Monday, January 20, 2014

How to Grind Your Own Beef

I was very pleasantly surprised at how easy this was. I asked for a meat grinder for Christmas because there is no place close that sells quality sausages and I wanted to make my own, but I figured while I have a grinder I might as well go ahead and make my own ground beef as well. All of that stuff about pink slime really freaked me out, not to mention the fact that I've often gotten ground beef that had lovely red meat on the outside but was brown on the inside, which means the meat was exposed to air and was probably older and just covered in pretty fresh meat so they didn't have to discount it for looking bad. Now I know that I am having fresh, 100% ground beef. Well, more like 95% beef, 5% fat, but still...

About half an hour before you grind put the meat and the grinder in the freezer. It's much more sanitary to use it partially frozen.

Cut the beef into cubes. I used a thick steak with some nice marbling that I got for about 5 dollars and it's a little over a pound. A little bit more expensive than preground beef but since I'm getting all beef and no fillers, it's probably actually about the same. (Side note, see what my pink counters do to my pictures. They make everything look pink. Yuck)

I have a kitchenaid attachment which for a home cook is probably all you need. If you are a homesteader and processing large amounts of meat, obviously you'll need more. This one is so handy because it works well but it's small enough to not take up a lot of space. Feed the meat into the hole.

You can adjust the size of beef that come out. Also, don't put in whole chunks of fat because it will clog around your blade. I just ground it straight into the skillet. Kitchenaid recommends to put the setting on 4 and it look about a minute for it to get everything out. I did turn it up to 6 at the end to help push out the rest.

Cooking freshly ground beef was an entirely new experience for me. It smelled like a steak. I know you may be thinking, "Of course it does, it's beef isn't it?" but ground beef rarely smells like cooking meat. It doesn't small a whole like anything except the times I've gotten meat (especially when it's organic for some reason) that smells almost like oatmeal. I assume that this is the filler. But this beef smells so incredibly good. 

Even on the smallest setting the meat was in much wider strands than you get at the grocery. I was a little iffy about that being a problem but it wasn't at all. The meat didn't clump together but cooked into nice perfectly sized chunks. I assume that groceries grind it so much smaller because they're using discarded bits of meat that need to be blended. In my beef each strand had the same red and white marbling that the original steak did.
And it was not cooking in a small pool of fat. I didn't even bother patting it dry, unlike the spoonfuls of fat I usually have to scoop out.

Grinding my own beef cost me about 1 additional minute, although I did have to remember an half an  hour ahead of time to put it in the freezer. It was not messing, or bloody...It looked and smelled so much better, and I feel a lot better about feeding it to my family. I think the days of buying pre-ground beef are done for us.

Great Pot Roast Recipes

In reality just about any meal can be made in a slow cooker. Soups and braises especially are easier to make in a slow cooker than on a stove or in an oven because they require long cooking times, which, unless you are home all day, you probably wont be comfortable leaving something on the oven for several hours.
The general rules are: 
  • chicken cooks in 4 hours on low
  • Beef, pork, and lamb take about 6 hours on low
  • Unless you have a large cut (a pot-roast cut or a whole chicken) which will take about 5 hours on high.
  • You can almost make stock with a slow cooker. Place a used chicken carcass or leftover beef bones in with carrots, celery, salt, pepper, and cover with water. Cook for 6 or more hours on low then strain. You'll need to freeze the stock and then scrap off all the white fat which has frozen on the top. 
  • The best way to convert a recipe into a slow-cooker is to make sure you sear the meat first and deglaze the pan, pouring the liquid into the slow-cooker. The nice crisp outside is the main different between cooking in the oven and in a slow-cooker but it can be easily faked.
  • If you're nervous about your food becoming dry stick to food cooked in liquids. It is literally impossible to have a dry pot roast if it's cooked in ample liquid.
  • Your meat will go from raw to tough to fork cutting tender. If your meat is too chewy come dinner time (which means you didn't get your cooking times correct) cut into into serving-sized portions, pour into a casserole dish, and stick it in the oven at 400 degrees. It's wont be perfect but in half an hour or so your food will at least become soft enough to chew.
  • If you're gone during the day don't worry about adding an extra hour to a low setting cooking time, or if it's a stew, up to 4 additional hours.
  • Don't add dairy products, rice, pasta, or bread until the end. The dairy will overcook and the other foods will become too saturated with liquid and turn to mush.
And finally, if you love the ease of slow-cooker cooking, I encourage you to learn to use a pressure cooker. This is perfect for those days when you've forgotten all about dinner and everyone is hungry and you need to make something asap. Pressure cookers cut cooking time at least two thirds. If you play your cards right you can cook even faster than that.

Here are some of my favorite slow-cooker recipes. To print off the recipe card left-click, go to save image as, save it, and then print it off at your leisure. There are many other great slow-cooker recipes, including ones in the book The Mexican Slow Cooker by Deborah Schneider, which has great conversions for cooking tamales and enchiladas in a slow-cooker. And remember, just as most recipes can be converted to a slow-cooker, most of these recipes can also be cooked on a stove or in the oven.

Smothered Pork Roast

Moroccan-Spiced Chicken

French Dip Sandwiches

Pozole Verde

Carne Con Rajas


Pollo En Crema Con Chipotle


Beer Pot-Roast

Pot Roast Caribe

Chicken Gumbo

Cilantro Lentils

Coq Au Vin

 Mustard Glazed Corned Beef

 Pork Stew with Chipotle Tomatoes

Other suggestions:

Let me know if you have any questions, like how to convert a recipe, or if you want more recipes.

Menu Plan Monday


Crema de elote con basilio
This recipe doesn't add basil, but the soup is much better with just a sprig or two added


Matzo-crusted chicken Cutlets via Martha Stewart
Beet and Carrot puree with orange juice
Fry diced potatoes


Pasta Kielbasa with sauerkraut
Poached Peaches


Beef Potpie with Cheddar-Stout Crust
Baked Potatoes
Maple Roasted Brussel Sprouts and Rutabagas with hazelnuts



Ajiaco Soup
You really should use yucca instead of potatoes in this recipe, but if you don't have an international market nearby potatoes will suffice.

Thanks to Orgjunkie for the linkup!