Food Processor Perfection
With a Good Food Processor, You Can Become Your Own Butcher
Buying ground meat from the supermarket can be a little iffy. Here’s why you should grind your own meat instead.
05-30-2017
America's Test Kitchen

Buying ground meat at the supermarket is kind of a crapshoot; unless your butcher grinds to order, there's no way to know what you're actually getting. The cut, fat content, and texture of store-ground meat can vary widely.

But when you grind it yourself in a food processor, you control all the variables. That means you can achieve the perfect grind for beef, pork, poultry, and even fish and seafood. Your food processor can also help with thinly slicing meat, which can be a tricky task without a commercial meat slicer or a supersharp chef’s knife and an extremely steady hand. This opens up possibilities for all kinds of dishes in the home kitchen that are otherwise better left to the professionals.

Here are a few tricks we've discovered for grinding proteins in your food processor.


 

1. Partially freezing the meat before processing it ensures results that are chopped but not pulverized.

2. In dishes like turkey burgers and shrimp burgers (below), we grind a portion of the main ingredient to a paste and use it to bind the rest of the dish, which is ground to a chunkier texture.

3. You can combine more than one cut of meat to engineer just the right mix of flavor and fat for each recipe.

4. To ensure clean, even cuts when slicing meat in the food processor, use a good amount of pressure to push the meat into the feed tube; don't be afraid to get a little heavy-handed!

5. Adding baking soda to our home-ground meat keeps it especially tender and moist during the cooking process (like with these Homemade Italian-Style Sausages). The soda raises the pH of the meat, which makes it more difficult for the proteins to bond.

6. You can use less panade (a bread and milk mixture used to add tenderness to ground meat dishes) when you grind your own meat because it will already be more tender than store-ground options.

Getting the Perfect Grind

Store-ground beef is often over-processed to a pulp, so it cooks up heavy and dense no matter how much care you take. Processing home-ground meat just enough to get the perfect grind means it cooks up more tender. The exact size of the grind will depend on the type of meat and the type of dish. The visual cues below will help you know when you’ve gotten your grind just right.

  • Underprocessed (gristly and chunky)

  • Ground to Perfection (loose but tender)

  • Overprocessed (pasty and dense)

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Food Processor Perfection

Let America’s Test Kitchen help you unleash the power of the all-in-one multitasker gathering dust in your cabinet. Your food processor can do the work of a whole set of knives, a meat grinder, a food mill, a box grater, a mandolin, a stand mixer, a blender—and do it all faster—with just the touch of a button.

 

For recipes to make with your food processor tonight, go here! And for more information on food processors, read these posts:

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