Preparing food in the kitchen is much easier if you have rights tools. When it comes to mincing meats and vegetables, the two most useful appliances you can get are a meat grinder and food processor. But what are the main differences between the two?
Meat grinders and food processors can both be used for mincing meat, vegetables, and even making soups. However, meat grinders are specifically designed to finely break down all types of meat while food processors are better suited for loosely grinding, mixing, slicing, and shredding.
Lets take a look at the main differences between a meat grinder and food processor to help you decide which one you should get, if not both, for your kitchen.
The Main Differences Between a Meat Grinder and Food Processor
Although both kitchen appliance could perform food grinding jobs, there are major differences that you need to consider.
1. Food Texture. The main difference in using a meat grinder and food processor is the end result. With a meat grinder, you can expect finely ground meat that’s loosely packed and evenly textured. With a food processor, you will likely get unevenly minced meat resulting in both large and fine chunks. There is also a possibility that some meat will turn pasty due to over grinding.
2. Cutting Blades. Meat grinders have a variety of plates that are screwed into the front next to the cutting blades. These plates control the size of the meat particles that come out of the grinder. Choose the right plate to get the grind that you want based on what you are cooking.
With a food processor, the blades chop food by spinning it. You cannot control the size of the food particles other than how long to keep the blades running. As the blades spin, they cut whatever they come into contact with regardless of how many times that chunk has been cut. This results in less uniformity.
In a nutshell, meat grinder passes the food through its blades once while the food processor passes the blades through the food sporadically.
3. Attachments. Each appliance comes with different attachments.
With meat grinders, they have plates of different sizes. In most cases, you can see numbers on the attachments of your meat grinders indicating the diameter of the grinder plate. Generally the larger the plate number, the larger the plate size. For example, a #5 plate has a plate diameter measuring 2 1/8″, while a #10 plate has a plate diameter of 2 3/4″. The larger the plate, the more meat you can push through at a time.
The standard attachments of a food processor are a sabatier blade and slicing and shredding discs. The holes of the discs will yield coarse, medium, or fine bits of food. You can also purchase additional attachments that can be used for mixing dough, whipping egg, juicing, and more.
4. Size. Meat grinders and food processors are available in different sizes. The difference between small and large meat grinders are the price, power, weight, place of use, and of course, the size.
Food processors are either full, compact or mini. If you are performing small food preparation tasks and have limited counter space, a compact or mini food processor would be the better choice over larger units.
What are Meat Grinders Used For?
As the name implies, meat grinders are mainly designed to mince meat, and do it well. It can grind any type of meat like beef, fish, deer, pig, chicken, and others. A meat grinder is the better choice if you need to mince meat for meatballs, burgers, sauces, and more because it produces finely chopped meat. Some meat grinders can even grind small animal bones for making nutritious pet food and bone meals.
Meat grinders can also grind vegetables, nuts, and others. If you are planning to make soups, you can use a meat grinder to break down squash and other vegetables. You can also use it to grind nuts for your salad or pastries.
Meat grinders usually come with attachments that can be used for making meatballs, sausages, and others. The jobs your meat grinder can perform depends on the type, model, and brand.
Best Meat Grinder
Here are two of my favorite models when it comes to home meat grinders:
1. Sunmile SM-G31 ETL Meat Grinder: This is a basic but powerful meat grinder for home use that can grind up to 150 pounds per hour. It has a durable and powerful motor. You can also quickly disassemble it during cleaning. It comes with 3 various stainless steel cutting plates for fine, medium, and coarse grinding of meat.
2. STX International STX-3000-TF: The bigger brother version of the above, this size 12 meat grinder features three speeds and a variety of cutting blades. It can grind up to 360 pounds of meat per hour for larger families.
How to Clean a Meat Grinder
Any appliance that comes in contact with meat must be washed properly to minimize the risk of food poisoning and cross contamination. That is why it is important that residue meat be totally removed from a meat grinder after every use. Washing a meat grinder isn’t really any different than washing other cookware.
It is advised to wash the meat grinder immediately after use. Oil and grease will dry and crust in a given time if you don’t wash your meat grinder right away.
1. Start cleaning by feeding bread into it the same way as you placed meat. This will absorb oil and grease while pushing stray bits out of it.
2. After that, unplug the machine then disassemble it into its parts. Take note that a meat grinder is comprised of a pusher, feed tube, and hopper (usually a single piece), a screw, a blade, a plate and a cover for the blade and plate.
3. In a sink or bucket, add warm water with dish detergent. Submerge the parts inside and let it sit for about 15 minutes. This will loosen up any remaining meat, oil, or grease.
4. Make sure that you don’t soak any motorized parts. Instead, use a damp cloth to clean it and a fresh cloth to dry it.
5. Use a sponge to scrub the parts. You can use a bottle brush to clean inside the feed tube. Rinse each part with clean water after scrubbing. See to it that you scrub everything really well to remove residue meat or oil that could be a breeding ground for bacteria and germs.
