I have long wanted to try grinding my own beef to make hamburgers from scratch. This desire grew stronger after seeing the movie Food, Inc.; I haven’t been able to eat commercially ground beef, and more specifically, a fast food burger since. That doesn’t mean I haven’t had a hamburger in the last 2 years, but when I want a burger, I usually make one at home with organic beef (albeit imported from Australia, so not exactly local). Since I’m a do-it-yourself kinda gal with a healthy dose of “Type-A” personality thrown in, I thought I’d opt for a little more control over my burgers and make my own from scratch.
A little while ago I was approached by Pleasant Hill Grain, a Nebraska-based company which specializes in quality kitchen equipment and supplies who asked if I wanted to try their Maverick 5501 Meat & Food Grinder. I already have the meat grinder attachment for my KitchenAid mixer and I thought it would be interesting to compare the functionality of the two grinders.
The Maverick Meat Grinder
Out of the box there was something I immediately knew I was going to like about this grinder. It has a much lower profile than the KitchenAid. In order for me to get enough leverage to push the meat into the grinder on the KitchenAid, I have to stand on something (2 thick phone books to be exact) because once it’s set on top of a 36″ high counter it’s just too tall for me to use comfortably. The Maverick is about 6″ lower and thus, much easier for me to use.
The machine comes with three different sized grinding dies; 1/8″ (fine), 3/16″ (medium) and 5/16″ (coarse) as well as a kefka attachment, a sausage stuffer attachment, and cookie dough extruder with 5 shapes. It has a 575 watt motor, which is larger than the basic KitchenAid stand mixer, and should grind over 23 pounds of meat in only 10 minutes. It can be used for grinding vegetables, cheese and nuts too. I’d love to know what people make with ground vegetables or ground nuts in bulk.
The grinding function works like a champ, without ever slowing down. There’s a reverse feature (something the KitchenAid does not have) but I never had to use it. I cut up the meat into chunks the size of the tube, layed them out on a tray in the freezer until almost frozen (don’t try it frozen solid) and they slid though the grinder in a matter of minutes. I formed the ground beef into 5 oz portions and then pressed it into a round cookie cutter ring the size and thickness of a typical burger so the patties would be “pretty” and cook evenly (see below for photos).
For people who are going to be grinding a lot of meat (10 lbs or more to make a big batch of sausage, for example) the Maverick would make much shorter work of it. The KitchenAid works well for small batches, but the motor seems to tire after a while when running it for a long time. The Maverick just keeps going. For someone who is serious about making sausage or grinding your own meat or vegetables for a large family, at about $100 this would be a very good investment.
The sausage stuffing function works just fine, very similar to the KitchenAid. We made Kielbasa Polish style smoked sausages (to be detailed in a later post) and they came out great. We also made a 5 pound batch of Italian sausage and it was very quick and easy.
A note about the beef:
Once the grinder arrived I was faced with the dilemma of what cut of beef to buy for my burgers and really, what kind of beef; commericially raised? grass fed? organic? I did a little research and the most typical cut of beef used for those grinding their own for burgers is the chuck roast because it’s well marbled and usually fairly inexpensive. Some people also recommended mixing in some short ribs for extra flavor. Others add extra beef fat or sometimes even pork fat. A good juicy burger its usually 20-25% fat.
Keep in mind, the typical hamburger meat used in fast food is not coming from a single cut of meat, but rather all the scrap meat off many different cows, mixed with fat and well, I’m not going to get into the rest of it because I don’t want to turn you off compeltely.
I wish I could say I found amazing-grass-fed-organic-locally-raised -beef for my burgers, but alas I did not. That magic combo of beef continues to be elusive to me, at least in a manner I can afford. Using the Australian organic ground beef as my benchmark for cost $3.99 per pound, it was hard to consider paying substantially more for meat I was going to grind up into burger. What I ended up with was a well marbled 2.5 lb piece of chuck roast from my local market for $2.99 per lb and honestly, the end product was really very good.
Make sure everything is very clean; your hands, all attachments, even rinse and pat dry the piece of meat you will be grinding before cutting it.
Chill everything and do it in batches, keeping everything as cold as possible to prevent bacterial growth.
Make sure the meat is well chilled before putting it down the grinder for stuffing sausages. This will make the process much easier; as the meat warms up, it sticks to the sides and makes it harder to process.
This contest is now closed
Pleasant Hill Grain has offered to give away one of the Maverick 5501 Grinders to one of my readers. All you need to do to enter is visit their web site and take a look at what else they have to offer. Then come back here and leave a comment with what else you’d like from them, besides a grinder. They have a lot of cool stuff from dehydrators, to grain mills, to mixers and bake-ware. They even carry commercial meat grinders if you are looking for something bigger. My choice (besides the grinder) would be their food saver machine, something I’ve always thought would be useful in the kitchen.
The contest is open to US and Canadian residents. Pleasant Hill Grain will ship the Maverick 5501 Grinder directly to the winner, no PO Box addresses please. The winner will be drawn at random and announced on Monday, January 24th, 2011