Food Processor Ground Meat (Easy Kitchen Hack)

Finished ground pork shoulder in the food processor

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Happy Prime Day! The math nerd in me is slightly disappointed that the dates aren’t even prime numbers, but I love any excuse to celebrate. A Chinese celebration needs good food, preferably dumplings. And good dumpling start with good texture, which requires good ground meat. The ideal ground meat 碎肉 (suì ròu) in Chinese cooking is hand-chopped, not machine-ground.

My dad tells stories about how he won over my mom’s family by manning the chopping board for dumpling night at the future-in-laws’. Although I love this way of proving worthiness, I’m all about efficiency. My secret for hand-chopped-quality ground pork for Chinese cooking is the food processor! Instead of extruding the meat through holes like in a meat grinder, the blades of a food processor chop right through the muscle fibers as if you were using a cleaver.

Each individual piece is well-formed instead of squished and pasty. Plus, you get to pick higher quality cuts of meat instead of the leftover bits and ends that go into supermarket ground meat. And it’s almost always cheaper to grind your own than buy preprocessed.

It’s super quick and easy. You’ll never want to buy over-priced, grainy ground pork from the supermarket again.

Food Processor Ground Meat: Easy Step-by-Step

The most common meat used in Chinese cooking is pork, to the point that 肉 (ròu) “meat” in 肉丝 (ròu sī) “meat strips” or 碎肉 (suì ròu) “ground meat” actually specifically implies pork. But this process will work just as well for any type of meat.

The best food processor

We have a super powerful, highly efficient Cuisinart Custom 14-cup food processor. I am obsessed with it. This isn’t the first time I’ve waxed poetic about my food processor, mostly recently when I made homemade puff pastry for these Suzhou pumpkin mooncakes. It’s like a really fast pair of hands.

Choose a good cut of meat

How much depends on the recipe, but generally you want to choose a cut with a little fat content. We use pork shoulder for general purpose ground pork. It‘s sold in a big hunk as pork shoulder or pork butt (“Boston butt”), or my favorite option country style ribs. Country style ribs don’t come from the ribs at all; they’re actually strips of meat from the shoulder near the loin. Since it’s already cut into 1-2″ strips, it saves time on processing… and for some reason it’s also way cheaper than the big pieces.

The more traditional option for Chinese cooking would be skinless pork belly. This is a fattier cut than the shouler portions, usually about 60/40. It’s particularly good in 包子 bāozi where the extra fat makes for unctuous filling.

For ground beef, I’d choose chuck, sirloin, or boneless short ribs. For chicken, definitely use boneless, skinless chicken thighs.

Freeze meat in cubes for evenly cut ground meat

Cut and freeze 1-2″ cubes

We’re looking to minimize our work relative to the food processor’s, but throwing the whole pork shoulder in there won’t work. Aim for even cubes, so that the ground meat is evenly chopped. Anything in the 1″ to 2″ range is fine.

Freezing makes the meat firmer, which makes it much easier to chop. I use the same trick in to julienne meat strips in my stir fried peppers with pork. Throw the cubes on a small sheet tray with space in between, and freeze for 30-60 minutes until firm but not hard.

Cubes + food processor = best ground meat

I’d aim for 10-12 oz of meat cubes at a time. That’s the perfect amount in my 14-cup food processor where the blades have something to catch but not so much that the end result is unevenly chopped. I start by running the food processor for 5-10 seconds, and then I switch the pulsing. Depending on the dish, I use 1 second pulses, 20 – 40 times.

Portion ground meat and store efficiently

Portion, vacuum seal, and freeze ground meat

I usually buy in bulk at Costco or from the local butcher and then get an assembly line going: cube and freeze, process one tray at a time, and then portion it into bags. I use a FoodSaver vacuum sealer, and the resulting ground meat keeps in the freezer for at least a year.

Freezer efficiency tip: flatten the bags, lay them flat to freeze, and then, once they’re solid, stand them up like file folders in the freezer.

Recipe Roundup: Ground Meat

In addition to dumplings, ground meat is used in a ton of Chinese food recipes. Here are a few of my favorites where authentic “hand”-chopped ground meat will take it to the next level:

Shanghai Wonton Soup with Beef, Carrot, Watercress 上海菜肉馄饨
Juicy and satisfying Shanghai wonton soup. This filling is kosher-friendly with beef, carrots, and watercress.
Check out this recipe
Shanghai wonton soup with beef, carrot, watercress 上海菜肉馄饨(牛肉,胡萝卜,西洋菜)
Steam Water Meat, Hubei steamed meat custard 湖北名菜 汽水肉
"Steam water" meat 汽水肉 is a delicate, savory steamed meat and egg custard, like a mash-up of meatloaf and chawanmushi. It's a famous dish from Wuhan, Hubei, China.
Check out this recipe
Steam Water Meat, steamed meat and egg custard
Sichuan Mapo Tofu 正宗麻婆豆腐
Hot, spicy, mouthwatering Mapo Tofu embodies the ideals of Sichuan with bold spice and textural contrast. This dish has been a favorite across China since its invention in 1862. My version is so authentic, you'll never eat takeout again! This recipe features the secret to cooking perfect cubes of tender silken tofu.
Check out this recipe
Mapo tofu with garlic scapes 麻婆豆腐
Sichuan Dry-Fried Green Beans 少油正宗 干煸四季豆
A healthier yet authentic Sichuan Dry-Fried Green Bean, using a blanch and dry pot method to achieve golden, blistered perfection. Can be made vegetarian.
Check out this recipe
Sichuan Dry-Fried Green Beans 干煸四季豆 (angled)

Did you try this?

If you saw my recent Instagram post, we’re currently in the process of moving to our NEW HOME!!! Unfortunately that means I’m holding off on non-new-homeowner-related Prime Day shopping this year. I want to live vicariously through you, so…

  1. Have you tried making ground meat in the food processor? Let us know how it went in the comments down below, and share your food processor ground meat creations. Please tag us on Instagram: #thericelover and @thericeloverblog!
  2. Any exciting Prime Day buys? Share them in the comments below!
  3. And if you want me to write about how to make dumplings in detail like my wonton video, let me know in the comments down below!

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