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March 30, 2016 Comments (0) Kitchen Appliances

Choosing The Best Meat Grinder For Sausage Making

grinder header

Some things in life just let you that everything is right with the world… fresh coffee brewing, the sound of an egg cracking against the rim of an iron skillet, and the smell of great sausage sizzling in the pan. Sometimes it really is the simple pleasures that make life worthwhile.
The only thing better than sizzling sausage, is sizzling sausage that you made at home. Making sausage is easy, and you only need a few thing to do it. But before you go out and buy just any old meat grinder, you need to know a little about sausage, and how it’s made, so you can make informed decisions.

Grinder for sausage making: my best choicesBrandMy Opinion
STX Meat Grinder
stx
STXGreat for sausage making. My favorite.
LEM Products .75 HP
lem
LEMA professional choice.
LEM Products 1158
lem
LEMAnother great choice.

First, There Was Meat…

grill sausage

Sausage grew out of a desire to preserve meat, especially for people on the move. It was not always possible for nomadic people to stop, make a smoker, and smoke their meat to preserve it. It would be a long time before refrigeration was invented… Somewhere along the way, an enterprising individual found out that salt, and drying, preserved meat as good as smoking. Spices were added to the process, and soon, the sausage was born.

The earliest mention of what we would recognize as a sausage was in Ancient Greece around 500 BC. After that, it caught on like hotcakes. The Romans were especially fond of their sausages, and even passed the first food laws as to the production and storage of them. The very word ‘sausage’ comes from the Latin word, “salsus”, which means salted, and referred to any meat that was heavily salted, like bacon or baccala (dried salted cod). In time, the word evolved into, “sausage” and was used to describe meats that were cured, spiced and stuffed into casing made from animal intestines and stomachs. Over the years, just about every culture has developed their own unique style of sausage. Today, one can have sausages any way they like, from dry to wet, heavily spiced or mild, cured or uncured, fermented or unfermented, and stuffed into a casing, known as links, or just loose, also called bulk. You can have sausages flavored with just about anything imaginable that is not immediately toxic.

Just What Is A Sausage?

sausage

Good question. The answer is more complex than one might imagine. Basically, a sausage is usually pork, or beef, but can actually be any kind of meat, including poultry, game, fish, and even veggies, blood and cereals (as in European ‘puddings’). These can be mixed and matched at will. The meat is ground or cubed, and spiced.

Fermented sausages were developed in the cooler climates of northern Europe, where refrigeration was not needed. Dried sausages became popular in the warmer south, where they dried quickly and could be carried just about anywhere. That’s all there is to it. Now, to make different kinds of sausage, you can stuff it into casings to make links, or you can dry it, cure it, ferment it, smoke it, or just use it loose in bulk. There are way too many different kinds of sausages to list here, but here are some of the more common ones:

  • Breakfast – medium-ground fresh pork, beef, or game (turkey is also used for those watching their weight…), spiced with garlic, onions, fennel, anise, other spices, and the main flavor…sage. Red pepper is also sometimes added to give it some zip. It can be used in bulk, or as links. This is what most Americans are familiar with as sausage. It’s great in biscuits, with eggs, in beans, and more….different kinds of sausage
  • Italian – medium ground fresh pork link sausage spiced with garlic, salt, pepper, and the main flavor, anise. This is a wonderfully sweet sausage that is sometimes fortified with a some red pepper for a little extra, “umph”. Goes great with pasta dishes, especially ones with tomato-based sauces.
  • Kielbasa, or Polish – medium ground pork (sometimes mixed with chicken and/or turkey) link spiced with garlic and caraway seeds. True kielbasa is not smoked. This is a mild sausage that does well on a grill, or served with sauerkraut, white beans, cheese, or just on a bun.
  • Smoked – a kielbasa that has been cold-smoked.
  • German – fine ground pork, sometimes mixed with chicken (almost a patè), lightly spiced with garlic, and stuffed into casings. This is then fermented. Different spice mixtures yield bratwursts, knockwursts, frankfurters (wieners), and bologna. Cereals like oatmeal can also be added for texture.
  • Chorizo – a Spanish sausage made from medium ground pork or beef, heavily spiced with salt, pepper, vinegar, chili powder, and you guessed it…paprika (the Spanish probably put paprika on their cornflakes….). It can be used fresh, but true chorizo is dried and fermented. This is a hearty sausage that can stand up to almost anything…great with eggs, in beans, Spanish Omelets, soups, stews, etc….
  • Salami – From Central Europe and the Middle East, salamis are course ground meat, heavily spiced with garlic, lots of peppercorns, and stuffed into casings to dry and ferment. Pepperoni is a type of salami. These spicy meats make great sandwiches, or can be added to salads, or just eaten as is.

A word about casings – Natural casings are the traditional way to make links. They are made from hog, sheep, or sometimes cow intestines, and occasionally from a hog or sheep stomach for really large sausages like haggis and bologna. They come packed in salt, which must be rinsed off before use. They are more delicate than collagen casings, but they will have that great ‘snap’ when you bite into them. Collagen casings are tougher, and more forgiving, and are actually made from collagen, a natural substance present in the human body anyway. They will have the ‘snap’ but will also not result in nearly as many busted sausages. Collagen casings work really well for smoked sausages, which are prone to swell during smoking, and often burst natural casings.

As I said earlier, there are hundreds of different kinds of sausages, but these are the ones you are most likely to run across in the US. For a more complete listing of international sausages, as well as some great recipes, go here.

