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Test Drive: Meat Grinders

The best options for home use, from the basic manual to powerful electric models.

Fine Cooking Issue 98
Photos: Scott Phillips
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If you’re one of those people who likes to know exactly where your food comes from and how it’s prepared, then a meat grinder might be your next great purchase. Skip the prepackaged ground meats from the grocery and instead buy quality cuts and grind them yourself. You choose the meat, the amount of fat, and the grind, all of which means your hamburgers, meatloaf, sausages, meat-based sauces, and pâtés turn out the way you want them to. Opt for a big, electric meat grinder or a more compact, inexpensive option. Read on to find out which grinder is right for you, and which we liked best in each category.

Three ways to grind:

Before deciding on what kind of grinder to buy, consider how often you’ll use it, how much meat you plan to grind, and your storage space. There are three choices:

Manual grinders make sense if you want to experiment with grinding meat but aren’t ready to make a big investment. This style of meat grinder is perfect for modestly sized grinding tasks, such as a few pounds of meat at a time.

Mixer attachment grinders are the happy medium if you already own a stand mixer. The attachments fit right onto your mixer, and they offer the streamlined benefi ts of a motorized unit without the bulk and noise that comes with an electric grinder.

Electric grinders are great if you intend to regularly grind meat or make sausages. These grinders are about the size of a food processor and weigh nearly as much. While noisy, they’re designed for grinding meat quickly and cleanly, and they do it very well.

The Best Manual Grinder:

Weston Deluxe Manual Tinned Meat Grinder
$22.91; morningbite.com
Size: 11.75×4.25×8.5 inches

This size 10 cast-iron manual grinder is perfect for the home cook who wants to grind a few pounds of meat at a time. Its rubber-padded clamp was easy to secure to a countertop, and the 3×4-inch hopper opening was roomy and easy to load with the meat. Most important, both the hardened-steel grinding plates and blade were razor sharp and ground with ease.

Our Favorite Mixer Attachment Grinder:

Cuisinart Grinder Attachment
$128.95; cooking.com
Size: 10.5×6.5×8 inches

This grinder attachment is well constructed and efficient. It’s smaller, easier to store, and much quieter than the electric models we tested and uses the power of the stand mixer’s motor for more kick than a manual grinder. Simple to attach and operate, it has thick grinding plates and a sturdy, sharp blade. It comes with fine, medium, and coarse grinding plates, and the food pusher has a detachable lid to hold the extra accessories. (If you own a Viking stand mixer, their grinder attachment performed on par with Cuisinart’s.)

Two Great Electric Grinders:

Waring Pro’s MG800 Professional Meat Grinder
 $169.95; williams-sonoma.com
Size: 15.25x9x10.25 inches

This grinder is pricey but worth it. With a heavy-duty 450-watt motor, sturdy metal base, and extra-large hopper (not to mention a five-year warranty), it gets the job done right and quickly. It boasts a reverse function to help avoid clogging, and the food pusher has a compartment inside for storing attachments. But the best feature of this grinder is the toggle switch, a nice touch because you don’t have to search for the on/off switch when you’re in the middle of grinding.

Maverick Deluxe Food Grinder MM-5501
$89.95; comforthouse.com 
Size: 12.5×7.5×9 inches

For a lower price tag, this model has a lot to offer (though it has only a 90-day warranty and some plastic parts). It has a 575-watt motor with reverse capabilities, and a reset thermometer that automatically turns off the machine before the motor can overheat—a great feature that helps avoid smearing fat as you grind. The grinding plates and blade are made of stainless steel for rust-free storage.

What to look for:

All of these grinders worked well, but which you choose comes down to the following:

Manual grinders bolt or clamp to the edge of a countertop or a table. They come in numbered sizes, ranging from 5 to 31; for home use, sizes 8 and 10 are best because they’re not too big yet can still grind 2 to 3 pounds of meat per minute. The most inexpensive choice, manual grinders require the most elbow grease.

Mixer attachments range in quality of construction; some are not as well built as their stand-alone counterparts. Check that the model that fits your stand mixer has a large hopper with plenty of room to feed meat through the machine. Also, look for sharp steel grinding plates and blades.

Electric grinders range in price depending on the power of the motor. Extra features like thermostats and reverse functions make grinding easy, but those features add to the price of the grinder, so assess your needs before buying.

How we tested:

A grinder’s ability to grind several pounds of meat quickly without clogging, overheating, or smearing the fat is key. We ground about 5 pounds of cold, cubed boneless pork butt and pork fat back through nine widely available grinders (two manual, three mixer attachments, and four electric).

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