Meat Processing Equipment 101 - Grinders
Meat Processing Equipment 101 Meat Grinders
Attend this entry level class from Meatgistics University by watching the video, reading the article and post any questions you have!
What Are The Main Functions?
The main function of a grinder is to take a whole muscle cut of meat and break it down into a ground format that can then be seasoned, cured, stuffed into a casing and then cooked.
How Do They Work?
Electric grinders have a hopper at the top where you load your meat that you are preparing to grind. The hopper has a hole in it that leads down to the throat of the grinder where an auger that is powered by the motor pushes the meat towards the plate and knife that will curt and grind your meat. The grinding knife goes behind the plate with the sharpened surface facing towards the plate, this cuts the meat and forces it through the holes of the grinding plate, the larger the holes on the grinding plate the faster your meat will grind and the coarser your product will be. Many products need to be ground twice, sometimes through a larger plate first and then through a smaller plate and sometimes twice through a larger plate.
How Important is it?
It depends on what type of meat you will most often be starting with. If you are going to be starting with whole muscle cuts then it is the most important piece of equipment that you can have! Other than a Bowl Chopper, which is an expensive commercial piece of equipment, will allow you to take a whole piece of meat and break it down into a ground product.
Like we said above, a Bowl Chopper will offer you similar functionality but the cost makes them unreasonable for the home processor. The main alternative to a Meat Grinder is to purchase already ground meat. If you want to make snack sticks you can buy ground pork, seasoning and cure it and then use a Sausage Stuffer to stuff it into casings.
Should You Buy One
If you are choosing between a grinder and stuffer to make meat sausage at home I would say a wild game processor should go with the grinder as it will allow them to break down the carcass and stuff and the person using beef or pork should get a sausage stuffer and buy pre-ground meat from the store.
Best Choice For Beginners
The Weston #12 750 Watt Meat Grinder is a nice choice for beginners as it gives you a medium-sized plate, with a powerful enough motor to break down larger cuts while staying under $200.
Grinders come in different sizes with different grinding capacities, the number associated with the grinder corresponds to the size of the head assembly as well as the plate and knife you can use with that grinder. Standard sizes are #5, #8, #10 and 12 which are the same size, #22 and #32. A #5 grinder will use a plate that is 2-1/8" in diameter and generally has the ability to grind around 2-3 lb of meat per minute under ideal circumstances.
A larger grinder like a #32 grinder will use a plate that is 3-15/16" in diameter and something like the Weston #32 Pro Series can grind upwards of 18 lb a minute. The power on a meat grinder also plays an important role in how many lb a minute it can process and how long it can be run for. Power can range from 500 watts on a small #5 up to 2 horsepower for the Weston Pro #32 series. The amount of horsepower is important as this is what drives the auger in the head assembly and more power means you can grind faster and use larger chunks of meat saving you processing time.
Some meat grinders do have the ability to act as sausage stuffer as well as a grinder. You can switch out the plate and knife for a star stuffing adapter, attach a stuffing horn and stuff your ground product into casings or meat bags. While the stuffing capability is a nice thing to have it is much harder and will take longer to stuff with your grinder versus using an actual sausage stuffer. Because of the pressure required to stuff a product into smaller casings meat grinders will not work on anything smaller than a bratwurst or hotdog sized product.
Both plates and knives are available in both disposable and sharpenable versions. Disposable should be used until they are dull and then thrown out, sharpenable plates and knives can be sent into Walton’s and we will sharpen them for a small fee. These types of plates and knives are more expensive initially but it is much cheaper to have us sharpen them than buy new ones, plus they are made to a higher quality and will give you a better-finished product. You can see the difference between a disposable and sharpenable knife just by looking at it, the disposable will look like a pinwheel and just has a flat edge, the sharpenable knife has a quality piece of steel on each arm that sticks up from the body.
The only kind of dehydrator I’ve used for snack sticks is a jerky dehydrator. The snack sticks will shrivel just like jerky but maintain the flavor.
I’ll try to upload a pic. The ones on the left are the dehydrated sticks and the ones on the right were slow cooked in an oven.
Has anyone tried to dehydrate snack sticks instead of using a smoker?
Tonight’s dinner is a spatchcocked whole chicken marinated in my fermented chili sauce. Sides of grilled sweet peppers from the garden and rice.