When you need to break down ingredients for a recipe, you’ll rely on either a meat grinder or a food processor. This guide will explore the differences between the two appliances so you’ll always know which to use and when.
Here are the differences between a meat grinder and a food processor:
- Food texture
- Food flavor
- Cutting blades
Ahead, I’ll first talk about meat grinders and food processors in detail, then I’ll walk you through the above differences between them. I’ll even discuss whether you can use one appliance in exchange for another, so make sure you check it out!
What Is a Meat Grinder Used For?
Meat grinders, also known as “meat mincers”, are one of the few kitchen appliances that do a single task really well, in this case, grinding meat or other hard-to-cut foods you need reduced in size prior to consuming.
A metal appliance that’s been in use since the 19th century when Karl Drais created it, meat grinders can mix and mince (or cut) a variety of meat. That includes everything from fish to cooked or raw meat.
You can even use a meat grinder on vegetables, despite the name!
The earliest meat grinders had handles you had to crank, and many meat grinders today still use a handle. If not, then the appliance will be powered by electricity.
How a Meat Grinder or Meat Mincer Works
- You put the food you want to mince into a funnel that’s atop the grinder
- The food passes through a horizontal screw conveyor, which is either electric or manually driven
- The screw conveyor mixes and squishes what goes through it
- A fixed plate is where the minced meat exits
Meat grinders can also include mixer units. With a mixer unit, you can combine several types of meat into one.
If you often incorporate spices, salts, or additives of any kind, into the foods you run through your meat grinder then a mixer unit is something you’d want to look into using as well.
A Mixer unit can make mixing in just about anything easier and faster allowing you to streamline your kitchen workflow.
You can forego a mixer unit and still use additives, but that requires you to sprinkle them on the meat post-grinding. The additives aren’t as well incorporated, which can impact the flavor for the worst.
What Is a Food Processor Used For?
Food processors, unlike meat grinders, are used for recreating the meals you would normally purchase from a store. One of the main benefits to creating your meal using a food processor is that you have the option to not include the additives & preservatives manufacturers often include in store-bought recipes.
Food processors give you the freedom instead to add, fresh, organic, or locally grown ingredients in the place of said additives and preservatives.
Also, despite working a lot like blenders, food processors generally work mostly liquid-free, which is another primary difference.
The earliest food processors came about in the late 1940s from a company in Germany known as Electrostar. Their food processor was called the Starmix.
It was an ambitious project, as the Starmix came with accessories for ice cream, milk centrifuges, and bread slicers.
How do the food processors of today work? The unit’s base has a motor. When the motor runs, a vertical shaft spins.
The vertical shaft features a translucent plastic bowl around it. Cutting blades on the shaft are nearer the bowl’s bottom. When using slicing or shredding discs, they go closer to the bowl’s top.
The bowl also includes a feed tube and a lid. The feed tube, as the name suggests, sends the ingredients into the bowl.
With a pusher, you can’t easily slice your fingers when using a food processor.
The Differences Between a Meat Grinder and a Food Processor
Now that you’re clearer on meat grinders and food processors and how each works, I can delve into the differences between the two appliances as outlined in the intro.
When meat grinders were invented in the 19th century, batteries were only just coming into existence. Thus, it makes sense that meat grinders weren’t motorized until much later.
Even with electric versions available, there’s something very quaint and old-world about grinding meat yourself. It’s a good workout, and you tend to be prouder of the final result.
By the time food processors arrived on the scene in 1946, electricity was becoming a part of everyday life. Most rural homes had electricity, televisions were common sights in households, so unsurprisingly, the appliances of the time used electricity as well. That includes food processors.
Food processors pulse food, which means the appliance minces food in short bursts of a few seconds. Meat grinders grind food, hence the name.
If you were to feed two portions of meat into these appliances, one into both a meat grinder and the other in a food processor, you’d get very interesting outcomes.
The food processor would deliver a softer, pastier texture that’s almost like baby food. Some of the meat would be chunky, but it wouldn’t be very fine.
The inconsistencies in meat shape, size, and texture can make mincing meat in a food processor a frustrating experience. Plus, the pasty meat is often a sign that you’ve processed too much.
The meat grinder will maintain the same texture throughout and keep the meat loosely packed. The meat will come out in strands, almost like spaghetti.
If you’ve ever bought raw burger patties at the grocery store, you’ll know exactly what I mean.
The difference in meat texture comes down to how these two appliances work. Meat in the food processor is directed towards the blade several times during pulsing. When grinding meat, the meat only goes towards the blade a single time.
Let’s continue the example from the paragraphs above. You’re breaking down the same type of meat in both a meat grinder and a food processor. Which appliance produces better-tasting meat?
Well, taste is subjective, but factors that influence taste are not. For instance, mincing meat through a grinder holds onto more of the fatty juices. When you cook the meat, it should be moister and richer.
Putting meat through a food processer and then cooking it will result in meat with less fat.
Both meat grinders and food processors utilize a bevy of attachments, but the types of attachments vary.
Let’s begin by talking about meat grinders as I have. As you’ll recall, meat grinders use fixed plates, aka grinder plates.
