Why I grind my own hamburger

Even though it takes time, I've been grinding my own hamburger for the better part of 30 years. Back in those days, I would grind my own hamburger as a way to save money since a cheap roast was (and still is) often one-third less than the price of a pound of lean hamburger. These days, I continue to grind my own hamburger and sausage as a way to ensure food quality.

There are all sorts of benefits to grinding your own hamburger. Here are several more reasons why I grind my own hamburger instead of purchasing a ready-made chub from the supermarket.

Control the fat content. Commercially sold hamburger ranges anywhere from a 30% fat content to about 5% with the "extra extra lean" fetching premiums prices of $4.50 a pound or more. Grinding your own hamburger means that you control the fat content by either trimming away the fat for a leaner grind or leaving it in.

Control the additives. Grocery stores generally have to add something to the hamburger to extend the shelf life and keep it looking nice in the packages. Grinding your own hamburger means that you'll know exactly what goes into the grind whether it's salt, MSG, or other seasonings.

Know where the meat is coming from. Having grown up next door to a butcher, I learned as a kid what really goes into hamburger. (Hint: It's not the desirable parts of the cow). At least, when grinding my own, I know it's coming from what most of us consider the edible portions and not what's been scraped off the bones.

Less chance of bacteria. Grinding meat increases the exposure to air and surface bacteria which is why it's OK to eat a rare roast but not rare hamburger. As long as you follow safe food handling practices in your kitchen, you can be reasonable assured that your hamburger will be safe to eat as well.

Control the size of the grind. Most home meat grinders come with at least two grinding plates which allows us to customize the size of the grind. While the smaller plate is nice for making hamburger patties or meat loaves, I use the larger plates for a thicker grind which is nice for casseroles, skillet dinners, and soups.

Can make custom blends. You know those recipes that call for a quarter pound of this and a quarter pound of that? It's easy to make these custom blends when running everything through a meal grinder. I usually combine a 1/4 pound of pork butt (with fat) and 3/4 pound of a beef roast plus seasonings to create a meat blend that's delicious in meat loaves, lasagna, and Swedish meatballs.

In addition to all of these excellent reasons for grinding your own hamburger and sausage, the home ground meat also is much more flavorful and fresher than what you can already buy prepackaged. The flavor, the quality, and the price is why after 30 years, I still grind meat for family meals instead of leaving the task to others.

More by this contributor:

How to sauce garden tomatoes.

Cheap pork roasts made in the crock pot.

Using a pressure cooker to tenderize tough meat.