Meat grinders are no longer looked upon as something only a hunter, a butcher, or a farmer might have on hand anymore. Consumers are inspired by the explosion of food shows on television that feature the preparation of meals from scratch, and are more interested than ever in cooking their meals with an emphasis on freshness with no unnecessary additives.
The best manual meat grinder will let you bring the ultimate freshness to your meat dishes, straight from your kitchen. Fairly soon, meat grinders will likely become as common as pasta machines, bread makers, heavy-duty mixers, and many other kitchen gadgets that have found a place in the well-equipped home alongside the big appliances like stoves and ovens.
Top 3 Best Manual Meat Grinders
Let’s see how three of the most popular manual meat grinders available on the market stack up.
1. LEM Products #10 Stainless Steel Clamp-on Hand Grinder
With its heavy duty all stainless steel construction and wooden crank handle, the LEM #10 hand grinder looks like a classic example of a grinder. It’s a clamp-on style, designed to be temporarily mounted on the edge of a counter or table. The long arm of the crank is designed to deliver the maximum leverage, but the unit has to be mounted so that the crank handle has full clearance below the level of the surface it’s mounted upon. Mounting to a kitchen table instead of a countertop will give the user more leverage to bear down on the handle.
The unit comes with two stainless steel plates, a 3/8” coarse, and a finer, 3/16” size. Three stuffing tubes are included: ½”, 3/4”, and 7/8”.
The stainless steel construction makes the unit easier to keep clean, and retards rust. But many recommend coating the interior surfaces with oil, especially the cutters, after use anyway.
Over four out of five users, both avid and casual cooks, would recommend this unit to a friend. Some take issue with the clamping mechanism, reporting that it doesn’t open wide enough to accommodate their countertops, but most reported that they preferred to clamp the unit onto a cutting board and then fasten the board down anyway, to protect their counters and make cleanup easier.
Users also note that the unit will even handle the occasional small bone without jamming, which is a plus if you’re using the unit to make dog or cat food and are using lots of leftovers from a carcass. The LEM #10 comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee, and a one-year warranty.
2. Sportsman SM07528 Meat Grinder with Pulley
With its classic cylindrical shape, wide-mouthed bell-shaped spout, and big, red pulley wheel with a wooden handle attached, the #32 looks like something you’d find in a farm kitchen in the early 20th century. It’s made from cast iron, so like any other cast iron utensil in the kitchen, it requires some care to clean and keep from rusting. The surfaces are smooth and easy to get at when your grinding session is over.
The hand crank on the pulley wheel works well if you’ve got enough elbow grease for the job at hand, but you can always add a belt and an electric motor to make the #34 into a bit of a grinding monster. The manufacturer estimates that if you use a 1 horsepower motor and belt, and run it at 1700 rpm, you’ll be able to grind up to 600 pounds of meat in an hour.
The grinder is meant to be mounted to the end of a counter or table, and has four feet with holes in them for that purpose. Users report that you can use it on a countertop without mounting it, but it will skate around a bit, especially if you don’t have help to hold it while you crank. Many users suggest bolting the grinder to a thick cutting board and then clamping the board to the work surface. Of course, if you’re attaching a motor, you’ll need to have a more permanent setup.
The #32 doesn’t come with stuffing tubes, but they are available as accessories. Unlike most hand grinders, the tubes for the #32 are made of metal and not plastic. Most users report that the grinder works exceptionally well, but is harder to clean than they’d like, and requires a good deal of force to operate the crank.
3. Norpro Meat Grinder
The Norpro meat grinder has more of the look of a modern kitchen appliance than an old-fashioned grinder. With a hard, white plastic exterior, clear hopper, stainless steel blades and electric green adjustment knob and spout, it looks more like an Apple product than the almost Victorian look of the others we’ve sampled.
The Norpro bills itself as more than a grinder, too. Using fittings on the exit spout, you can extrude various pasta shapes from it as well. Unlike the others we’ve tested, it doesn’t have a pinch clamp or mounting bolts to hold it down; it’s got a vacuum suction base with a locking key to mount it temporarily to any smooth surface in your kitchen.
The manufacturer touts the ability of the Norpro to crush beans and nuts, mince vegetables, make breadcrumbs, and break up vegetables for fresh baby food, using combinations of coarse and fine blades. The unit comes with a sausage stuffer as well.
The most common user reaction to the Norpro is surprised. More than half of purchasers rate it at five stars, and four out of five would recommend it to a friend. That’s where the surprise factor comes in. The units are very small and inexpensive, and the suction disc makes users fear it won’t hold well once they start turning the crank.
They quickly change their minds once they start using it. Some report that they like the little machine so much that they find themselves wandering around the kitchen looking for more ingredients to put through it. If you have an uneven or solid wood counter, the suction cup might not hold. But on surfaces like granite, stainless steel, or enamelled steel it holds like a tiger.
So Who’s Got The Best Manual Meat Grinder?
We’re going to have to weasel out of choosing just one meat grinder, because each has its own strengths, but the real answer is everyone should buy two of these meat grinders.
If you’re interested in easy cleaning and a powerful crank arm for occasional grinding, the LEM Stainless Steel #10 is probably right for you. If you’re planning on handling large amounts of meat from time to time, like after hunting season, and don’t want to pay for butchering, the ability to the #32 to be converted to power drive makes it an easy choice.
600 pounds an hour is close to a professional performance from a unit that can be stowed away and used occasionally for smaller jobs, too. But no matter which suits your particular needs, everyone should also buy the inexpensive Norpro and keep it on hand in the kitchen. It’s easy and fun to use, and every home could use it almost daily, which just might make it the best manual meat grinder overall.