By Mike Willis
The meat grinder is a hunter’s go-to tool for processing wild game at home. If your meat grinder is dialed in and operating well, life is good! However, when something is wrong with your meat grinding process, a fun activity quickly becomes work.
The most common issues with meat grinders are:
1. Slow Grinding
2. Clogging of Grinder
3. Bogging Down During Grinding
4. Mushy Meat
To avoid experiencing these difficulties while grinding meat, incorporate the following tips into your process.
Check the Condition of the Meat
A common mistake that people make is not properly prepping their meat. I cringe when I hear stories of people running tendons, gristle, and chunks of bone through their meat grinder. Sure, you can get that garbage to go through, but why? While you don’t have to prep it like a choice cut of steak, you should put some effort into properly prepping the meat for the grinder.
The most important thing that you can do before grinding meat is to get that meat COLD. Don’t just cut meat off of the carcass and start feeding it through the grinder. Meat should be chilled until it is nearly frozen. Once the meat begins to form little ice crystals, it is ready to feed to the grinder.
Have you ever noticed your meat smearing as it comes through the grinder plate like paste? The longer that the meat spins in that auger, the more the temperature rises. Warm meat will create that smearing effect and ultimately lead to a mushy texture. As the problem continues, you will find your grinding operation coming to a halt.
The most difficult thing to run through the meat grinder is fat. When adding fat for hamburger and sausage, you quickly learn your grinder’s capabilities. Like the meat, you should cut away all of the gristle and “junk” and chill until it is nearly frozen.
When adding fat to your ground meat, grind the fat first using the coarse grinding plate. After letting the fat make its first pass, mix it in with the meat to be ground. Grinding the “pre-ground” fat along with the meat will help mix the two evenly.
Note: Not only is the meat temperature critical for your grinder’s performance, but it is also very important that the meat stays cold enough to prevent the growth of bacteria during meat processing.
Maintain Your Meat Grinder
Every time you use the meat grinder, you should thoroughly clean and sanitize all of its components. After all of the parts and pieces are completely dry, apply a light coat of food-grade oil to all metal surfaces for storage. There are many products out there that are made specifically for meat grinders.
Before running a batch of meat through the grinder, wipe all components down and lightly oil them again. Ensure that you have completely coated the auger, the inner walls of the T- Link (auger housing assembly), the blade, and the grinding plate.
Having an adequately oiled meat grinder is essential to prevent heat from building up due to friction. Since the metal blade spins against a metal plate, lubrication is very important. The oil also aids in keeping meat moving through the grinder. Without an oiled surface, meat and fat will stick to the walls of the T-Link and auger. When this happens, your grinder will clog.
Keep your blade and plate sharp. While most people know to keep a fresh blade in their grinder, many don’t realize the importance of having a good plate. As the plate wears, the surface is rounded at the holes. When this happens, you will notice a drastic loss in your grinding speed and efficiency.
Always keep blades and plates “married” together. Since these are wearing surfaces, they should always be used together. Never just swap your coarse plate with your fine plate. The corresponding blade must follow.
Once your blade or plate becomes dull, throw them away or sharpen them.
It is always a good idea to keep extra blades and plates in stock. There is nothing worse than having to stop in the middle of processing a deer or elk.
More Helpful Tips
1. Store your T-Link and auger assembly in the freezer for 30 minutes before grinding meat. The cold retained in the metal will significantly improve your ability to process meat quickly.
2. Look for ice packs that are made to go on your meat grinder’s T-Link. Keeping an ice pack on the T-Link is a great way to maintain those critically cold temperatures.
3. Don’t overtighten the locking nut for the plate. Never use a wrench to install the locking nut. If your grinder comes with a locking nut wrench, this is only intended to be used for uninstalling the nut.
4. Make sure that you are using the correct “blade” for stuffing sausage casings. The standard meat grinding blade is not the right blade for stuffing casings.
5. If your meat grinder struggles to process the meat quickly, run it through the coarse plate first, and then repeat the grinding process with the fine plate installed.
Now go get that deer or elk and put those meat processing skills to use!