By Mike Willis
Meat grinders are excellent tools that any serious hunter should own. After a successful hunting season harvest, a quality meat grinder will allow you to enjoy the fruits of your labor. While some hunters opt to have a butcher shop process meat for them, many DIY locavores prefer to handle things themselves.
Whether you are grinding venison or elk, the meat is perfect for tacos, spaghetti, stews, and chili. If you roll some fat in with your game meat, you can use it for sausage and even burgers. Whether or not to add fat is an endless and ongoing debate among meat processors. Some people like the leanness of straight game meat, while others like the flavor and frying pan grease from the added fat.
As a very general rule of thumb, pork fat is the best fat for making sausage. Pork fat, AKA fatback, can be difficult to find, so many people will simply use a fatty pork shoulder instead of pure pork fat. If you plan to make sausage, reach out to some butchers (or grocery store meat departments) before you have an animal on the ground. Find out who sells pork fat and keep them on a shortlist of phone numbers to call when you get your animal.
If you just want ground burger for meals such as tacos, spaghetti, or chili, you can get away with not adding any fat. If you don’t add fat, be prepared to add plenty of oil to the pan when cooking. Most meat processors choose to add some fat. Again, the fat adds good flavor and provides some cooking grease in the pan.
If you want to make actual hamburgers with game meat, you need to add beef fat to keep your burger intact while cooking. Beef fat is much easier to find and can usually be obtained in the meat department of any grocery store. As soon as you harvest your animal, call the butchers, and get your name on a list. It may take a few days to get your fat during the hunting season. As butchers prepare cuts of meat for their business, they will store up the trimmings for you.
Another commonly debated topic among meat processors is fat content. Once you have decided to incorporate fat into your meat, you will need to decide how much fat to add. Adding 15-20% fat content is a good target range for someone new to meat grinding. Depending on your individual preferences and use of the meat, you may choose to deviate from that standard.
If you are considering purchasing a grinder, know how you will use your grinder. If you aren’t grinding fat or large animals such as elk, you can easily get by with a smaller grinder. However, if you are going to grind fat or large quantities of meat, you will be much happier with a larger and more powerful grinder for the job.
Regardless of how you choose to process the meat, you are sure to have some of the best quality meals available. Game meat is pure and clean, far exceeding any standards of anything available in your local grocery store. Perhaps the best part about processing your own meat is knowing how it has been handled from field to fork.
Check back next week for details on how to get the most out of your meat grinder.