Grinding Meat at Home – A Word of Praise for the Food Processor

A homemade burger, using ground beef made with the food processor.

The ideas and dishes shared on this blog have two goals in mind: to allow for better quality dishes, while not breaking the bank.  One technique which combines both goals is to grind your own ground beef and pork at home.

A lot of people never think about doing this because they don’t want to buy a meat grinder, or a meat grinder attachment for a mixer.  Actually, you can put that concern to rest by simply using your home food processor.

The Cuisinart DFP-14NRY. A 720-watt motor, $159 on

While I wouldn’t recommend using a blender or a Magic Bullet to do this, most any food processor can grind meat into hamburger so long as it’s already chopped into cubes. If you have a less-powerful food processor, be sure to place less beef in it at one time. (Less powerful = a processor that handles less than 11 cups of food at a time, or with a smaller than 720 watt motor.)

There are several cuts of meat that will work for grinding but by far the easiest and most commonplace is chuck steak.  When you get the steak home, start by trimming off as much of the silver skin and hard, knobby fat as you can manage. Don’t worry about trimming off fat that’s soft and pliable.

Chuck steak’s location on the cow. Relatively tough, weight-supporting muscle but oh-so-tasty.

Next, cut it into cubes slightly larger than one inch on a side.  Once again, if you spot any silver skin or hard fat, take the time to remove it.  This ensures that your ground meat is smooth and not gristly.

Place 1-2 cups of the meat at a time into your food processor and pulse-chop it a few seconds at a time until you get ground beef with a relatively rough, loose texture.  The grinding process releases a ‘sticky’ protein that will allow you to compress the meat into shapes like patties for your burgers.

If you don’t need to use all the ground beef at this time, your best bet is to divide it into 1-pound sections and place each one in a plastic freezer bag.  Properly stored ground beef lasts 3 months without a problem in the freezer, and a great deal longer if you use a form of vacuum food storage.

There are several advantages of grinding your own beef.  Supermarket-ground beef has a higher risk of contamination, as it’s made from muscle tissue taken from dozens or hundreds of cows. If you like (as I do) hamburger cooked with a bit of pink inside of it, then your risk of food poisoning drops significantly since you know exactly what’s going into your burger and how fresh it is.

On the left, home-ground beef. On the right, the denser, stickier, and slightly drier ground beef one would buy at the supermarket.

Supermarket ground beef is also more densely packed.  The sticky proteins have been wrung out like water from a wet towel, making the meat ‘mealy’ and leading to denser, less juicy burgers and meatloaf.  Definitely, from a quality standpoint, self-grinding is the way to go.

From a price perspective, self-ground beef is much more budget-friendly so long as you exercise patience when you shop. Where I live, ground chuck at the local supermarket runs around $3.50 to $4 per pound. Chuck roast is usually more expensive than that.

However, chuck roast regularly goes on sale for $2 per pound. When that happens, a little cutting, grinding, and freezing a dozen pounds of hamburger will save you some money, get better quality meat to work with, and allows you to know *exactly* what’s going into your food!

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