Successfully making sausages, bacon, cured meats, or any other type of charcuterie, requires very specific tools and equipment. Meat grinders are specialized machines designed for the sole purpose of breaking pieces of meat and fat into smaller pieces by forcing them through a metal plate containing several small holes. Not all meat grinders are equal, and several factors differentiate them, including the following:
Power source (electric or manual)
Speed of grinding
Volume of grinding
Size of the grinder
Construction of the grinder
All grinders can be broken down into the same core parts, and understanding what each part does will help you decide which grinder is right for you. These parts are shown in the following figure and include the following:
Body and hopper. The body and hopper is generally one solid piece and houses all of the moving parts (excluding the motor).
Worm (auger). The worm is inserted into the motor through the body. This is the screw-like part that draws meat down the hopper and through the body toward the knife.
The knife is a cutting implement with four blades and looks like a propeller on a plane. The knife fits onto the end of the worm and spins at the same rate. As the meat passes down the body via the worm, it is first cut by the knife as it is forced through the plate.
The plate is a thick, round piece of steel containing several holes. It fits onto the end of the body and holds the worm in position as it spins. The size of the holes on the plate determines how coarse or fine your ground meat will be.
Locking ring. The locking ring holds the plate in place, securing all of the moving parts of your grinder.
For the purposes of this article, I will discuss three types of meat grinders. The size of the grinder you choose will be largely determined by the amount of meat that you plan to grind. This will also determine the size of the grinder you choose.
Manual meat grinders
Manual meat grinders are exactly what you might imagine: grinders that are human powered. The working parts are the same as previously described, but instead of an electric motor to turn the worm and knife, you have a hand crank, as shown.
Manual meat grinders cost less than electric meat grinders because they don’t contain any motorized parts. This is probably how your grandma or grandpa used to make sausage. Manual meat grinders must be clamped onto a hard surface like a table- or countertop. Manual meat grinders are lower in cost and maintenance than their electric workhorse big brothers, which is why they are a great starting point. Manual grinders can also be used anywhere because they do not require electricity.