Can I mince meat in the food processor?

Options: The food processor is fine for emergencies but real mince needs a proper mincer.
Options: The food processor is fine for emergencies but real mince needs a proper mincer. Photo: Domino Postiglione

Can I mince meat in the food processor? L. Borowicz

A food processor is really not the perfect tool for mincing meat. It's like using a Mercedes to pull a plough. The earth will be disturbed but you'll wish you'd used a tractor in the first place. The food processor is fine for emergencies but real mince needs a proper mincer. If you don't have one, here's how to tackle the job. Firstly trim the meat of silver and connective tissue. Cut into 2cm by 1cm pieces. Spread the meat over a tray and place in the freezer for 30 minutes. The friction caused by the blade on the meat creates heat, but you want the meat to remain cold. This will help stop you creating meat paste instead of mince. Working in small batches, use the pulse function to  chop the meat. Use a scraper to ensure there isn't a lot of meat gathering around the blade. Sometimes some of the connective tissue is too tough for your food processor's blades and simply won't cut. Once minced, remove the meat, spread it out and remove any pieces of tissue that have not minced.

How do I get rid of sand in my clams? D. Chambers

Sandy Clams. Sounds like a summertime rash or a DJ from Hervey Bay. Clams, cockles and pipis need to be purged before cooking, a soaking process during which the bivalves spit out contaminants such as sand and other bits of grit. If your shellfish need purging, place them in a large container of water to which 30g of sea salt has been dissolved for each litre of water and leave in a cool place for several hours, or overnight.

I am going to make puff pastry and the recipe book says I should roll out the pastry on a cold surface such as marble. I don't have a marble bench. M. Dwyer

Butter melts at your body temperature. If you put butter in your mouth it feels creamy and smooth. That's why puff pastry made with butter is so delicious. Some bakery items are made with special puff pastry margarine, which has a higher melting point. Pastry made with this sort of margarine is beautifully flaky but has a waxy mouth feel. Butter needs to be kept cold when making puff pastry so pieces of butter are trapped between layers of pastry. This doesn't happen with melted butter. You don't need a marble bench or slab but, if you're working in a warm kitchen, you can cool your bench by covering it with plastic film, spreading over ice cubes and leaving it for 20 minutes or so. I have seen a pastry chef working off-site put a large chopping board in the freezer. I even know one home cook with warm hands who used to run her hands under cold water before making puff pastry. However, M. Dwyer, if your kitchen is around 18C, it's not going to make too much difference. 

My frozen steak looks like all dry. It has only been frozen for a few weeks. Is it safe to eat?  A. McLaughlin

It's most likely safe, but probably as enjoyable as eating a piece of Tutankhamun. What you have here is a classic case of freezer burn. This is caused by the food being exposed to air and dehydrating. It's called sublimation, when water from the frozen meat evaporates into the surrounding dry air. Below zero, water can evaporate into a gas from its solid ice form without becoming liquid. The meat is effectively freeze-dried, which speeds up the degradation of fat and pigments. This is why it appears lighter and may taste a little rancid. The cure is to tightly wrap meat and other goods that are going to be frozen. If placing in a bag, press the bag down to expel as much air as possible before placing in the freezer.   

If you have a question, email brainfood@richardcornish.com.au

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