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Grinding meat with a food processor


JAZ
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In Mark Bittman's recent NYT article on burgers, he recommends using a food processor to grind meat. It's not the first time I've heard or read this suggestion. It's attractive to me because I'd like to be able to grind my own beef once in a while. I don't want to buy a grinder if I don't have to.

So I've tried it, but with dismal results. What am I missing? I did what the instructions said -- cut the meat into 1- or 2-inch pieces and process a little at a time. I ended up with chunks of meat virtually the same size as when I started, plus a little bit of meat goo. Was it that my blade wasn't sharp enough? It's old, and I have the kind that can't be resharpened; does that mean I need to buy a new one?

Or is this really not possible? I know a couple of friends who've also tried it, also with no luck. What's the story? Has anyone done this successfully?

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Smaller pieces (1 inch cubes, max) and use pulse to grind it. I much prefer an actual grinder, but the food processor thing works in a pinch. A dull blade would make it much harder... The ones that can't be sharpened are usually serrated, if you've got a cheapo rough grit water stone you can grind the blade smooth and sharpen it. I've had good luck doing that with a few different things.

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Quickly looking at the article, I noticed that he recommended doing a pound at a time in a 12 cup processor. I have always done way less, maybe just barely one layer of 1/2" to 1" meat cubes at a time. Definitely pulse, or you'll end up with meat paste, which is good for gyros, but not for burgers.

Edit to add that my FP blade is very dull, and I have never had problems.

Edited by phong (log)
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Janet, how cold was the meat? After I cut it into cubes, I stick it in the freezer for a few minutes. Plus, my FP is new and the blade is razor sharp (learned the hard way).

Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"
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I tried this years ago after seeing Alton Brown do it on his show (A Grind is a Terrible Thing to Waste; find the transcript here). His technique is almost identical to Bittman's; my results were almost identical to Janet's.

All of this advice is good, I think, but I have to wonder why neither Bittman nor Brown, both helpful and usually thorough types, mention any of it. This leads me to conclude, initially at least, that a sharp blade is essential -- it's not something that Bittman and Brown would need to worry about, or even think to mention.

I give credit to Bittman for making me want to get out my hand-cranked meat grinder.

Dave Scantland
Executive director
dscantland@eGstaff.org
eG Ethics signatory

Eat more chicken skin.

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I've gotten it to work ... pre-chopped with a knife to very small pieces. more like 1/4 inch. then pulsed carefully, with the processor much less than half full.

I'd think a real grinder would do a much better job, but I've never had one.

Partially freezing the meat is probably a good idea, as is using a blade that's sharper than mine (not quite blunt but getting there).

Notes from the underbelly

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Freezing the blade also helps -- just like grinding instructions; put everything in the freezer before processing.

Jaz, do you have a KitchenAid? Their grinder attachment is pretty inexpensive and what I use to grind meat now.

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I do this fairly often, but I can only reiterate several points that have already been made:

I never do more than 1/2 pound at a time. (If I need to grind more I'll get out the KA w/grinder attachment)

I cut the meat into slightly smaller than 1" cube, and chill it in the freezer.

And I use very short pulses!

SB (the processor is so much easier to clean than the grinder though .... :wink:

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I have a recent-model Cuisinart food processor with a super-sharp, barely used blade. I've cut meat into 1/2" dice and partially frozen it. And the results with a food processor still suck. The comparison between a food processor and a meat grinder is similar to the comparison between the results from a chopper-style coffee grinder and a conical burr grinder. When you use the chopper blade, you rip, shred and pulverize inconsistently. You wind up with a combination of goo and chunks (in coffee grinding they call it sand, pebbles and boulders). When you use a real grinder, you get consistent size and texture throughout. And the KitchenAid grinder attachment is simple to clean if you just put it in the dishwasher. If you already have a KitchenAid mixer, it's only $30-$35 to get the grinder attachment NIB or MIB on eBay.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Not to mention that you can't get "ground meat" out of a food processor. The best you can hope for is "minced" which is not quite the same thing. Bittman's no fool, I know, and I have to believe he knows that processor-minced meat is a poor substitute for the real thing. Nevertheless, it's a fact that a food processor is a ubiquitous piece of equipment in the American kitchen whereas a meat grinder (or grinder attachment) is not. In order that his article appeal and apply to the maximum readership, the responsible thing to do was give instructions for using the food processor.