A Meating Of The Grinds…

Now that you know more about what sausage is, and is not, you can move on to grinders and stuffers. A meat grinder is a pretty simple and straight forward piece of machinery. You can use a manual grinder, or an electric model. The only difference is the size, weight, and the electric models have a motor instead of a hand-crank. There are advantages to both. Electric grinders are faster, and can turn out more sausage in less time, but you have less control over the speed, which can sometime lead to busted casings. Manual grinders are slower, but you can feel what you are doing and can make adjustments as you go. They are also much simpler, with less things to go wrong. I use a manual grinder most of the time. Here is a diagram for a typical manual grinder:

grinder parts

The auger goes into the body. The cross knife fits onto the end of the auger. The grind plate goes on top of the cross knife at the end of the auger, and this is all held in place by the locking ring. The table clamp attaches the grinder to a flat surface and keeps it from moving while you turn the hand-crank, which is held on to the other end of the auger by the eye screw. Meat is fed into the top of the hopper, where gravity, and sometimes a little help from the user, feeds it into the auger. Spinning the auger by turning the hand-crank forces the meat into the cross knife and through the grind plate, where it is minced into small pieces. The meat then is pushed out of the end into a stuffer, which is simply a plastic tube fitted to the lock ring that injects the ground meat into a casing placed over it. As the meat fills the casing, every so often, a link is created by twisting the casing.

There are some nuances to this, and it does take a little practice to get the feel of when a casing is filled to the correct capacity, how long to make the link chains, etc…. But by now, you should have a basic understanding of how the grinder works. An electric grinder is the same, only with an electric motor in place of the hand-crank.

What To Look For In A Grinder For Sausage

Grinders can be found very reasonable in places like EBay, Bargain Stores, Garage Sales, Resale Shops, etc…, and there is nothing wrong with a used grinder, if it has been taken care of. A well-made grinder can last several lifetimes. My Porkert is well over 75 years old, and still going strong. Sadly, the company folded a few years ago, after over 150 years in business.

This brings me to an important point. Get a grinder that is still in production, or that has millions of units still around, so you can easily find replacement parts if needed, as well as different size grind plates and stuffers that fit it. The next thing to consider is the companies Customer Service. Someday, you may need service or replacement parts. Next, check out the materials. You want a cast-iron grinder…not aluminum. The grinder will be placed under considerable stress at times, and aluminum just doesn’t hold up. Make sure the lock ring is machined, and not stamped or cast. You want the eye screw to have large threads, so it won’t strip out under pressure. Make sure the table clamp threads are not stripped out and are large enough to withstand some pressure. You want a large foot on the clamp, so it will hold the unit securely to the table.

The Best Grinder For Sausage Making

I have 5 grinders of different makes and sizes. I have never had any trouble with them, …no broken parts, no trouble with the operation of the units, and no hassles, even though they get used….a lot. If you stick to name brands, you should have little if any problems…ever. Your grandkids may be using your unit to crank out smoked sausages 50 years from now.
As I said, I have confidence in most makes of grinders, especially manual ones, but here are a few of my favorite models:

STX 3000 Review

stx 3000 for sausage

My favorite grinder when it comes to making my own sausages.

This is a hard unit to beat. The STX 3000 is a beast, with 3000 watts of power, three speeds (Reverse, Low, and OH WOW), uses standard #12 grind plates and cross knives, and takes a standard stuffer tube up to 2-1/2” in diameter, good for anything up to large links and stx 3000cracker-size bologna. It comes with three grind plates (fine, medium and course) three cross knives, and three sizes of stuffers. The grind plates are tempered steel, and the cross knives are 420 stainless steel. If you break anything on this unit, you have really done something. At 12 lbs weight, it is not going anywhere when you grind. The rubber feet provide a good non-slip grip on most countertop or table surfaces. I have never used mine to capacity, but I have easily processed 100 pounds of meat in less than 1 hour. I am sure it could do a lot more if you wanted it to. It’s a bit more pricey than the manual grinders, but if you want a unit that can crank out the links with minimal manual labor, this could be your baby.

> Check Out The STX-3000 On Amazon <

LEM Manual Grinder Review

manul grinder for sausage

The Chop-Rite #10 is a classic design, basically an American version of the Czech Porkerts. Made in Pa., these units are tough and dependable. Chop-Rite has great Customer Service and replacement parts and/or service is easy to obtain. The #10 operates smooth with few clogs, cleans up easy, and clamps very securely to a table top. Considering the price, this is definitely a bargain. Used ones can be found for less than half of the retail price.

Buffalo Tools Meat Grinder Review

buffalo tools manual grinder

I seldom recommend things made in China, but I will make an exception here. The Buffalo Tools Grinder is a serious commercial-capacity grinder. It is well-made from heavy-duty cast iron, bolts to a table, and can be operated manually by turning the pulley, mechanically by coupling it with an electric or gas motor using a rubber belt on the V-pulley, or even by a bicycle with a rear hub attachment available online for most bicycles, and a rubber belt. You can use any automobile belt. This unit can crank out 600 pounds of meat per hour…handy for the next time you bring home a mastodon…. The Kitchener operates very smoothly and grinds meat as fast as you can feed it in. Standard stuffer tubes and grind plates fit the lock ring perfectly. At less than $80.00 brand-new, In-The-Box, it is hard to beat this deal. If I could only have one grinder, this would be it. I probably use mine more than any of the other models that I have, if for nothing else than it is fun to grind meat while I ride my recumbent bicycle on the trainer….… I ride, and my wife feeds the machine. When one of us gets bored, we swap places…

Conclusion: Choose Your Favorite Grinder

I hope my recommendations were helpful. It’s your turn now, take your time and make your choice, you won’t regret having the right tools to make your own sausages, at home. If you need help, leave a comment below.

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