Why you should grind your own beef
With the recent and repeated E. coli scares with beef, meat safety is more important than ever. When beef gets ground in factories or even at the butcher shop, it is more likely to be exposed to bacteria such as E. coli, which puts you at risk of foodborne illness. Grinding your own meat can reduce the chances of E. coli contamination as well as give you ground beef that tastes far fresher than ground beef from the supermarket meat counter. Here's our handy guide to grind your own beef at home.
Benefits of grinding your own beef
Although you may think meat from your local grocery store is ground daily, in most cases it is not; it is often ground a few days or even a week before you buy it. As ground beef sits in the meat counter, it begins to lose quality and flavor, and is more likely to become contaminated compared to freshly ground beef.
Freshly ground beef is safer
Grinding meat is like cutting up a vegetable, once it gets exposed to air, it's quality begins to wane and it becomes more vulnerable to bacterial contamination. Grinding your own beef increases the safety of all of your ground beef dishes.
Grinding your own beef means great taste
Another benefit of grinding your own beef is a fresher and cleaner taste because the ground meat hasn't had a chance to lose its flavor while sitting in a meat counter.
Home ground meats are customizable
Grinding your own meats also allows you to customize fat content and even make ground meat combinations, adding other meats, such as pork or veal.
How to grind your own meat at home
Figure out your fat
Depending on how fatty or lean you want your ground beef, you can choose between the different types of USDA grades and fat contents. For burgers and meatballs, opt for beef with a little more fat, such as chuck. For fewer calories and fat, choose less fatty cuts, such as round, but understand that the leaner the ground beef, the less juicy it will be.
Experiment with different cuts
To save you time at home, purchase boneless cuts of beef, and certainly opt for the freshest cuts of beef or fresh cuts that are on sale. Chuck, sirloin, tenderloin, ribeye, and filet are tasty choices. You can even splurge and use Kobe or Wagyu for some of the best burgers or meatballs ever.
Learn your equipment
If you own a stand mixer, you can purchase a meat grinder attachment for fairly cheap. It will come with a few different blades, letting you choose the texture of your ground beef. The medium blade is a good choice for regular ground beef, but if you want it ground finer, grind it once through the medium blade and then through the smaller blade. If you don't own a stand mixer, consider a tabletop grinder, which can be either electric or hand cranked. Steer clear of plastic grinders as they easily get clogged or break. Go with grinders made of stainless steel or cast iron. Be sure to read the manufacturer's instructions before you start grinding.
Safety first: Keep things clean
The biggest benefit of grinding your own meat is to keep it safe from bacteria. That, however, requires you to be diligent about keeping your equipment and work area clean. Here's how:
- Before you start, wash your counter space and every part of your grinder with soap and water, even if it's brand new.
- While grinding the meat, keep the work area clean and never reuse utensils or cutting boards that have had raw meat on them.
- Once you are done grinding your meat, grind a few pieces of bread to help remove grease out of the blades.
- Take the grinder apart and wash it thoroughly again with soap and water. Dry the best you can with a towel.
- Allow grinder parts and grinder base to air dry completely -- never put parts away wet.
- To store grinder, place each piece in a ziplock bag. When finished, wash your hands and the counter well with soap and water or a disinfectant.
Proper storage for ground beef
Ideally, grind beef just before you plan to use it, which will give you beef that is ultra-fresh. You can also grind beef and freeze it within one to two days of grinding, wrapped well in plastic wrap. When freezing, label the beef with the date and use it within four months. When storing ground beef to use within a couple of days, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and keep it refrigerated in the coldest part of the refrigerator.
Prepare for cooking
Depending on the recipes you plan to cook, before storing or freezing, shape beef into patties, meatballs or even mini-meatloaves to save you prep time when you want to cook them.