Hamburgers and Sausages from Scratch

As much as I love a pimped-out burger, it has to start with great meat. And quite frankly, supermarket ground beef is not worth the Styrofoam tray it’s shrink-wrapped on.

Grind your own. It’s competitively priced, easy, and erases some of the fear of food poisoning.

I like my burgers rare, and sometimes raw as steak tartare—with homemade fries, of course—but I don’t like to indulge unless I grind the meat myself. Ground meat is the most susceptible to contamination because of increased surface area. I know my hands, meat, and grinder are all clean when the goods go in, so there’s less risk.

Grinding your own meat means that you get to pick what goes in it too. No more mystery meat and fat trimmings, which ultimately makes for better taste and texture.

There are a number of meat grinder options out there, but I strongly discourage manual ones. They’re heavy, bulky, slippery, hard to clean, rust-prone, and inefficient. Yes, my grandmother used one back in the day, in the rear of our restaurant. But the second we bought an electric machine, she and her exhausted arms never went back.

Meat grinders are also the essential tools in making a great food partner to burgers on a grill: sausages. Besides a grinder, all you really need are casings, spices, and herbs to taste. Attach a feeding tube to your grinder to easily fill the casings if you don’t want to try to do it by hand.

Here are some of the best meat grinders available:

Food Grinder (Stand Mixer Attachment)
By KitchenAid, $49.99

When talking about home meat grinders, the KitchenAid Food Grinder attachment always comes up first. It’s a user-friendly, plastic-bodied accessory that simply screws onto the front of any KitchenAid home stand mixer, sold separately.

The Food Grinder processes raw and cooked meats; firm fruits and vegetables—fresh or dried—like apples and carrots; and hard cheese like Parmesan. It’s not a replacement for a food processor, though there is some crossover between the two appliances.

KitchenAid does warn that when grinding bread—for breadcrumbs—you should dry it thoroughly or not at all, because partially dried bread can gum up the works; the manufacturer also cautions against grinding anything that’s too hard or dense.

The attachment comes with a coarse and a fine grinder plate, a hardwood “stomper” (a rod to push food in, instead of using your fingers), and a wrench—for removing the grinder accessory only.

KitchenAid suggests grinding meat when it’s very cold or even somewhat frozen, and grinding beef twice, for a better mix and more tender results. It also says fatty meats should only be ground once—otherwise the fat may be processed out.

The grinder body, grind worm (looks like a screw and turns the knife inside), ring (holds the plates in place on the front), and wrench are dishwasher safe. The knife, grinding plates, and stomper are not.

A Sausage Stuffer Kit that includes two tubes to make thin and thick links is sold separately.

KitchenAid covers the Food Grinder with its one-year replacement warranty.

Professional Meat Grinder (Model MG800)
By Waring Pro, $160.55

The Waring Pro Professional Meat Grinder is a stand-alone machine, not an attachment, and also grinds meats and other firm foods. In addition, this appliance easily grinds whole, raw poultry bones, a big consideration for the many users who buy the tool specifically to make raw pet food.

With its powerful 450-watt motor, the grinder quickly processes double-digit pounds of meat and bone. There’s also a reverse function in the unlikely event that something gets stuck.

The grinder package includes three cutting plates (fine, medium, coarse), a black plastic food pusher, and two sausage attachments.

You must follow the easy washing, drying, and oiling instructions to keep parts rust-free.

Waring Pro offers a limited five-year warranty on the motor.

Meat Chopper (Model 4812)
By Hobart, $1,969

True, most of us don’t need this Hobart Meat Chopper at home, but some of us are in the market to outfit that gourmet butcher/burger shop we’ve always dreamed about. Hobart is the industry standard when it comes to meat grinders, and this model offers good bang for the nearly 2,000 bucks.

It is steeply priced even for an industrial grinder, but Hobart is known for its reliability and great service, unlike cheaper Chinese brands out there.

Hobart grinders cleanly grind meat, without mashing it like some industrial machines. This model features a large feed pan (the tray that surrounds the feed chute), an extralong plastic feed stomper, an eight-pound capacity, and a mighty 1/2-horsepower motor. The stainless steel body rests on sturdy four-inch-high legs with rubber feet, which makes it easy to clean under. This last feature is important, since at 118 pounds, it’s nearly impossible to move.

Hobart recommends the 1/8-inch plate for ground beef. The 4812 will grind eight pounds per minute.

Every part that comes in contact with food is easily disassembled for washing.

It should be noted, however, that this Hobart meat chopper/grinder does not have sausage-making accessories.