I’d share. I am a believer in real food, and unprocessed meat, the way God intended us to consume food. My hope is you would at least consider additional input on why we DO need meat (regularly) ……real meat that is.
Emily from Frugal Living NW says
Hi, Marissa! I’m convinced there is a study out there that supports and/or negates pretty much everything. 🙂 This article definitely makes some valid points. We are not “strict” plant-based eaters, however. It would actually be more accurate if I called our diet an “everything in moderation” plan (close to the author’s own conclusion). With the exception of butter. And sugar. And coffee.
Our bodies feel good eating this way, including meat as we crave or are offered it, which ends up being several times a week. I would never claim this is a “superior” or “healthier” way of eating, as the article critisizes, but for now it is working well for us!
Thanks for the link!
Good to know about KitchenAid Food Grinder Attachment! My mom in law gave us a KitchenAid mixer, but honestly I wanted to have a grinder instead… So now I can use it without hurting her feelings. lol
Anyway, my favorite ground meat is pork 2: beef 8 which is quite common in Japan. Pork is cheaper and has nice fat, so try it ;-)) Also, ground chicken & tofu is super tasty and cheap, but this one needs some tricks, or mixture gets watery.
The butcher at Safeway told me that they will grind any of their boneless cuts to order for free while you wait (they won’t grind marked down meat). When they had boneless sirloin on sale for $5.49 and BOGOF, I had them grind one package for me and it was some of the best ground beef we’ve eaten in years, and only $2.75/lb.
Emily from Frugal Living NW says
Totally forgot about this service. Thanks for the great tip, Jan!
I miss the BOGO meat deals. It has been way too long. Sorry to hear they won’t grind the clearance stuff. That would be perfect. 🙁 But I understand with expiration dates usually very close, they can’t risk cross contamination.
So fun to see meat articles! Thanks.
I grind chicken all the time and use it to make chicken burgers, or for use as a substitute in hamburger helper (if I’m running short on time), tacos, stews, etc. I grind it, cook it, then package and freeze so it’s ready to go. Saves on time and is cheaper than hamburger! 🙂
I have had pretty good luck with making hamburger with my grinder. A bit more with home made pork sausage patties, with a bit of maple syrup and brown sugar.
It really is so fluffy when its fresh ground!
If my husband has a successful hunting season this year, I’m inviting you over to help us turn venison meat into hamburger. Those burgers look delicious!