A meat grinder is a piece of kitchen equipment which is designed to grind meat into segments of uniform size. People are probably familiar with hamburger meat, a common product of the meat grinder, but these tools are also used to grind meats for sausages, meat loaves, and similar products. Incidentally, many butchers are happy to custom-grind meats for customers who ask, and you may find the freshly ground meat tastes better when used. They can also be used for things other than meats, like nuts and some vegetables.
The basic operating principle of the meat grinder has remained the same since it was developed in the 19th century by German inventor Karl Drais. The meat is forced through a metal plate which is punched with numerous small holes. As the meat is extruded, it takes the form of long, thin threads of meat which can be further broken up into chunks. It is possible to change the fineness of the grind by switching plates, from very fine to quite coarse.
The earliest meat grinders were hand cranked, and some smaller meat grinders are still designed to be operated by hand. However, commercial meat grinders are electric; this is vital when processing large amounts of meat, as otherwise one's hand could become quite tired. In addition to being used to grind a single type of meat, a meat grinder can also process mixed meats, ensuring that they are uniformly combined, as it often the case with sausages.
Many meat grinders have a sausage making attachment. To make sausage with a meat grinder, people attach the casings to the sausage making plate and then force the meat through the plate into the casings. Periodically, the casings may be twisted to create individual sausage links which can later be cut apart.
Ground meat is extremely useful, but meat grinders can be dangerous. When using a meat grinder, always keep extremities and hair clear of the device, as it is possible to get caught and badly injured. It is also important to remember that ground meat is an ideal environment for bacteria, since so many exposed surfaces are created. Ground meat should always be cooked very thoroughly, and a meat grinder should be meticulously cleaned after use to prevent contamination. The use of very hot water and bleach or a similar strong disinfectant is highly recommended.