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How to Make Ground Chicken (With or Without A Meat Grinder)

Ground chicken is one of my favorite protein sources to cook with. It’s very lean and unlike ground turkey, it takes on virtually any flavors you throw at it. But the more recipes I make with ground chicken, the more I hear about its lack of availability. So today I’m going to show you how to make ground chicken at home using either a knife, food processor, or a meat grinder. Don’t worry, it’s easy!

What Type of Chicken to Use for Ground Chicken

I already mentioned the lack of availability being the key reason you might want to make your own ground chicken, but another huge perk is choosing your chicken. My recipe calls for boneless skinless chicken breasts and thighs. Using a blend ensures your ground chicken isn’t too lean, which can be a little dry or tough.

boneless skinless chicken breast and thighs on a sheet pan

Chicken Breast vs Chicken Thighs vs Blends

Examples of blends and their lean to fat ratios (as a %):

  • 5 pounds of chicken breast: 520g of protein and 20g of fat (99% lean)
  • 3 pounds of chicken breast with 2 pounds of chicken thighs: 488g of protein and 76g of fat (97% lean)
  • 2 pounds of chicken breast with 3 pounds of chicken thighs: 472g of protein and 104g of fat (95% lean)
  • 5 pounds of chicken thighs: 440g of protein and 160g of fat (93% lean)

These numbers are calculated by dividing the grams of fat by the total weight (5 pounds or 2,240 grams), in case you want to use other parts of the chicken to make a fattier blend.

You can use the USDA Food Database to pull nutrition data for different parts of a chicken. They’ve changed things around so you’ll want to search the food name and click the “SR Legacy Foods” tab.

Skinless or Skin-On?

Cooked chicken skin has great flavor, but I don’t recommend including it in your ground chicken. There’s some connective tissue and other tough bits that may not cook very well depending on how you use your ground chicken. You also run the risk of it jamming or clogging up your grinder, if you’re going that route.

How to Make Ground Chicken with a Knife

Now that we’ve determined which part of the chicken to use for ground chicken, let’s get into how to actually make it. We’ll begin with the non-grinder method, which is a knife. To make life easier, I recommend partially freezing the chicken for 60-90 minutes. It will be much easier to handle and slice.

slicing chicken breast

I use a method I picked up from The Woks of Life. Begin by making 1/4″ horizontal slices at a 45º angle in the chicken, cutting 75% of the way through. Then flip the chicken over and make 45º slices in the opposite direction. And finally, cut vertical slices, creating a checkered pattern.

I find chicken breast is a bit easier to work with, as they’re typically very uniform. If you have oblong chicken thighs, you may want to just slice off the uneven pieces to grind on their own.

Gather the chicken into a pile and make several rough chops in different directions. Repeat until you have ground chicken as coarse or fine as you’d like.

chopping boneless skinless chicken breast with a knife to make ground chicken

And that’s it. Once you get the hang of it, turn on some music and you’ll be able to make big batches of ground chicken with a knife in 10-15 minutes.

If you’re making a large batch and want to keep the chicken as cold as possible, you can place it in a chilled bowl that’s resting on top of an ice bath. You can also work in batches, pulling a pound or two of chicken out of the freezer at a time.

Making Ground Chicken with a Food Processor

This is probably the fastest route, and it’s what I used for my how to make ground pork tenderloin guide. That said, it’s not my preferred method.

Food processor ground chicken is definitely for recipes where you’ll be mincing instead of making things like burgers or meatballs. You also run the risk of over blending the chicken and turning it into a paste. And depending on the size of your food processor, you’ll still need to work in batches.

turning chicken breast into ground chicken using a food processor

But it’s definitely the quick and easy method. To make ground chicken with a food processor, simply add the chicken (I still like to use a blend of breast and thighs) and pulse 4-6 times until you reach a desired texture. Just be sure to go slowly and avoid over processing. You may also need to remove larger chunks and chop by hand or add to the next batch of whole chicken.

How to Make Ground Chicken with a Meat Grinder

If you use a lot of ground meat like I do, a meat grinder may be a good investment. We’ve talked about availability constraints and controlling fat percentages, but grinding your own meat is also a great way to ensure peak freshness, minimize contamination from butchers’ areas, and potentially save a lot of money. And if you already have a KitchenAid stand mixer, their $100 meat grinder attachment is a no brainer.

The actual process of using the meat grinder is very simple. You’ll want to slice the chicken into pieces that fit down the grinder’s tube, but that’s about it. I still like to pat the chicken dry before slicing to make handling a bit easier. There’s no need to freeze or anything else, though.

making ground chicken using the KitchenAid meat grinder attachment

If you’re using the KitchenAid meat grinder attachment, it comes with several grinding plate options. I use the medium grinding plate when I’m going to cook and break the chicken apart like in my Firecracker Ground Chicken or Dan Dan Noodles recipes. But if I’m making something like my Air Fryer Chicken Meatballs or Nashville Hot Chicken Burgers, I’ll go with the coarse grinding plate.

Storing and Freezing

A lot of my recipes (and I’m betting most recipes out there) call for a single pound of chicken. So you may want to store your ground chicken in single pound servings.

I like to use freezer bags and gently form the chicken into semi-flat rectangles so they’re easily stacked in the freezer. This also gives you lots of surface area for browning one you thaw and start cooking.

weighing out ground chicken into freezer bags using a food scale

If you’re planning to keep your chicken in the refrigerator, the shelf life should be the same as whatever is on the packaging of your chicken. So be sure to take note of that before storing.

