Not too long ago there was a ground beef recall issued. I took the opportunity to trash the American beef industry and toot my own horn in the process on Facebook.
The other day my local grocery store had a “buy one, get one” deal on bottom round roasts and chuck steak for pot roast with “mix ‘n match” privileges. I figured this was a chance to once more toot my horn.
Don’t Buy Prepackaged Ground Beef
Save up some money and buy a KitchenAid stand mixer. Get a good one, one that will outlive you and can be gifted to a younger family member after you die an early death from eating all the wonderfully delicious foods you’ll make using the KitchenAid. Save up some more money and buy, in this order, the pasta making attachment and then a meat grinding attachment. Don’t buy the KitchenAid plastic meat grinder, get an all-metal one. Do a google search as any brands I suggest here will probably have gone away by the time anybody reads this.
Next, buy a vacuum sealer device. Start cheap with a Seal-a-Meal basic model. Get lots of vacuum bags.
Now clear out some room in the freezer. Got an old frosty freezer? Defrost it and discard the science projects formerly ensconced in ice. Make some room for what’s to come.
Now look for sales on beef. Don’t buy stuff from the “must go today!” section of the meat department. Look for the cheaper cuts: chuck, round, rump. A well-marbled chuck steak intended for pot roast is among my favs for grinding. As benefitted me the occasional “buy one, get one” can be a cost saver. Others suggest adding short ribs (taken off the bone obviously), brisket, flank, sirloin, and even rib-eye, but that adds to the cost.
Bring your chosen meat home, prep your workstation, cube the meat to whatever size will easily fit in your grinder being mindful to separate larger bits of fat (especially if you include rib-eye), then put the cubed meat and fat in the freezer for a little while. Don’t let it freeze solid, you just want it to firm up a bit. While the meat is chilling set up your grinder. My grinder came with four dies, so I normally use #2. If you prefer finer ground meat, by all means, select the finest die.
Set a bowl under the grinder, fire it up (I run mine pretty slow, no faster than 3 on the speed lever), get the meat out of the freezer and feed it to the grinder being sure to add in pieces of the fat you kept separate. Here you have the opportunity to be as obsessive as you like with your meat/fat ratio. Many people carefully cube the meat and fat, weigh each component, then determine exactly how much fat to add in to achieve the desired ratio. I don’t do this. I remove all large bits of fat and discard it; thus my ground meat has only the marbling fat. I prefer lean ground beef.
Once all the meat is ground I usually mix it by hand to better distribute the lean and less-lean bits. I then pull out the kitchen scale and vacuum bags, portion the meat using one pound as standard, vacuum and seal each bag, date it and get it to the freezer. I do not season my ground beef prior to freezing.
If I managed to score beef on sale, my finished cost will be anywhere from $2.50 to $3.50 per pound for ground beef normally costing $4.99 to $5.75 per pound. My cost can be much less if I buy a full beef round from a restaurant supply place and spend a couple hours cubing and grinding it. This price does not include my time or the cost of the equipment, but because I invested in good equipment years ago the amortized cost per use has declined steadily over time.
But the modest cost saving isn’t why I do this. I like a good burger, good meatloaf, and good chili, and I appreciate knowing, as best I can, what went into my ground beef. When we lived in Southern Oregon, more often than not the beef we ate came from a neighbor’s cow we used to visit and occasionally hand feed. The idea that I might buy ground beef containing ends and trimmings from near the exterior of the animal, some bits needing treatment with ammonia or other chemicals, or including the appetizingly named “pink slime,” is no longer part of my thinking. I encourage others to give it a try.