I never considered grinding my own meat until I moved from NYC to Berlin. Here, I've only been able to find ground beef, which means I have to go out of my way if I want to cook with another ground meat, like turkey, pork, or chicken. If I'm craving meatloaf or ragu, I either have to ask my butcher to grind the meat specifically for me, or do it myself.
For a long time, I avoided the inconvenience entirely by simply subbing ground beef into recipes that called for another type of ground meat. The thing is, though, ground beef isn't always the best option for whatever you're cooking. For example, when I tried to use it in place of the pork in homemade dumplings, they would end up tasting completely off. After a while I found myself getting so annoyed about it, I figured it was finally time to look into grinding my own meat.
While I initially thought I'd have to buy a meat grinder to achieve my dreams of freshly ground chicken and pork, I quickly realized that my trusty food processor was all I'd need. In a matter of pulses, I was using freshly ground chicken to make some of the most tender chicken meatballs I've ever eaten. The results were so good, I doubt I'll go back to the store-bought stuff, even if I have the chance to.
Even if you have easy access to pre-ground meat, there are a few great reasons why you should consider grinding it on your own. Here's why I think you should give it a shot, plus how to do it, according to the experts.
When you're grinding your own meat, you can grind any kind of meat you want.
The biggest advantage to grinding your own meat is that you get to be creative, Grant Hon, executive chef at Omaha Steaks, tells SELF. You can really grind just about anything that you want, whether that's duck for burgers or lamb meatballs. And since it's rare to see these alternative kinds of meat available pre-ground, having the option to grind them yourself really opens up a world of cooking possibilities.
And you can control how fine or coarse you want the grind.
Hon says that another great thing about grinding your own meat is that you can control exactly how the meat turns out. You get to decide whether you want the meat to be super fine for a dumpling filling or meatballs, or a bit larger for a chunky chili or taco filling.
Plus, you can ensure there are no gristly bits in your meat.
Before you actually start grinding the meat, you should take the opportunity to cut off the gristly, chewy bits that occasionally plague ground meat. This is a huge plus to grinding your own meat, Simon Ellery, owner of The Sausage Man Never Sleeps, a butcher shop in Berlin, tells SELF. He explains that it's harder to know exactly what is and isn't in your meat when you buy it pre-ground at the store, but when you make it yourself you can do your own quality control.
If you don't have a meat grinder, you can use your food processor like I do.
While the experts agree that the best way to grind meat is with an actual meat grinder, a food processor can definitely get the job done. The only thing they say you'll want to keep in mind when working with a food processor is that the motor can heat up the meat if you let it run for too long. Be sure to only use the pulse button, which will chop it in short bursts and keep your food processor's temp down.
Before you grind the meat, chill it in the freezer for 30 minutes.
Hon says that it's best to work with cold meat—it cuts more evenly and cleanly that way—which is why you should pop it in the freezer until it's had a chance to develop a light icy crust before working with it. (This will also help keep the food processor cool as you grind it.) Pop it into the freezer about 30 minutes before you're ready, and it'll be good to go.
Then, chop it into pieces small enough for your machine to handle.
This will depend on the size of your appliance. In general, one- to two-inch cuts of meat will be a good size to aim for, but use what you know about how your food processor works to make the best decision. If it can typically handle larger loads, you may not have trouble with bigger cuts; if it usually can't handle much, keep the cuts small and work with a little at a time. Working with smaller amounts will also guarantee that the meat is ground evenly.
Transfer cut meat to the food processor and pulse it repeatedly.
Pulse the meat until it reaches your desired consistency. Check it after every two or three pulses to ensure that all the meat gets fully ground.
Then, get cooking! Here are some ideas you can start with:
Baked Sweet Potato With Ground Turkey, Kale, and Avocado
Feel free to experiment with the type of meat you use in this earthy dish. For example, pork would also pair nicely with the sweet potato and kale. Get the recipe here.
Beef Taco Rice Bowl
Chicken or turkey would both work nicely, too, in this spicy rice bowl. Get the recipe here.
Cheeseburger With Herb Corn Salad
Burgers are all about the meat, so use them as an opportunity to experiment with flavorful, alternative options like lamb or duck. Get the recipe here.