I don’t know about you but I have always been vaguely suspicious about anything labeled “ground beef” or “hamburger.” I am even more suspicious since I’ve read a few articles about what a meat purveyor is legally allowed to put in to that mix. For awhile, I was recommending to my students that they buy ground meat from just one muscle – for example: ground round, ground chuck, ground sirloin. Then I read another article that said those packages were not necessarily 100% ground round, ground chuck, etc. Now if you have a happy little butcher shop near you with a friendly butcher behind the counter you can go on in and ask him (or her) to grind up the chosen muscle or mix of muscles for you while you wait right there and watch them and make sure they don’t toss anything extra in. But how many of us have a neighborhood butcher shop?
So I decided to come up with my own diy solution and grind up the meat myself. I am the proud owner of a meat grinder which came with my Kitchen Aid stand mixer but it seems like such a production to set it up and even more to clean it properly (actually, I’m sure it’s not that hard, I’m just lazy – I will have to pull it out soon though, because I am contemplating making my own sausage -but that is another story). So I experimented with a method that is not as consistent a grind as a meat grinder but is a good second choice. It is ridiculously simple. First you cut the meat into 1 – inch pieces and then you toss them in the freezer for 30 minutes (in one layer so they freeze evenly). Finally you put the chunks in a food processor fitted with the metal blade and pulse the meat until you get the desired size of “ground” meat. Don’t overload the machine or the meat will not get evenly chopped up. You might have to do this in batches. Also, make sure you don’t get trigger happy and leave the button down too long or you will have mush. After processing, the meat is ready to be shaped into burgers or meatballs or thrown into a sauce.
What kind of meat can you grind up? Any kind from any part of the animal. You can also “grind” pork, lamb, turkey and chicken using this method. The one thing to keep in mind is if you choose a lean cut of meat or if you grind up poultry to make burgers or meatballs, the end product will be dry. I like to add my own “hamburger helper” in the form of diced, sauteed and cooled onions, or garlic, or mushrooms, as well as finely shredded raw napa or savoy cabbage all of which supply the moisture that would have been supplied by the fat in a fattier cut of meat.