Many of us would love to indulge in a meaty homemade dish on any given day. You might want to serve up Sloppy Joes on the weekend, whip up spaghetti bolognese for supper, or eat a bowl of chilli on a cold day. You might even have thought about impressing your friends with home made pasta and sausages.
In short, a manual meat grinder is best for people who intend to only mince meat occasionally and in small batches (less than 2 pounds at a time). An electric grinder is perfect for larger families, to serve meatballs or homemade burgers for parties, or for older folks who lack the stamina to crank a handle continuously to grind up meat and vegetables.
Reasons Why You Should Own a Meat Grinder
To start with, before you make your decision on whether to buy a manual or electric meat grinder, here are some reasons why you should own a meat grinder:
- Saves you the recurring cost of using a commercial meat grinder at the grocer
- You are guaranteed of the quality of your meat and don’t have to worry if stale or low quality mystery meat is included in your purchase.
- You can use it for mixing and matching different blends of burger
- Make a variety of foods such as home made sausages, pasta, and save money.
For whatever reasons you decide to buy a meat grinder, the first decision to make is whether to go with manual or electric. Here’s an analysis of both types to help make the decision much easier for you.
Manual Meat Grinders
Beyond the fact that they come with simple designs, manual meat grinders come with a few advantages:
Advantages of Manual Meat Grinders:
- Size: Manual grinders come in smaller sizes as opposed to the electric ones. This is mainly because manual grinders do not contain electrical component and motors. They are usually less than one foot and weigh only a few pounds, which means they won’t occupy as much space in your kitchen as the electric ones. A good example is the Zalik 4-In-1 Meat Grinder And Juicer, which weighs just 4 pounds and has a dimension of 10.8 x 8.9 x 7.5 inches.
- Portability: Because of their small sizes, but more importantly because the parts are non-electrical, they can be carried and used anywhere. You don’t have to bother over whether there’ll be electric power available there or not as they don’t require electricity. There’s this joke about procuring manual appliances in case a zombie break out happens and electricity is out. You can practically use a manual grinder anywhere.
- Cost: For many, this is the primary reason why many people buy a manual grinder. Manual grinders are produced and sold at lesser prices compared to electric ones. If you need something that is low-budget, then this might be an excellent choice for you. An average one costs between $25 and $50. The popular Zalik mentioned above costs just $29.99.
- No extra costs on electricity: Because manual grinders do not require power, you can be assured that this will save you money in the long run on electricity bills.
However, before you run out and buy a manual meat grinder, are some cons to keep in mind:
- Physically demanding: Just like any manual appliance, because its operation relies on human power, a manual meat grinder can be physically demanding. Unlike an electric grinder, you can’t grind large quantities of meat in the same amount of time or before wearing yourself out. You will have to crank and twist the meat in the course of feeding the meat through the hopper into the grinder. This might make it unsuitable for people with physical disability, lack of arm strength or even elderly people as well. While exactly how much meat you can grind depends on your physical stamina, 2 – 3 pounds of meat at a time is generally the limit for me.
- Wastes time: As much as it is strenuous, it’s also going to take you a lot longer to grind meat manually. . If you need the meat for something timely, you have to start the grinding much earlier or grind it before that day/time and have it frozen.
- Health Safety: The US Food Safety and Inspection Service Agency advises that it is not unsafe to keep raw meat lying all around in warm temperatures for long periods (2 hours if the room temperature is between 400F and 1400F), If you live in a warmer climate, this can make grinding meat manually potentially unsafe if it’s not done quickly. Ensure the meat is well frozen and only take them out in small batches to grind.
- Counter top Edge Required: Some models require you to clamp the manual meat grinder to a surface. If you have kitchen tables or counters that have edges that are decorated or thicker than the regular ones, it might be impossible to have it attached to them. You will have to arrange for a surface with a straight edge that is not too thick that you can attach your grinder. If you’re purchasing a clamp based manual grinder, make sure it’s compatible with the surface you’ll be attaching it to.
Electric Meat Grinders
Just like manual meat grinders have its unique benefits, so do their electrical counterparts. Here are the main advantages of electric meat grinders.
Advantages of Electric Meat Grinders:
- Ease of use: This seems to be the most significant selling point for the electric grinder: they’re incredibly easy to use as opposed to the manual ones. All it takes is to assemble the grinder, plug it into a power source, feed the tube with your meat, and turn on the power switch. Again, unlike the manual ones where you have to push the meat through the hopper using your hands, most electric grinders come with food pushers that assist in pushing the meat faster through the hopper into the machine.
