Successfully making sausages, bacon, cured meats, or any other type of charcuterie, requires very specific tools and equipment. Meat grinders are specialized machines designed for the sole purpose of breaking pieces of meat and fat into smaller pieces by forcing them through a metal plate containing several small holes. Not all meat grinders are equal, and several factors differentiate them, including the following:
Construction of the grinder
All grinders can be broken down into the same core parts, and understanding what each part does will help you decide which grinder is right for you. These parts are shown in the following figure and include the following:
Manual meat grinders cost less than electric meat grinders because they don’t contain any motorized parts. This is probably how your grandma or grandpa used to make sausage. Manual meat grinders must be clamped onto a hard surface like a table- or countertop. Manual meat grinders are lower in cost and maintenance than their electric workhorse big brothers, which is why they are a great starting point. Manual grinders can also be used anywhere because they do not require electricity.
KitchenAid mixer attachment grinder
Several years ago I bought my wife a KitchenAid mixer for Christmas. In all honesty, I bought it for myself but told my wife it was for her. This was a wonderful upgrade to our kitchen because of all the delightful baked goods we could make without all the excessive manual labor. I’m kind of like Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor: I like more power when it comes to my cooking tools!
If you happen to have a KitchenAid mixer, then you’ll notice that the front of the mixer has a place for attaching add-on equipment. One of the attachments you can purchase from KitchenAid for your mixer is a meat cutter and grinder, pictured here.
Electric meat grinders
As you navigate your own internal decision tree, give yourself a little time when it comes to selecting your meat grinder or commercial grinder. Unless you have compelling reasons for not getting an electric grinder, like budget or access to power, this is where you should really focus your research. Electric meat grinders are the right tool for the job when it comes to grinding meat! They come in all shapes and sizes, which are largely determined by the intended volume of use. As with the KitchenAid attachment and the manual meat grinder, the parts of an electric meat grinder are the same with the exception of the electric motor, as shown.
Generally speaking, the larger the size of the grinder, the larger the motor, and thus the higher the cost of the grinder or the pulerizer. If you are planning to use your grinder a few times a year to grind less than a few hundred pounds of meat, then you can definitely get by with a number 5 or 8 grinder. For a comparison, the figure illustrates some of the different sizes of grinder plates up to number 32.