Review: Weston Pro Series #8 Meat Grinder
A proper meat grinder is a must-have piece of equipment for every meat hunter's kitchen. Burgers, meatloaf, chili, meatballs, ravioli, tacos, casseroles, sloppy joes, breakfast sausage, meat pies … I can go on and on. Ground meat is so versatile. Outside of slow cooking, a meat grinder allows hunters to use parts of an animal that may be too grisly or tough to eat whole.
But not all meat grinders are created equal. There are three types of meat grinders: the old-school manual grinder, which relies on muscle and patience; the Kitchen-Aid meat grinder attachment, which is a popular choice; and the most efficient tool of all, the dedicated electric meat grinder.
Due to sanitary reasons and the amount of time and effort that must go into grinding meat by hand, a manual grinder isn't a feasible option for most meat hunters. And while the Kitchen-Aid attachment does work, it was not designed to process a whole deer, or several, in one sitting. If you expect to process a lot of meat throughout the year, and you want to get it done efficiently, a dedicated electric meat grinder is the best choice.
In our home, the Weston’s Pro Series #8 Electric Meat Grinder (retail $399.99) is our baby. The #8 is commercial-grade, and it is loaded with features. Deer, moose or elk, this grinder can handle it all. Additionally, Weston offers a 5-year warranty on all its Pro Series grinders, which is one of the best deals in the business.
Speed and Power
My requirements for an electric meat grinder are simple: it must be fast, it must be powerful, and it can’t clog up and die mid-deer. The #8 fits the bill, with its fairly quiet operation and ability to chew up meat at incredible speeds. According to Weston, it’s .75 HP motor can handle 4-6 pounds per minute, and for the most part, gravity and the machine does all the work.
The texture of the ground meat is consistent every time, whether grinding through the fine or coarse plate. Its permanently lubricated, air-cooled motor keeps the machine from overheating after long use.
Although the #8 is at the lowest end in power among Weston's other Pro Series grinders, I find that it's more than sufficient in our household, which averages 2 deer per year plus other game and meats.
However, if you're looking for more power, check out the #12 (1 HP), #22 (1.5 HP) or #32 (2 HP).
Smaller meat grinders may be more compact and lightweight, but they also tend to be less powerful. Clogging can also be a problem with smaller parts, which can be disruptive to your work flow.
However, don't get the Weston #8 if you're expecting to keep something small and compact on your kitchen counter top. This workhorse is not dainty by any means, and it is quite heavy. But what it lacks in grace, it makes up for in volume.
The Weston #8's large offset head and feeding tube can handle a lot of meat, preventing ingredients from getting clogged up in the process. I usually cut meat into large 1 1/2-inch chunks—no need to mince meat so small before grinding. I've never had issues with meat, sinew and fat clogging up with the #8. Need to grind herbs along with your meat? No problem. The #8 chews through everything.
Construction and Features
The #8 is solidly built. I like its sleek stainless steel exterior, which is easy to wipe clean and doesn't absorb odors and stains as plastic does. A sturdy handle placed at the top of the body makes it easier to carry and transport.
Then after grinding, disassembling and cleaning is simple. The only addition that I would like to see included in the package is a tool to help clean the inside of the head where pieces of meat might stick. I've had to use a chopstick to scrape these bits out in the past.
Other features are a built-in knife sharpener, a tray to neatly store accessories, a tray dust cover and a sausage stuffing kit. The built-in knife sharpener is standard, but convenient. Although, if you already have a dedicated, trusty knife sharpener at home, you may not find this feature useful.
I don't do much sausage making, so I cannot comment on the included sausage stuffing attachments. Although it's good to know that they're there for light work.
Price vs. Use
The bottom line is if you're looking for an electric meat grinder that will see heavy use, a Weston Pro Series grinder is an excellent choice. For big game hunters, this machine will make a big job seem easy.
Still, the #8's $399.99 price tag is still a decent chunk of change, and you'll spend more as you go up in horsepower. If this is outside your budget, don't fret because Weston offers other models.
Whatever you decide, remember that the ability to butcher and process your own game will save you more money in the long term than paying someone else to do it every season. It's a sensible investment for hunters.