Those plates are assigned different numbers. The higher the number, the wider the openings in the grinder plate.
Here is a full breakdown of the grinder plate numbers and what each should be used for.
|Grinder Plate Number||Plate Size||Grind Type||Use It For This|
|#5||2 1/8 inches with a diameter of ¼ inches||Coarse||Snack sticks, pepperoni, salami, and summer sausage|
|#8||2 3/8 inches with a diameter between 3/8 inches and 3/16 inches||Coarse between the first and second grind||The smaller-diameter #8 plate is great for linguisa, chorizo, and chili; use the larger-diameter plate for sausage and hamburger meat|
|#10/12||2 ¾ inches with a diameter of 3/16 inches||Coarse during the first grind||Linguisa, chorizo, and chili|
|#20/22||3/14 inches with a diameter of 3/16 inches, 1/8 inches, ½ inches, 3/8 inches, or ¼ inches||Coarse to fine||Sausage, hamburger, bologna, hot dogs, stewed meats, linguisa, chorizo, chili, and salami|
|#32||3 7/8 inches with a diameter of 1/8 inches||Fine||Jerky, hot dogs, bologna, and hamburger|
|#42||5 1/6 inches with a diameter of 4 millimeters||Coarse||Bratwurst, pepperoni, summer sausage, salami, and hamburger|
Food processors also use a variety of attachments, some of which are included with your purchase and others you’d have to buy separately. Here’s the full list:
- Spiral slicer: A spiral slicer is the ideal attachment for making zoodles or zucchini noodles. The vegetable will have that beautiful spiral shape every time without much manual effort on your part.
- Jug blender: The jug blender attachment allows you to puree with ease so you can make everything from milkshakes to soups and smoothies. With a jug blender, some food processors can crush ice, which is impressive!
- Juicer: Capable of extracting the juices from vegetables and fruits alike, a food processor juicer attachment will allow you to enjoy healthier beverages that don’t have preservatives or bucketloads of sugar.
- Vegetable peeler: Do you need to peel carrots on the quick without the mess? The vegetable peeler attachment will take care of it for you. You can also use this attachment for peeling apples, squashes, cucumbers, and potatoes with your food processor.
- Egg white whisk attachment: This attachment holds your eggs and then whisks them until they’re white and frothy. No more will you have to expend so much manual effort on whipping and whisking when you have a food processor attachment for the job.
- Pulp ejection system: Where does all that food waste go that your food processor generates? The pulp ejection system, of course. This attachment stores vegetable and fruit pulp that you can recycle or even reuse.
As you’ll recall from earlier, the amount of contact the food makes with the blade when cutting with a meat grinder and a food processor varies. That’s due to the design differences of the blades.
Let’s take a closer look at the various blades a food processor uses.
- Grating disc: Grating discs are designed to grate cheese, vegetables, and other foods without the need for a box grater. The small blade of the grating disc produces uniformly grated food. For veggies especially, the diced look can be very appealing!
- Shredding or slicing disc: The shredding or slicing disc in a food processor is usually made of stainless steel. Precise blades maintain the same pressure but slice fast to shred. If you’re making shredded cabbage, sliced carrots and potatoes, coleslaw, meatballs, or breadcrumbs, this disc comes in handy.
- Perforated blade: A food processor’s perforated blade will liquefy fruit and vegetables. Now making your own homemade mayonnaise or tartar sauce is quick and simple.
- Dicing blade: Most food processors include at least two dicing blades for faster slicing and cutting.
- Dough blade: No more spending too much time kneading your dough to perfection when your food processor has a dough blade. Whether you’re making pizza crust, pie crust, or bread, the dough blade will shape and knead your dough so it’s ready for baking.
- Knife blade: The standard blade for most food processors is the knife blade. You can rely on this blade for chopping, pureeing, mashing, mincing, and mixing, so it’s quite multifunctional.
The aforementioned plates are what influence how finely or thickly your meat is cut with a meat grinder.
Although both meat grinders and food processors come in several sizes, you don’t necessarily want a smaller meat grinder, especially if yours is motorized.
The smaller this appliance, the weaker its motor is. You’d be better off buying a hand-cranked meat grinder at that point.
Tabletop food processors have their downsides as well. These tiny appliances don’t have the capacity of their full-sized counterparts, and they probably lack the breadth of attachments and blades as well.
Meat Grinder vs. Food Processor – Do You Need Both?
Meat grinders and food processors, despite that they can handle some of the same jobs, don’t really work interchangeably.
I talked in detail earlier about how when using a food processor to grind meat that the results are not the same as using a meat grinder.
If you have the space for them in your kitchen, then I’d suggest having both a meat grinder and a food processor.
That said, if you must choose one, let your kitchen habits be your guide.
Do you spend most of your time in the kitchen slicing and dicing vegetables and fruits? If so, then a food processor would be the better appliance for you.
If you’re often busy making homemade meatballs or sausages from scratch, then a meat grinder is what you need. Food processors can overgrind the meat and deplete it of the delectable juices that make your homemade meats so tasty!