My favorite KA grinder attachment anecdote is when Fat Guy and I were doing some hamburger formulation experiments over at his place. Steven and Momo picked me up with my KA grinder attachment, we shopped for meat and went over to Steven's to prepare a few dozen test burgers. Here's the thing: I had previously cleaned the grinder attachment and soaked it in bleach to make sure it was optimally clean. It looked clean enough to be a surgical instrument. Nevertheless, Momo's bulldog nose immediately detected meat, and he was interested in what was inside my bag from the moment I got in the car.

Edited by slkinsey (log)

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I wouldn't grind meat in a food processor, but I understand whay so many do. So perhaps this few poiner will help:

1. As many have said before, cut the meat in smaller pieces

2. Keep everything in the freezer before grinding: the meat, the blades and the food processor's cup

3. It's very important to sharpen your blades before attempting this

4. Don't attempt this if your food processor doesn't have a strong enough engine (i.e. the blades don't turn fast enough)

Follow me @chefcgarcia

Fábula, my restaurant in Santiago, Chile

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I wonder what would happen if, instead of the chopping blade, one were to use the shredding disc.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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i have fabulous results with my food processor. i haven't bought ''ground'' meat of any variety since i tried using the fp to grind/chop some lamb for larb a few years ago. cold meat, cubed to about one inch or so. i toss in five to seven hunks at once; never more than one layer in container. quick pulse until i achieve the results i want. occasionally i need to move it around a bit if it seems to be hung up in one place. maybe it's all psych, but i swear nothing i've bought ground tastes as good as the results i get with my fp.

i've never had a problem with getting a hunks/meat paste combo.

of course, next time i do it... :raz:

Judith Love

North of the 30th parallel

One woman very courteously approached me in a grocery store, saying, "Excuse me, but I must ask why you've brought your dog into the store." I told her that Grace is a service dog.... "Excuse me, but you told me that your dog is allowed in the store because she's a service dog. Is she Army or Navy?" Terry Thistlewaite

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maybe it's all psych, but i swear nothing i've bought ground tastes as good as the results i get with my fp.

It's absolutely not psychological. There is a huge difference between meat ground fresh and pre-ground meat that was ground God knows when. When Steven and I did the hamburger experiments I mentioned above, we bought a "control" package of just-out-of-the-grinder meat from the same (very high quality) grocery store where we bought the whole pieces of meat we were grinding to order. By the time we tested a hamburger made from the pre-ground meat, our palates had become adjusted to the taste of fresh-ground meat. We both spit out the bite we took from the pre-ground beef hamburger and started laughing. It was not a subtle difference.

This difference is, I think, primarily due to oxidation. But it's also a fact that you really have no idea what meat they're putting into ground beef. This is especially true if the meat is ground in a big processing plant somewhere instead of on-site at the grocery store.

All this is to say that I'm not surprised that you're seeing a huge difference between pre-ground meat and minced meat from your food processor. But I bet you'd see an even bigger difference if you were able to make double-ground meat in a home meat grinder.

Edited by slkinsey (log)

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I've done it both ways. If I am cooking burgers for a crowd, I pull out the old fashioned meat grinder and double grind. If it's just hubby and me, I use my fp and make "chopped steaks" instead.

I do prefer the mince from the fp for chili and meatloaf though.

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Well, you've just about convinced me to go out and buy a grinder attachment for my Kitchen Aid. Before I do. . .which cut of meat do you recommend for grinding?

This sounds like a marvelous way to spend this next weekend. . .

Jenny

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I agree with the beef chuck. I have had excellent fresh burgers using chuck blade steaks. They are small enough so you don't need to buy a lot for just one or two burgers. You can usually pick and choose for the right fat content too. Cubed when just stiff from the freezer does the job. I have the KA attachment and also send it through twice for burgers. Really worth the effort.

HC

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Chuck steak seems to have quite a lot of gristle in it - do you guys trim it all out? Just seems to me that it might be a lot of work to make burger meat if you have a lot of chuck steak to trim - maybe it's the cuts we get here are different, but they are loaded with gristle...

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