Seasoned Advice is a question and answer site for professional and amateur chefs. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

Last Christmas, I got a meat grinder and I've stared experimenting with sausage making. My previous batches have been around a pound of pork, and I noticed that it seemed to slow down as I went. Today, I pushed through five pounds of chicken thighs and pork fat, which was a huge chore -- almost immediately, it the grinding would slow, and after maybe a half pound, I needed to take the blade out and clean the sinew out of the die. I could then go back and grind maybe a half pound again, before things clogged up.

Is this normal? I can't really imagine it is, or no one would ever grind meat.

I've tried the blade both ways -- one way is definitely the correct way; the other way doesn't cut at all.

I've cut the meat into cubes about the diameter of my thumb -- definitely smaller than the augur spacing.

I know, this isn't the world's best grinder (it's a "Back to Basics" brand). Does my blade need sharpening already? Is there some basic meat grinder technique I'm missing? Is the grinder just crap?

share|improve this question
Just to be sure... you are removing the silver skin off your meat before grinding and making sure that everything is as cold as possible, right? and is your grinder hand crank or electric? – sarge_smith Mar 25 '12 at 7:43
For what it's worth: the meat grinder was also complete crap. It broke almost immediately and I replaced it with a better model. The blades are of obviously better quality and it clogs about 1,000 times less. So: silverskin was part of the issue; however, good tools also help immensely. – Nate Feb 1 '13 at 18:47
up vote 8 down vote accepted

Is this normal?

Yes, it is. Sinew and other connective tissues (silverskin/fascia, ligaments) are very tough stuff; you need to remove as much as possible by hand before grinding.

Sinew and ligaments are strong, whitish strands or "cables" connecting bones to muscles and to other bones, respectively. They'll be in the same place on every piece of a particular cut of meat: a poultry drumstick has an easily-identifiable piece of sinew -- actually the "Achilles' tendon" -- heading from the fleshy part to the exposed end of the bone.

Silverskin is a connective boundary between muscles. It's a thin, clingy, and annoying sheet, translucent silvery white, that you will find on the surface, and defining the divisions of, various cuts of meat. It might make it through the grinder if your blade is nice and sharp and the piece isn't too big, but it's best to take it off (your teeth can't deal with it much better than the grinder can). You'll need a thin, sharp, narrow blade for this: a filet/boning knife, sometimes a good paring kife.

Essentially, anything that's not fat or muscle needs to be taken out before the meat goes into the grinder.

Chicken thighs have a lot of connective tissue. Some of it is hidden inside the muscle segments on the underside of the thigh; make sure you cut those open.

Depending on the particular piece of meat you have, you may end up with what seem like extremely small bits after this process. Even a nice pork shoulder can result in 1/4" or thinner pieces after the internal connective tissue is removed. This won't have any real effect on the grinding process; the only thing to watch out for is thorough and even mixing if you end up with many different sizes and are marinating/curing the meat before grinding.

You can grind without removing all the tissue (it gets frustrating sometimes), but you'll have to be prepared to stop the grinder and clean the blade and plate frequently -- the instant you notice that the meat is not coming out of the plate in clean, cohesive, and separate lines. If you see any signs of smearing or over-grinding (the grind will start to be too fine and become pink as the fat and meat combine), stop and clear the blade. Otherwise, the mixture won't emulsify properly, the fat will melt out when you cook it, and the sausage will be dry.

Does my blade need sharpening already?

It may very well, but this still won't help with sinew and ligaments.

You should treat your grinder blade the same way you treat your kitchen knives -- maintain its edge, rather than waiting for it to become completely dull. I'd say that I put my blade onto a sharpening stone every 50 lbs. or so. The nice thing is that it's extremely easy -- you are grinding all the arms of the blade at the same angle: flat. The plate also needs to be maintained by grinding the surface where it meets the blade (the edges of the holes should be sharp), but I'd say that this can be done much less freqently. The blade and the plate can both be maintained quite successfully and easily with a piece of fine (800 grit) wet-dry sandpaper slapped on a table.

share|improve this answer
Dealt with some chicken thighs last night for another recipe, and took a closer look at them. Yup, connective tissue was a huge part of my problem. Thanks for the help! – Nate Apr 4 '12 at 18:30

I initially had problems with this on my Kitchenaid grinder attachment when I did not properly tighten the ring that holds the die and cutter together. Because they weren't mating as tightly as they should have, the sinew wasn't getting sliced, and would eventually bunch up and clog things.

Assuming your grinder assembles the same way, the first thing I'd check is that you're assembling things properly and tightening things down firmly enough.

And of course, other tips about trimming as much sinew and silverskin in advance as possible are spot on.

share|improve this answer
That's an excellent point -- the blade and plate should be making contact. Sometimes a nylon washer at the back end of the augur is necessary to make that happen. – Josh Caswell Mar 28 '12 at 19:40

I've done a lot of grinding of wild game for over 30 years and used all kinds of grinders both electric and manual.

For manual grinders, try attaching a steering wheel from a car as this will give you more torque and make it ten times easier to grind.

On electric grinders such as the Kitchen Aid meat grinding attachment, be sure to use the coarse grinding plate first and then regrind the meat a second time with the fine grinding plate. This is much faster than stopping to remove sinew all the time and sometimes the coarser ground meat is fine if the cut of meat you are grinding is tender anyway.

share|improve this answer

Try freezing your meat first then cutting it on a band-saw into cubes then mince it for best results. It will pass through the mincers more easily without constantly clogging the mincer and the blades will cut through the frozen sinews more easily when the meat is frozen.

If you don't have a band-saw then dice the meat into cubes and freeze them loosely on trays. Once the cubes are frozen put them through your mincer and you will have the same results.

share|improve this answer
Dean, welcome to the site! I jst removed the link because it contains no information relevant to the answer and may thus be seen a spam. You may link to your own site if a) you write a good standalone anwer (check), the linked site supplies additional helpful information (nope) and c) you disclose your affilliation (nope). – Stephie Sep 22 '15 at 5:37

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.