Living off-grid often means limited or no electricity. This means finding other ways to take care of tasks that would normally be done with an electrically powered machine. One of these tasks is making ground meat.
After hunting or trapping wildlife or butchering livestock such as cows, pigs, or rabbits, preparing meat for such dishes as meatloaf or hamburger can be complicated without a grinder. Additionally, even people who have a meat grinder may find that it breaks or stops working. Knowing how to grind meat without meat grinders, whether electrical or not, can help with continuing to enjoy the comfort foods made with ground meat. Grinding meat at home will also allow one to enjoy any kind of ground meat, rather than being locked into two or three options.
With a sharp knife and a cutting board (or clean tree stump, or whatever firm, flat surface is available), mean can be chopped into small pieces. Start by slicing into thin pieces – about ¼-inch thick. Then slice across twice, first at a 45-degree angle to the left, then a 45-degree angle to the right (or vice versa). Then gather the meat into a pile and use a cleaver motion with the knife to chop until it is the texture desired.
This results in a firm ground meat that is full of flavor and free of non-meat content. It is relatively uncomplicated and can be done with whatever is available.
Most food processors require electricity; naturally these would need to be used when there is solar power or a generator. However, there are manual food processors available, too. These generally are powered with a pull cord, which makes the chopping nearly as fast as an electrical version. The more times the cord is pulled, the finer the foods inside are chopped; even puree is possible with these machines.
These manual food processors do not take up much space and are easy to clean. It can be used for meat as well as vegetables, beating eggs, and making sauces – pretty much anything needed.
Manual Meat Grinder
With a manual meat grinder, meat is ground in the same way as in an electrically powered machine. The only difference is the way the grinder is powered. A manual grinder will have a handle to turn to process the meat.
Advantages of grinding meat by hand include the ability to control the size of the resulting meat pieces and the ability to keep tough gristle out of the final product.
For best results, the chosen meat should be chilled in the freezer so it will cut more evenly and to help keep the grinder from overheating. Cut it into pieces to fit better into the machine. Know the size of the opening on the machine and cut to size for a more even grind.
Even if one is using one of the other cutting methods, having the meat close to frozen (but not frozen hard) will make it easier to achieve the ground meat desired. Additionally, choosing meat that has about 20% fat – or adding fat to bring the ratio to about 20% – will result in a better-tasting meat that cooks more evenly without getting tough.
It is also important to avoid overprocessing. Home-ground meat will not look the same as store bought ground meat. It will likely be coarser or crumbly. If the meat is ground into paste, it will be tough after cooking.
Can Meat Be Ground After It is Cooked?
Technically, the short answer is yes, with some pretty big caveats. Any meat can be ground, but whether it retains a texture and flavor that are pleasing is another question altogether. Generally, when cooked meat is ground, it becomes pasty and may be drier. It will usually have less flavor unless more is added to it. However, some dishes are meant to use ground cooked meat, such as hash and some sandwiches.