Maybe you think you want a new meat grinder and aren't sure if it is worth the cost to have one instead of having your butcher do it. (It's SO worth it! They are so easy to use and clean!)
Maybe you got a second-hand grinder and have no idea how to use it or take care of it? (eBay is a popular place, after all)
Maybe you just like looking at posts that have lots of pictures of cool kitchen equipment in them? (Yeah... me too!)
Anyway you look at it, I'm glad you're here. We're going to talk about Meat Grinders. Many people own a grinder (and yes, you CAN use a grinder for stuffing, but I don't recommend it). True sausage enthusiasts own both a grinder and a stuffer.
I am the proud owner of a Northern Industrial Electric Grinder. I own the #12, which can be found here: http://www2.northerntool.com/food-processing/grinders/item-168620.htm I got mine on sale for $99 (as a birthday present)
So let's get dirty:
Why grind your own meat at all? Well... I like to know what I am getting in my meat. If you intend to eat/serve anything below the USDA minimum temperatures, you absolutely 100% need to grind your own. I like to pick out blood clots, extra fat and small bone chips:
Regardless, any grinder out there needs what I like to call "Rough Chop" to be able to accept meat properly. Rough Chop is generally 1" or 2" squares, trimmed of greasy, slippery fat, blood clots chunk-ed out.
After careful consideration, I chose my Northern. I love that my box was not only strong enough to ship in, but sturdy enough to store in:
Once you pop it out of the box, it looks like this:
Yay! The box itself is compact and easy to clean. If I have one complaint, it is only that the cord (tucked in the back) is kinda... short. I had to buy an extension cord.
My Northern came with three grinder plates (aka die) small, medium and large. it also came with a knife. As a precaution: I bought two extra knives when I placed my order. I did this because they were included with the free shipping and because it is nearly impossible to get grinder blades sharpened. It was $20 for both.
To be fair, my grinder blades had been used several times before I took this picture. I will talk about the care of the blades themselves later..
There are four other parts we need to concern ourselves with. The hopper:
And of course, the nut, the neck and the screw:
You may notice my parts look "funny." Frankly there are two reasons for this. Reason #1: I store ALL metal parts in my freezer. The freezer is an excellent place to keep things cold *and* most modern freezers are excellent dehumidifiers.
Also? I clean my parts in bleach and high temperatures. THIS MAY GO AGAINST YOUR MANUFACTURERS RECOMMENDATIONS. Many of my parts are discoloured due to oxidation. I prefer my cleaning methods to having "pretty metal." Please do what makes you the most comfortable.
The neck of my grinder has a notch that matches the notch on the grinder itself.
To keep the neck in place, there is a screw to tighten on the side. This feature is pretty consistent on most grinders:
Next step is to add the screw to the grinder. Base goes in first.
The knife, or blade, goes in next. For this grinder, the blade itself goes toward the front, as shown below. I have found this "order" to be consisent with every grinder I have owned. ALWAYS consult your owner's manual first.
Next step is to select your die (or grinder plate). A "rough grind" is a large die, a "fine grind" is a small die. I have sleceted my smallest die and am pointing out my die has a notch. This notch lines up with the tiny post on the grinder's neck.
All lined up:
To hold all of this in place, you just need to slide the nut on and tighten:
The hopper goes on top and we are almost ready to go:
The hopper only holds so much meat:
I like to grind my meat into a bowl kept in ice (sausage = EVERYTHING COLD)
It is so important to clean the meat before you grinf it. Large chunks of fat will cause a fatal error we sausage enthusiasts call "smear." Smear is when fat begins to clog the die itself. Often you can tell when this is about to happen as the meat becomes FAR lighter in color and appears "softer."
So... You grind!
(Part Two to be edit/finished early tomorrow morning....)