6. Dry the parts by wiping them with a clean towel. Then lay them on a wire rack or towel to air-dry. It is important that you let all the disassembled parts dry totally to avoid rust and oxidation.
7. Once everything is dry, spray the parts (except the electric parts) with food-grade mineral oil. This helps to prevent rust from forming and keeps the grinder well-lubricated.
8. Place each part into a separate bag filled with rice. Of course, rice is optional but this can help absorb any moisture that may cause rusting.
9. Just before re-assembling your meat grinder for use the next time, quickly wash the parts again to remove the mineral oils. A mixture of one tablespoon bleach and one-gallon water does the trick really well.
What are Food Processors Used For?
Food processors are more of a jack of all trades type of appliance, chopping, mixing, slicing, juicing, and shredding food. This tool is best used for coarsely mincing meats, chopping vegetables and mixing dough for desserts. It’s also great for grating cheese and blending sauces.
One thing food processors don’t do so well is grind meat uniformly. Some chunks will come out larger than others, or if you over do it, too pasty. This makes a food processor unsuitable for recipes that require a uniform consistency for the meat, such as grinding meats for burgers or sausages.
Food processors excel however for chopping foods, especially vegetable into smaller pieces. You can also use it to grate cheese to sprinkle onto salads or coleslaw. It is also a very helpful tool for baking. It can save your time from kneading by mixing the dough for your bread, cakes or cookies.
There are different brands and models which can do different jobs for you. They come in diverse sizes, shapes, and functions.
Best Food Processor
The type and model you need for a food processor depends on where and how you will use it. For home use, a small food processor can do the job. For professional kitchens, a larger high-end food processor would be perfect. We picked two of the best food processor on the market. Check them out:
1. Hamilton Beach 12-Cup Stack and Snap Food Processor (70725A): This budget processor performs all of the work of machines that are twice as expensive. Two speed settings and pulsing give you granular control over how long to process the food . It is also very easy to assemble and use. This 450-watt motor food processor has stainless steel blades and reversible slice/shred disc that chop, shred, mix, slide, and puree any type of food.
2. Cuisinart Custom 14-Cup Food Processor: If a larger food processor is what you need, this is the unit I recommend. It can do the work of a whole set of knives, a food mill, stand mixer, ice cream maker, and more. It has a 14-cup Lexan work bowl with extra-large feed tube and small and large pushers.
How to Grind Meat in a Food Processor
If you do not have a meat grinder, you can break down meat using your food processor. Here’s how to do it:
1. Partially freeze the meat before processing to ensure that these are chopped but not pulverized. If you are making patties, you can grind a small portion to a paste and another chunkier portion. Use the pasty meat to bind the ingredient together.
2. You can combine more than one cut of meat to get the right mix of flavor and fat. Use a good amount of pressure to push the meat to ensure even cuts.
3. If you want to achieve a tender and juicy home-ground meat, add baking soda. It raises the pH of the meat making it more difficult for proteins to bond.
4. You will also get better results if you grind by batches. Once done, pick through the ground meat to check if there are large chunks. You need to regrind these large chunks until you get the right size.
How to Clean a Food Processor
A food processor is a great help in the kitchen. However, it could be a little tricky to wash. You need to make sure that it is properly cleaned to avoid cross-contamination. Here’s how to do it:
1. Disassemble the food processor. Remove the top, pusher unit, blades and take out the bowl. Everything needs to be separated to make sure that there will be no food residue at the end of the cleaning process.
2. The blade should be washed first after every use to keep it sharp. This prevents food from drying in the crevices of the blade. Gently scrub it with a pad and a soap. Then let it dry with a dish towel. You can also use nylon brushes to clean the blade and a little wire brush for the tube.
3. After washing the blades, wash the removable parts in warm water and mild dish soap. You can also let it soak for a while before scrubbing them. Avoid using abrasive cleaners or pads that may damage the parts. You can also place them (except the metal blades) on the top rack of the dishwasher. If your processor is smelly, soak the parts in a mixture of baking soda and water with a 1-to-1 ratio to absorb the odors. Rinse it thoroughly after soaking for 10 to 15 minutes.
4. Wipe down the motor area or base with a damp cloth. Do not submerge it in water like what you did with the other parts. If there are hard to remove stains, you can use mild dish soap or a baking soda paste to eliminate it.
5. Dry all parts completely by wiping them with a dry cloth and placing it on top of a towel or wire rack to air-dry. This will help avoid bacteria growth and damage. Once dry, assemble the processor before storing it away.
Which is Best for You?
How you work in the kitchen has a big impact on your decision in choosing between a meat grinder and food processor. It also depends on the types of recipes and dishes that you prepare.
If you are regularly grinding meat, a meat grinder is the better choice since it can give you the perfect consistency for your sausages, meatballs, and others. But if you are also doing other jobs like mixing, slicing, juicing, and mincing different types of food, then a food processor is a better choice.
When choosing a model, check the available attachments to make sure it can perform the jobs that you need. Basic food preparations only need smaller equipment while heavy-duty work requires larger equipment.