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How Does a Meat Grinder Work?

Meat grinders are used to create some of my (and probably your) favorite foods. 

From burger patties and sausages to meatballs and even cookie dough, these machines are essential for a variety of foods we eat on a daily basis. But, how does a meat grinder work?

How Does a Meat Grinder Work?

The process is actually simple for how meat grinders work. You push meat through a funnel at the top of the machine where it is then grinded down by a blade and sent through a fixed plate on the other side before exiting the meat grinder. 

While that’s really the gist of it, there’s actually a lot that goes into making these machines work. 

Don’t worry, though, I’m going to break down all of the components a meat grinder uses and explain the entire process in detail. 

Step 1: Prep The Meat

You can’t simply take massive chunks of meat out of its packaging and throw them into a meat grinder. While that would be more convenient, you need to do some prep work first.

This involves cleaning the chunks of meat and removing the fat. You then need to keep it in the freezer where it can cool down before putting it into the meat grinder.

PRO TIP: if you’ve recently used the machine, you need to allow it to cool down also before using it again.

Step 2: Wash & Assemble Your Machine

Every component of the meat grinder should be washed before use and each piece should be air dried. 

Then you can put all of the components together again. If it’s your first time using your grinder out of the box, you should still wash the components. 

While it might look clean, it could be harboring bacteria from the manufacturing process or during shipping to the store you bought it in.

Step 3: Cut Your Meat

Once the meat has cooled down properly, it should be cut according to the size of the feeding tube.

Step 4: Put Meat on The Meat Tray and Push it Through 

This part is arguably the most fun. You start by placing your meat on top of the meat tray and literally push it through the feeding tube using the meat pusher.

Once the meat is inside the machine it will be sent through the feeding tube and into the extruder where it will be grinded up and pushed out.

Step 5: Let the Meat Grind 

As I mentioned above, once the meat has been fed through the feeding tube it will be sent to the extruder where the blade will mince it all up. 

Finally, the meat will be sent through the fixed grinding plate where it will then exit the machine. 

The size of the cut meat will depend solely on the size of the holes on the plate. For larger cuts, you’ll need holes that are bigger, smaller cuts require smaller holes.

Understanding The Components of a Meat Grinder

It’s important to understand each component that makes up the machine itself.

A standard meat grinder typically has 9 components. These include:

  1. The Feeding Tube: This T-shaped tube is located below the meat tray and has its own tray attached firmly at the top. On the lower portion of the feeding tube there are a few smaller parts attached.
  1. The Screw Ring: This is the ring found on the outer portion of the feeding tube and is quite easy to spot.
  1. The Extruder: As the name suggests, the extruder’s role is to push the meat out of the machine itself.
  1. The Cutting (or Grinding) Blade: Placed at the end of the feeding tube, the cutting blade minces the meat into pieces as it’s pushed through. This component is responsible for most of the grinding.
  1. The Meat Tray: This component sits at the top of the meat grinder and is where the meat is placed.
  1. The Meat Pusher: The meat pusher (which is typically made of plastic) is used to force the meat inside the feeding tube. 
  1. The Motor: Unless you have a hand cranked model, the motor is by far one of the most (if not the most) crucial components to a meat grinder. The higher quality (and wattage) the motor is, the better performing the meat grinder will be. 
  1. The Grinder Plate: Once the meat has been grinded down it will come out of the grinder plate which is fixed in place and features holes that allows the meat to pass through. You can use grinder plates with different sized holes.
  1. Sausage Stuffer: This isn’t a core component of a meat grinder, but one you can add on as an accessory to be able to make sausages. 

Additional Tips

Here are some additional tips to help you get the most out of your meat grinder.

  • Clean your meat grinder after each use. This will prevent meat residue from building up and can improve the longevity of the machine. 
  • Manual meat grinders can be washed with soap and water. For electric models you’ll need to follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer. 
  • To prevent any cuts or a trip to the emergency room, keep your hands at a safe distance from the blade. 
  • For optimal performance and to avoid overheating the meat grinder make sure you let the machine cool down after every use. You should also keep it dry.

Final Thoughts

As I explained, a meat grinder involves pushing meat through a feeding tube, where it is then grinded up and fed through a fixed plate with holes.

You can make many different types of food with a meat grinder, including hamburger patties, meatballs, meatloaf, and sausages.

If you’re a home chef and a meat lover (like me) then a meat grinder will be an essential appliance to add to your kitchen.

Nathaniel Lee is an avid cook, drawing on his decades of home cooking and fine dining experience. With inspirations like Alton Brown and Gordon Ramsey, Nathaniel focuses on simple processes to make amazing food.