Is it best to grind meat thawed or frozen?

When it comes to grinding meat in your own home, there’s every chance in the world that you might want to find a better way to do it. If you’re grinding your own meat every day, or if it’s something you’ve never tried before, we all want to ensure that the products of our kitchens are as tasty and delightful as possible.

So, with that in mind, is it best for you to freeze your meat before grinding it, or would thawed, raw meat work a little better for you?

Why might you want to freeze your meat and equipment?

Freezing meat and equipment will reduce the temperatures throughout all of the things you’re working with, from the meat itself to the chunks of metal, keeping a steady and low temperature can be a great way to produce great ground meat.

Efficiency

When you’re grinding meat, it’s unlikely you’re going to be doing an exceptionally small amount. If you’re willing to get the grinder out, prepare it, use it, and go through the cleanup afterward, you’re likely grinding more meat than you’d use for one dinner.

Therefore, if you’re grinding enough meat for a whole banquet of meatballs or burgers, then you really ought to be concerned with efficiency. If the process that you’re using is inefficient, then you’ll spend more time doing less work, and that’s a great way to get frustrated and walk away from the work you’re doing.

To be as efficient as possible, freezing your meat and the grinding equipment will prevent clogs within the equipment, allowing you to cut down on grinding time.

Friction

When you’re grinding meat at any time and for any reason, being sure to get adequate friction is vitally important – grinding warm meat will lead to a lack of friction. The reason for this is that as friction increases, so does temperature, and melting fat from your meat will lead to a greater lack of friction.

Over time, this generates a very specific type of feedback loop, where the combination of meat and heat results in a messy, inefficient grind that gives you a frustratingly inadequate product. To avoid this lack of friction and the ensuing feedback loop, opt for freezing the meat that you’re using, as well as the grinding equipment.

Overheating

If your grinder overheats at any point during the grinding process, then you really ought to stop everything from going on and take a step back. Hot meat and a hot grinder will lead to a vastly inefficient process, as well as a painful likelihood of clogs.

If you freeze the meat and the grinder components before you use them, then you massively cut down on the risk of overheating. The reason for this is simple – the grinder will start from a lower temperature, taking a long time to achieve that overheating point.

You can also reduce the speed at which you grind since higher speeds will result in a greater chance of overheating. To avoid this, grind at a slow or medium speed. This method is best when it’s paired with frozen meat and frozen grinder components – that’s truly the most efficient and reliable way to grind a lot of meat.

Why grind with thawed, warm meat and equipment?

There are some situations, though few and far between, in which it might be preferable to grind your meat when the equipment is warm and the meat is thawed. We’re going to talk about that very briefly here for the sake of fair representation.

Uniform texture

When grinding warm meat in a warm grinder, it’s massively more likely that the meat you’re working with won’t be properly cut. Instead, it is likely to smear and spread on the inside of your grinder, with the fat and connective tissue of the meat working together to form a sort of paste.

For most use cases, this is entirely unwanted – we would be lying if we misrepresented that. However, if you wanted to achieve a burger or a hot dog that has a uniform, smooth texture throughout its entirety, then we might suggest working with warm meat. Working with warm meat is the best way to avoid the usually desirable distinct chunks of meat and fat, instead achieving a smoother texture.

Spice distribution

Spice distribution can be improved through the use of warm meat. The reason for this is that fat is the road along which flavor drives – flavor and aromatic chemicals are oil-soluble, meaning that if pepper granules, for example, get into melted oil, they will flavor all of that oil – in the same way that a drop of water-based food coloring will color a whole bottle of water.

Therefore, if fat is allowed to get warm and smear throughout the meat mixture, you’re likely to get a more widely-spread amount of spice throughout the end result. Depending upon your tastes, this may make up for the texture change resulting from the use of warm meat in a warm grinder – only you can answer that question.

How to freeze meat before grinding?

If you do decide to freeze meat before you grind it, then you need to ensure you’re getting it right. There are three steps to freezing meat for grinding, so let’s talk about them.

First of all, you must separate the fat and skins from the meat you’re using. Generally, recipes will rely on a volume of meat and an added amount of fat – to get that ratio correct, removing natural fat is vital.

Next, slice the meat up into manageable chunks, ensuring that they’re all roughly equally sized. This will ensure that they’ll freeze at the same rate, leading to even and efficient grinding. To this end, keep the pieces of meat separated on the tray as you freeze them.

Finally, freeze the meat for thirty minutes – it doesn’t need to be entirely frozen. For the best grinding experience, freezing the meat for thirty minutes before immediately grinding is a wise choice.

Kunal Sharma
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