Rusty Knives



I really like our Hobart 4822 meat grinder but I am very disappointed that the included knife and grinding plate are made of plain steel. This is many thousand dollar industrial high quality machine that is built to last a lifetime or more. It is made of stainless steel and given the price I expected it to be all stainless steel.

The problem is the plain steel rusts. Almost instantly. To solve this I store them in a container of food grade white mineral oil. Actually, that’s what I did for the first month. Then I bought all new stainless steel knives and plates. The stainless steel does not rust. The stainless steel knife and plate set cost about $30. I bought six sets so I would have an assortment of hole sizes for grinding to make sausages. That is about 1% of the total cost of the machine. For that price I expect them to provide a premium product including stainless steel plates and knives.

Outdoors: 71°F/55°F Sunny
Tiny Cottage: 65°F/60°F

Daily Spark: If you are concerned about processed meats containing nitrates and nitrites then best to avoid spinach and celery as they contain far higher levels of the exact same chemicals. Most of all, don’t be a lab rat.

About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor...
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19 Responses to Rusty Knives

  1. Farmerbob1 says:

    Wow, Walter, that is surprising. Did you contact Hobart and verify that you didn’t get the wrong part somehow? (I figure the answer is probably yes.)

    If this was the intended parts to be included, it seems like incredible short-sightedness that those pieces in particular are made of metal that will rust, as they are one of very few pieces which absolutely, positively will get wet every time they are used.

  2. eggyknap says:

    My experience is with kitchen and utility knives, not meat grinders, but I hate stainless steel knives because they’re softer than good carbon steel and don’t hold an edge well. Presumably the environment in a grinder is relatively tame (you don’t use your grinder to lop off branches, and you don’t slam the blade into other stuff much), but I’d still wonder if a stainless steel grinder knife would work well. Do you have enough experience with them to say, for sure?

  3. Dan Moore says:

    Walter, I’ve noticed how quickly knives on my grinders rust as well. Do you think that maybe they use a high carbon steel rather than plain steel? That was always my assumption. Generally any type of cutting knife (like a hand knife) will be made of high carbon steel (O1, W1, 1095, etc) so that can be heat treated and holds an edge? Plain steel won’t hold an edge for any realistic amount of time.

    To your point though, most kitchen knives will be a stainless steel, which with the right stainless (440C), can hold an excellent edge and also doesn’t rust giving you what you actually need in a food environment. No idea why they wouldn’t offer their knives in 440C but it’s consistent across the grinders I use as well.

    • eggyknap says:

      Your comment probably answers the question I had above, which could be rephrased as “is there a stainless steel that holds an edge properly.” My dad’s a metallurgist by training; don’t tell him I don’t know my steel types!

  4. John L says:

    You are so right Walter. Penny-pinching at its worst. I can’t understand a reputable firm doing that either. Customers deserve better.

  5. David Lloyd Sutton says:

    In response to your daily spark: Some figures? Rereading Charcuterie, as I’ve said, and they are recommending “pink salt”, essentially, depending on the grade, either sodium nitrite, or, for longer-curing things, sodium nitrite with sodium nitrate . . . which apparently becomes sodium nitrite over time. This is to color (redden) the cured meats . . . I’ve seen nothing in my researching (just online searching) to indicate any necessity for the stuff in the actual process of curing, any more than simple sodium chloride, though years ago I read about injecting a solution along the bone in hams to impede bacterial action. There was a story current in the marines (before WWI) when my Dad was in uniform that “saltpeter” was in their food to keep them sexually “calm”. Lots of apocrypha out there. Your take? I notice you disclaim the stuff in your labeling.

    • My take is the media has made much ado about very little. These have been used for curing meats for thousands of years. These appear in very high doses in some vegetables like celery and spinach – the point of the spark. The amount used in curing meats is miniscule. In the late 1970’s there was much hubub about this because they fed excessively high doses to lab rats (don’t be a lab rat). Later research showed that not only is it not a problem in normal doses but it is actually beneficial and prevents some cancer. Not only that but our own saliva produces large amounts. A very recent study shows that 43% of the human population is genetically prone to having issues with it at too high a level and 57% of the human population is genetically protected from the problems. It’s a single gene difference.[1,2]

      So, after reading about this stuff for years I’m of the opinion that it is not something to worry about. Like with many things it has both benefits and problems. Moderation in all things. :)

      As to our labeling, that’s on the hot dogs. Customers asked for a nitrate/nitrite free hot dog so I made it. They buy it. It requires some special handling since there is no preservatives in it and thus it must be kept cold to prevent spoiling. Market demand.

      For more about such things check out NoWeirdStuff.org and follow the links deeper from there on this topic.

      MSG is another similar ingredient.

    • DrFood says:

      Nitrites do keep the meat more red, but that’s not why they are used. They are used to prevent the growth of bacteria, in particular the bacteria that cause botulism poisoning.

      What makes me crazy is when there is a cured meat that says “nitrite free!” but lists celery as an ingredient and it has the expected pink color (bacon or ham, most commonly). People who buy this bogus faux “safe” food product are most likely exposing themselves to HIGHER levels of nitrites, because the manufacturer has to be generous with the celery whatever, to be sure of having enough nitrite there to be safe.

