There’s no better way to know what you’re getting in a pound of ground beef than by grinding it yourself. The right-sized blades for your grinder are listed in the owner’s manual for your meat grinder. They’re mostly fixed in stone. However, you can change the plates on your manual grinder to get coarser or finer grinds for different kinds of meat products.
When you’re looking for good chunking meat, you’ll want the coarsest grind you can get out of your manual meat grinder. That means a 3/4-inch plate, which means that the holes are 3/4 inch in diameter. If you’re looking for something just a little finer, the 1/2-inch plate’s perfect for stew meat.
When you’re talking chili or chorizo, you’re looking at the 3/8-inch plate. But if you want to go all the way down to hamburger, you’d be better off with a 1/4-inch plate, or even something smaller than that.
Sometimes you’ll want to take your ground meat through your manual grinder twice. That’s common when you’ve got large chunks of meat which you eventually want to end up in sausages. Anytime you’re starting with meat chunks and want to end up with a fine grind, it’s always a good idea to start with a first grind.
The exact size of plate for your first grind’s going to depend on the size of your meat and how fine you’ll eventually want it. However, the plate for the first grind should always be 3/8 inch or larger.
This is the grind to use when you’re making salami, summer sausage, pepperoni, or bratwurst. It’s also a decent grind for hamburger.
If you want it coarser, go for the 5/16-inch plate. If you want it finer, use a 1/4-inch plate.
Breakfast sausage, Polish sausage, and Italian sausage all go through the medium grind. Once again, so can hamburger.
If you want it coarser, go for the 3/16 inch plate. If you want it finer, use a 5/34-inch plate.
This grind’s what you want to use for bologna, wieners, and those beef jerky sticks you see all the time in convenience stores. And yes, you can make hamburger with this one too.
Your basic fine grind comes from a 1/8 inch plate. If you want it super-fine, use a 3/32-inch plate.
You’ve generally got a choice between stainless steel plates and carbon steel plates. Stainless steel lasts longer. But don’t be fooled by the name. Stainless steel can rust!