When you grind your own hamburgers you are assured of the freshest meat, just the right fat to lean ratio, and you know that the meat hasn’t been contaminated by an improperly cleaned grinder, and if you cook it promptly, there is less time for microbial growth.
Click here to read my article on the Science of Hamburgers. It has a discussion of the best cuts for grinding, minimizing health risks, forming proper patties, tricks of the masters, mix-ins, cooking techniques, and much more.
Regardless of the tool, begin by removing any silverskin, cartilage, and bones. Then cut the meat and fat into 1 to 1″ to 1.5″ cubes. Chill the meat after cutting to make it stiffer. I’ve been known to put the cubes on a cookie tray in the freezer for up to 30 minutes. Just don’t freeze it or the ice crystals will begin to tear open the cell walls and make the meat mushy.
There are three good tools for grinding your own:
1) Food processors. Cuisinarts and other food processors will make fine burgers. In fact I think they are better than real grinders when it comes to tough cuts like skirt and short rib meat. The Hamilton Beach 10 cup Chef Prep 525-Watt Food Processor is a good deal. There are bigger fancier better models, but if you are watching your budget, start here.
Cut and partially freeze the meat as described above. Work in small batches, just enough to cover the blades, and pulse the processor for about one second 15 to 20 times until properly chopped evenly, just a bit coarser than what you used to buy. If necessary, lift the top and move the meat around in the bowl to make sure all chunks get chopped. Better too coarse than too mushy. If you have several batches, keep the unprocessed meat in the freezer. Dump the ground meat onto a plate or tray and remove any gristle.
2) Hand operated meat grinders. These are what grandma used, they are inexpensive, and last forever. Same process. Cut and partially freeze the meat. I prefer a coarse grind. Do not double grind. Once is enough.
3) Stand Mixers. These mix wet ingredients at a range of speeds, can knead bread or pizza dough, and the meat grinder attachment is an inexpensive way to amp your burgers up to 11. The process is the same as above. Cut the meat into chunks about 1″, partially freeze, and grind.
16 ounces choice grade chuck or boneless short ribs
Usually about 20% fat right out of the package
12 ounces choice lean beef such as brisket flat, skirt steak, flank steak, or sirloin trimmed of all fat
4 ounces beef fat. Butchers will usually give you this for free. Ask for more than you need and wrap it tighly and freeze it.
13 ounces chuck, about 20% fat
3 ounces raw fatty bacon, chopped. Grind it with the beef.
When you are done grinding, gather the meat on a tray or in a bowl and handle it as little as possible. Clean the grinder thoroughly with soap and hot water before you load into the dishwasher. If you don’t have a dishwasher, it’s a good idea to submerge the parts in boiling water for a minute. Dirty grinders are a major source of food-borne illness.