When I landed on the MEAT! website, I was quickly impressed by the easy-to-follow design. Products are neatly organized into three categories: prepare, process, and preserve. Under the prepare category, you will find slicers, saws, mixers, and scales. The process tab includes grinders, stuffers, and a jerky gun. The preserve category includes dehydrators, vacuum sealers, and wrapping supplies. When appropriate, they offer a “good, better, best” option with simple suggestions as to which one would fit your needs. There are well-produced video tutorials on each product, making the decision-making process even easier.
Where To Start
Each summer I open my chest freezer and take inventory of what I see. Some years I have too many roasts left over, other years I am heavy on steaks, but this year I am looking at about 100 pounds of hamburger. For years I have read about the various jerky guns that crank out perfectly-shaped meat sticks, but I have never actually used one nor have I ever tried the finished product. With the excess hamburger inventory, there is no better time than the present, so I ordered the MEAT! jerky gun and 6-tray dehydrator.
MEAT! is a consumer-direct company, so everything is shipped directly from their headquarters to your door. When my boxes arrived, everything was properly packed and in perfect working order, which is pretty dang important for a DTC company. I disassembled the jerky gun and washed it in hot soapy water and cleaned the dehydrator according to the instructions.
I spent some time on the internet studying the common ingredients and suggestions about how to make hamburger jerky. I thawed two pounds of ground venison and made each with a different recipe. I then loaded the jerky gun with the first pound and reloaded with the second, and within 10 minutes I had four full trays of raw meat strips ready for dehydration.
I set the timer for three hours at 167 degrees (165 degrees is the minimum to kill bacteria). I checked the meat each hour to test the level of dryness. This is a personal preference, but I found between 2.5-3 hours to be perfect. This time of year, we have extremely dry air in Arizona (most of the year I guess), so cooking time will vary depending on atmospheric conditions.
I generally cut my own meat, but I have always taken the grind meat to my local processor for hamburger and sausages. They (Millers Southwestern Processing, Queen Creek, AZ) do great work but I have always wanted to play around with different recipes, testing them in small batches. In order to do this, I needed my own grinder.
MEAT! makes three different models of meat grinders. The kitchen top 500w model ($99.99) will grind up to four pounds of burger per minute. The commercial-grade .5 HP model ($349.99) grinds 5.5 pounds per minute on average. The 1.5 HP can crank out 18 pounds per minute! I thought hard about the 500w unit and had no doubt it could do everything I would need it to do, but at least once a year a crew of us bow hunt wild pigs in Texas, usually coming home with 10-15 between us, and hopefully there will be hunts in the future that ends with more than one elk.
Given these possibilities, I opted for the .5 HP model. The bad news is that our annual hog hunt got canceled due to the covid-19 panic, so I haven’t had a chance to actually use it to its fullest potential. Western Hunter field editor Remi Warren did put the MEAT! grinder to work and reported that it performed just as promised.
All MEAT! products are covered by a limited lifetime warranty. Based on my experience and conversations I have had with friends who have used their products, I am confident in their products and have no doubt they will be around to back up their warranty.
Processing my own game meat has opened my eyes to the myriad of possibilities. It is easy to get bored when everything is just steaks, roasts, and hamburger. We owe it to ourselves, our families, and the animals we hunt to get creative and make the most of each pound of MEAT!