Poultry in Motion (Video)

Want to see all this in action? Check out my video below where I cover everything you need to know about making ground chicken, ground beef, and ground pork at home.

Method #4 (Ask the Butcher)

Like I mentioned, homemade is the most economical way to get ground chicken breast. But if you’re less price-sensitive and want to know exactly what’s in your ground chicken, you can always ask for freshly ground chicken breast at the butcher counter in your grocery store.

There will be a bit of meat lost in the grinding process, so expect to pay a bit of a premium and be sure to buy more than you actually need. For instance, order two and a half pounds if you need two pounds of ground chicken.

fresh ground chicken breast from the Whole Foods butcher

What to Make with Ground Chicken

The possibilities are endless. You can make tacos, chili, burgers, meatballs, soups, sausage gravy—you name it. It also works as a substitute for ground beef or ground turkey in any recipe. Here are some of my favorite recipes:

honey harissa chicken, air fryer chicken meatballs, and dan dan noodles
Greek ground chicken and rice skillet, white bean ground chicken soup, and ground chicken with broccoli

For more ideas on how to cook ground chicken, check my roundup of easy ground chicken recipes.

The Takeaways

A meat grinder is the easiest method for grinding your own meat, but you can make great ground meat with just a knife. You want to use boneless, skinless meats and ideally a blend of different fat contents. Fat provides flavor and moisture to your ground meat. For best results, use your ground chicken straight away or pack it flat in 1-pound portions and freeze for later.

And that covers it. If you have a question about making ground chicken I forgot to cover, drop a comment at the bottom of this post. Below you’ll find a printable recipe card with the instructions for both the meat grinder and knife methods.

Homemade Ground Chicken

Homemade Ground Chicken

Yield: 5 lbs
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes

How to make ground chicken with a knife, food processor, or meat grinder from boneless skinless chicken breasts or thighs.

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts*
  • 2 pounds Boneless Skinless Chicken Thighs*

Instructions

To Make Ground Chicken with a Knife

  1. For best results, pat the chicken dry with a paper towel and freeze for 60-90 before slicing.
  2. Working horizontally across the chicken, cut 1/4" slices at a 45-degree angle going 75% of the way through the chicken. Flip the chicken and make the same 45-degree slices in the opposite direction. Then carefully cut 1/4" vertical slices.
  3. Gather the chicken into a pile and chop the chicken in several directions until you've reached your desired grind.
  4. Transfer the ground chicken to a chilled bowl to keep cool if preparing in bulk.

To Make Ground Chicken with a Food Processor

  1. Add the chicken in small batches and pulse 4-6 times (may vary by model) until you reach a desired consistency.

To Make Ground Chicken with a Meat Grinder

  1. Cut the chicken into small strips or pieces that will easily fit down the tube of the meat grinder.
  2. Select your desired grind thickness and gradually add the chicken to the grinder, alternating between pieces of chicken breast and thigh for an even blend.
  3. Check the tube of the meat grinder when finished and chop any remaining pieces that didn't run through with a knife to reduce waste, if desired.

Notes

*You can use all chicken breast or adjust the amount of chicken thighs to make ground chicken with different fat ratios. 5 pounds of chicken thighs is roughly the equivalent of 95% lean ground chicken while 5 pounds of chicken breast is around 98% lean ground chicken. See post above for more notes on blends and using other parts of the chicken.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 20 Serving Size: 4 oz
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 135Total Fat: 4gCarbohydrates: 0gProtein: 24g

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Robbi H

Thursday 28th of March 2024

Hi Mason!

Thank you so much for including the information about blending chicken breasts and thighs to make particular fat content. I find that to be super helpful when grinding chicken for myself and for my special needs pup!

One question...should I trim the visible fat off of the chicken thighs before I grind them? Not sure if your approximated fat content information is for trimmed or untrimmed thighs.

Thanks!

Mason Woodruff

Saturday 30th of March 2024

Thanks, Robbi! I don't bother trimming the thighs if I'm grinding them unless there are big, obvious pieces of fat hanging on. Some general maintenance when slicing into smaller pieces should put you in the neighborhood nutrition facts wise.

Frank

Wednesday 24th of January 2024

Mason between your website and YT channel you are nailing it. The details you include, ie., the %lean data using different white/dark meat ratios, are so useful. It’s clear you try to answer questions readers might ask along the way. Very well done!! This is absolutely the best article I have read on this topic and the best video I have watched…. and I’ve read and watched a lot.

That said, holy smokes, the work you have to put into being so thorough on both your website and channel is way beyond amazing. Thank you very much for your effort Mason.

Mason Woodruff

Thursday 25th of January 2024

Really appreciate it, Frank! Lean meat ratios aren't something I ever thought I'd have a passion for but here we are.

Will

Tuesday 23rd of January 2024

Hi. Can you use only chicken thighs? It’s just as healthy but not as dry like chicken breasts. More flavourful too! I would also cut up the thighs semi-frozen before putting them in food processor cause after all, everything is easier to cut up while still half frozen… Many thanks!

Mason Woodruff

Tuesday 23rd of January 2024

For sure. I included the fat percentage using 5 pounds of just chicken thighs above. I believe it's the equivalent of something like 93/7 ground chicken.

Christina

Sunday 11th of June 2023

Great and simple instructions! I can't wait to try the knife method since that will be my most available route to go through. I've found it hard to find ground chicken in the stores and you have explained it in easy details how to make my own. Thank you!

Betty

Friday 7th of April 2023

I used the food processor and it worked great. I always buy the breast meat but I like the idea of combining with thighs. Thank you-very easy to follow!

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