March 03, 2017
A meat grinder is a must-have piece of equipment for every meat hunter's kitchen. Burgers, meatloaf, chili, meatballs, ravioli, tacos, casseroles, sloppy joes, breakfast sausage, meat pies … I can go on and on about wild-game recipe possibilities.
Ground venison is so versatile. Not only is it a great way to use up parts of an animal that may be too grisly or tough to eat otherwise, ground meat also provides endless breakfast, lunch and dinner possibilities.
But not all meat grinders are created equal. There are three types of meat grinders. There’s the old-school manual grinder, which relies on sheer muscle and patience; the Kitchen-Aid meat grinder attachment, which is a popular choice; and the most efficient tool of all, the dedicated electric meat grinder.
Due to sanitary reasons and the amount of time and effort required for grinding meat by hand, a manual grinder isn't a feasible option for most meat hunters. And while the Kitchen-Aid attachment does work, it was not designed with the intention for users to process a whole deer, or several, in one sitting. If you expect to process a lot of meat throughout the year, and you want to get it done efficiently, a dedicated electric meat grinder is the best choice.
In my home, the Weston Pro Series #8 Electric Meat Grinder is a favorite. The #8 is a commercial-grade grinder retailing at $399.99, and it is loaded with features. Additionally, Weston offers a 5-year warranty on all its Pro Series grinders, which is one of the best deals in the business.
Speed and Power
According to Weston, the Pro Series #8’s 0.75-horse motor can handle 4 to 6 pounds of meat per minute, and for the most part, gravity and the machine do all the work. (Jenny Nguyen photo)
My requirements for an electric meat grinder are simple: It must be fast, it must be powerful, and it can’t clog up and die halfway through a deer. The #8 fits the bill, with its fairly quiet operation and ability to chew up meat at incredible speeds.
The texture of the ground meat is consistent every time, whether grinding through the fine or coarse plate. Its permanently lubricated, air-cooled motor keeps the machine from overheating after long use.
Although the #8 is at the lowest end in power among Weston's other Pro Series grinders, I find it's more than sufficient for my household, which averages two deer per year, plus other wild game and meats I grind throughout the year. But if you're looking for more power, check out the #12 (1 HP), #22 (1.5 HP) or #32 (2 HP).
The Weston #8 workhorse is not dainty by any means, and it is quite heavy. But what it lacks in grace, it makes up for in volume of meat it can handle. (Jenny Nguyen photo)
Smaller meat grinders may be more compact and lightweight, but they also tend to be less powerful. Clogging can also be a problem with smaller parts, which can be time consuming to fix and disruptive to your work flow.
Don't get the Weston #8 if you're expecting to keep something small and compact on your kitchen countertop. The Weston #8's large offset head and feeding tube can handle a lot of meat, preventing ingredients from getting clogged up in the process. I usually cut meat into large 1 ½-inch chunks; there’s no need to mince meat so small before grinding in this machine.
Still, proper protocols for grinding meat still applies. Remember to keep meat as cold as possible for food safety and preferably slightly frozen, especially when adding pork shoulder, bacon or other fat. This helps the grinder cut through meat, especially fat, cleanly and efficiently. I've never had issues with meat clogging up with the #8.
Construction and Features
The built-in knife sharpener is standard and is very convenient. (Jenny Nguyen photo)
The #8 is built solid. I like its sleek stainless-steel exterior, which is easy to wipe clean and doesn't absorb odors and stains as plastic does. A sturdy handle placed at the top of the body makes it easier to carry and transport.
Then after grinding, disassembling and cleaning is simple. The only addition I would like to see included in the package is a tool to help clean the inside of the head where pieces of meat might stick. I've had to use a chopstick to scrape these bits out in the past.
Additionally, the #8 also comes with a built-in knife sharpener, a tray to neatly store accessories, a tray dust cover and a sausage stuffing kit.
Lastly, I don't do much sausage making, so I cannot comment on the sausage stuffing attachments, although it's good to know that they're there for light work. But make no mistake; these attachments that come with any meat grinder will not replace a dedicated sausage stuffer, if that's what you're really interested in doing.
Price vs. Use
The bottom line is if you're looking for an electric meat grinder that will see heavy use, a Weston Pro Series grinder is an excellent choice. For big game hunters, this machine will make a big job seem easy. But as awesome as the #8 is, $399.99 is still a decent chunk of change, and you'll spend more if you’re looking at models with more power. If this is outside your budget, don't fret because there are many other models available.
And maybe you don't need a heavy-duty, commercial-grade grinder. Maybe you like to slow cook most of your game and make burgers once in awhile. A cheaper home-use model is absolutely fine for this. Weston offers other meat grinders that can fit into almost any budget.
Whatever you decide, though, keep in mind the ability to butcher and process your own game will save you more money in the long term than paying someone else to do it every season. That's the takeaway message here: doing stuff yourself and saving money.