The Reason You Should Always Grind Your Meat While It's Cold

It's easy to pick up a pound of ground beef, pork, or turkey at the grocery store, but there's something to be said for grinding meat at home. There's a trick to getting a good grind every time, and it has everything to do with temperature. It's imperative that you keep everything as cold as possible when grinding meat; from the grinder itself to the meat you'll be putting inside, make sure it's chilled thoroughly before getting to work. The warmer your meat is, the more likely it is to coagulate and become difficult to work with, and you can end up with a less-than-optimal texture.

Grinding your own meat lets you have full control over what goes in, from the quality of the cuts to the ratio of fat to lean meat in the mix. You can also grind to the texture you prefer, whether you want a chunkier blend or a fine paste.

Keeping things cold

The best way to keep ground meat from becoming a mess is to make sure everything involved in the process has been chilled before grinding. This starts with your equipment. Put all of the grinder parts, especially the metal parts, directly into your freezer about an hour before you plan to grind. 

Put your cubed meat in the freezer for a short period of time as well; this will help to ensure that the meat heats up as little as possible during grinding and will maintain its texture even as it passes through the machine. Otherwise, you may end up with sticky meat paste gumming up the works, making it difficult to grind, clean, and handle the processed meat for packaging. This is especially true if you need to pass the meat through the grinder multiple times for a finer grind.

Another reason to keep the meat cold? If the fat heats up, it will begin to melt its way into the meat, changing the texture and even the flavor of the ground meat permanently. Even re-refrigerating or re-freezing won't help at this point, so try not to let that fat melt if you can help it.

Uses for home-ground meat

Grinding meat at home can be tricky, but it's worth it for the delicious results. Rather than using what's available at the store, you can grind a custom mix for burgers, meatballs, and even homemade sausage that blows the usual fare out of the water. For burgers, try adding a mix of chuck, sirloin, and brisket or short rib to get a good blend of flavor and fat. For sausage, pork shoulder mixed with a medley of spices and herbs such as sage and nutmeg will turn out something delicious for the breakfast table.

Don't have an at-home grinder? You can use a food processor, but go slowly to avoid over-processing the meat. Food processor meat will have a different texture to it than meat that's been ground in a traditional grinder, so be aware of that. 

And, as with traditional grinding, keep everything as cold as possible, and be sure to clean your equipment thoroughly afterwards.