      Walter, your nitrite free hotdogs appear to be honestly nitrite free, which is lovely. I choose to make other things with my pork, but when I make bacon, I follow the recipes in Michael Ruhlman’s book Charcuterie and use a small amount of “pink salt.” Same thing with American ham.

  6. David Lloyd Sutton says:

    Thank you, Walter.

  7. Dave says:

    I much prefer carbon grinder plates and knives over stainless. Much easier to keep truly sharp = better quality product out of the grinder. The possibility of corrosion is a downside, but doesn’t outweigh the benefits for me. Mineral oil or cornstarch can be used to prevent rust.

  8. David says:

    My understanding is that a carbon steel edge lasts a lot longer than anything you can get with stainless, even higher grades. It’s also cheaper. So if you’re prepared for it and do the maintenance and keep it oiled, you should be ok.

    That said, if you’re a pig farmer and small scale butcher, you don’t necessarily want to waste your time cleaning/oiling things, and the stainless replacements might be the better option, especially if you treat them as consumables. Time does cost money after all.

    I know it varies state to state over there, but I’m surprised you’re allowed to have carbon steel anywhere near a food product. I believe here in Australia the regulations are pretty adamant regarding the use of stainless utensils, not that I really agree but I suppose it removes the risk of someone using a rusty knife or machine.

    • Yes, I understand about the plain steel being able to be harder. I already do the cleaning and oiling on other parts and I keep the grinder plates and knives in a container under oil to minimize rust. The USDA frowns very hard about the use of plain steel because it rusts.

      What displeased me is that Hobart told me it was an all stainless steel grinder and then I’m finding there are a lot of plain steel and galvanized steel parts. The price of the machine was high. I paid that based on getting stainless steel. Yesterday I discovered that the two little riser tubes on the top of the machine that hold up the pan are galvanized steel. They’re in direct contact with stainless steel which means they’re dumping zinc(?) down onto the body of the grinder housing. Hobart should have used stainless steel tubes there.

      • David says:

        That does sound dodgy, it doesn’t take an engineer or metallurgist to realise that dissimilar metals will corrode quickly.

        • Farmerbob1 says:

          Aye, in a wet environment, the most rust-prone component connected to a system will degrade fastest. That’s why they make plates and additive strips for steel components in water handling facilities. A lot of facilities use zinc plates on submerged piping. The plates protect the rest of the machinery as they rapidly oxidize instead of the steel. I do not know the mechanics behind this process, other than that it works for a lot of industrial applications.

          In the case of the grinder, without a more ready oxidizer, a carbon steel blade might be acting like a zinc oxidizer plate for the rest of the machine, making said blade rust even faster.

          An alternate solution might be to attach a zinc plate to the machine and see if there is a change in how the blades rust. I’m not certain how the process would work if the zinc plate is not in the same body of moisture as what it is protecting (which would probably create nasty-tasting meat with zinc oxide in it), but if the carbon steel creates a better product, as mentioned above by someone, it might be worth trying on the outside of the machine, close to the grinder. If there’s no detectable change, you’re out a piece of zinc, and go back to stainless blades.

  9. Peter says:

    I would guess that use of ceramic disks and plates is also frowned on?

    • Farmerbob1 says:

      Ceramic blades are used in cooking, I know, and in machine shop work for precision shaping of smooth surfaces.

      Using a ceramic blade for grinding though? Sure, it’s actually cutting. But chances are pretty good that pieces of bone or whatnot are going to find their way into the meat from time to time. Ceramics could cut that easily enough, in a controlled, smooth cut. But a herky-jerky slam-stop cut like an axe hitting a piece or wood? That seems like it would be both likely, and potentially damaging.

      If you are grinding something that you absolutely know is going to be bone free, sure. I’m not sure that this can be known though. Part of butchering is done with saws, and the last bit of any cut with a saw can yield splinters.

      I’d be wary of ceramic meat-grinding blades unless another butcher is willing to give a no-holds-barred recommendation.

      • The stainless steel grinding plates and stainless steel knives we got for the grinder are working very well. I’ve put enough product through now to say this with confidence. I oil them even though they are stainless steel just as I oil the plain steel components with a food grade white mineral oil that is FDA/USDA approved.

        The ground and sausage we make I know is absolutely bone free because I pick it over three times in the process of doing the ground. This is important to making a high quality product – I don’t want bone dust or bone fragments in it. Likewise, I would be wary of the ceramic because a piece could fracture off and get into the product. This doesn’t happen with the steel since it has tensile strength.

        No bone goes through the grinder normally although I did experiment with putting the tails through the grinders when I was making the ground chicken food for our hens. The tails, which contain small bones, went through just fine with the stainless steel blade and grinder plate. The grinder didn’t seem to even notice them.

  10. Tom says:

    A Buffalo Chopper is a good choice for producing moderate batches of sausage.
    All parts in contact with food is stainless or aluminum.

    A sausage grinder crushes the meat, a bowl chopper slices it. Texture can be readily controlled with a bowl chopper. We think it makes a better sausage product.

    Hotdogs which generally require emulsification are easy to produce with a bowl chopper.
    http://www.hobartcorp.com/products/food-prep/food-cutters/

    • Yes! :) For making emulsified and finely ground sausages like our hot dogs that is the ticket. That exact model from Hobart which you linked to is on my wish list for when we start making our hot dogs here. Our hot dogs are smoked so first we need to add smoking. I hope to do that in 2016 or 2017.

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