- Fast: Electric meat grinders come with powerful motors that can grind a whole lot of meat at a fast and consistent rate. Different models come with different motors with various horsepower/wattage and auger design. A good electric meat grinder can grind up to 170 pounds of meat per hour, large enough to feed a small army. The Megaforce Heavy Duty 1200W Electric Meat Grinder for example can grind up to 360 pounds of meat per hour on high speed.
- Safety and Cleanliness: Electric meat grinders can be more sanitary. You don’t need to get both hands soiled with juices like with the manual version where you have to use your both hands to feed the meat, then use the same hands to crank the grinder. Also, because it is faster, you don’t have to be worried about having meat lying around at warm temperatures for too long.
- More Versatile: With a powerful motor, an electric meat grinder is capable of grinding a larger range of foods, some even tough meat like deer or elk. Some models even allow you to grind small animal bones such as chicken. If you have pets like dogs and want to feed them the raw or BARF diet, an electric meat grinder is the type to get.
Not all is rosy in electric land either, however. Here are the main cons of electric meat grinders.
- It is expensive: electric grinders are more costly when compared to the manual ones. You’re paying for the convenience that it brings to meat grinding- it’s faster, more comfortable to use and efficient. Just like Toba Beta said in the book “Master of Stupidity,” “Price is not just about the numbers, it’s a satisfying sacrifice.” So apparently the price is for the value offered as well. There are some cheap ones available at the market, but if you insist on quality, there’s a price to pay. The STX Megaforce Heavy Duty 1200W Electric Meat Grinder sells on Amazon for around $200.
- It is expensive to repair: Unlike the manual grinder, when an electric one breaks down, it is much more costly to repair. When a manual meat grinder has a problem or gets stuck you can simply take the appliance apart, clean up and put it together again easily and quickly. However, this is not the case with electric meat grinders. Due to the electric machinery inside the electric meat grinder, you may have to get it fixed in a specialist shop and the repair may take time and a fair amount of money.
- Size: This can be a problem for some owners, since many of the models are quite large. Because of the large size, they use up so much space on the kitchen table or counter, and they can also be challenging to keep in cabinets. This means that it would be more difficult to move them around with compared to the manual ones which are not as big as or as heavy. The popular Megaforce Heavy Duty 1200W Electric Meat Grinder when setup has a dimension of 19 × 8 × 14 inches and weighs 12.5 pounds.
- Extra costs for electricity: Using an electric meat grinder means one more gadget on the list of appliances using electricity.
- Safety Issues: Using an electric meat grinder means that the user has to be more careful, as it’s an electric appliance and one that moves at a fast speed. First, the manual should be read carefully to see whether the grinder can grind bones and what size of meat can be put into the grinder. Second, the meat pusher should be used to push the pieces of meat and to ensure that hands and fingers are safe. Finally, the user should make sure that the appliance is not within the reach of small children.
- Noise concerns: Some models can also be noisy while in use, though usually not enough to disturb your neighbors.
Taking Care of your Meat Grinder
Whether you’ve decided on a manual or electric meat grinder, It’s a good idea to always follow an aftercare routine to maximize its longevity. Here is what I do each time after using my meat grinder:
- Disassemble the grinder (whether manual or automatic).
- Remove small crumbs of meat and bones that are left in the grinder. Leaving them in the grinder can cause your grinder to deteriorate.
- Soak the components in a bucket of warm water (if electric, do not soak motorized parts rather wipe with a damp cloth and dry with a fresh cloth.
- Scrub the components using a sponge, clean the cover, screw and blades (Ensure you’re careful with the blades as they are sharp and can cut you).
- Dry the components first by using a dry towel to get rid of the excess water and then placing them on a wire rack till they are dry to avoid rust and oxidation.
So Which Grinder Should I Get?
The choice of whether to buy a manual or electric meat grinder really comes down to what exactly you need a meat grinder for. If you are someone who only needs to grind a small quantity of meat and only on rare occasions, then what suits you best would be the manual grinder. If you grind large quantities of meat very frequently, then you should buy an electric grinder, as it will save you a whole lot of stress and time in the long run.
For someone who is still unsure between the two, my advice is to go with a manual grinder first. This will allow you test to see just how often you like grinding (meat that is) before taking it to the next level with an electric version instead.