How to Use a Meat Slicer

Meat slicers are easily one of the more intimidating kitchen tools. They have a strong, sharp blade and an impressive size, so using one with safety and precision will ensure your food is perfectly sliced, everyone stays safe, and the machine is well cared for. With that in mind, let’s dive into how to use a meat slicer and a few specific ways to not use a meat slicer.
woman slicing meat with slicer

Types of Meat Slicers

A meat slicer can also be referred to as a slicing machine or deli slicer. This electric machine is commonly found in butcher shops, grocery stores, delicatessens, and restaurant kitchens. They provide a precise, quick, and consistent cut for meats, cheeses, and vegetables. Most meat slicers are adjustable to create slices of different thicknesses.

The electric meat slicer is typically used in three different varieties: light, medium, and heavy duty. Light-duty slicers are equipped with a motor that can work for about an hour a day on easy-to-slice meat and vegetables. Medium-duty slicers can withstand several hours of use and also cut cheeses. Heavy-duty slicers are a workhorse and equipped for intense use, most often in busy restaurant kitchens and grocery store deli and butcher counters.

How to Use a Meat Slicer

Despite a meat slicer being a daunting piece of equipment, you can master it with these steps:

  1. Safely place your food in the slicer
    Open the clamp arm of the meat slicer and place the food into the food carriage then close the clamp. Make sure whatever you’re cutting is firmly secured on the carriage surface.

  2. Adjust slice thickness
    By following the user’s manual of your specific meat slicer, use the knob to adjust the thickness of the slice. As you turn the knob, the blade will move. If you’re unsure of the thickness you want, cut practice slices at different thicknesses first after continuing with the following steps.

  3. Turn on the meat slicer
    Once turned on, the blade will start rotating quickly, so it’s important to have everything secure and set before turning it on. From this point on, you’ll need to be paying close attention at all times as the blade is active.

  4. Make swift and smooth slicing motions
    Slowly and consistently push the sliding tray forward. The blade will stay stationary and the food tray will move making the blade go through the food, cutting and dropping the slice to the side of the machine.

  5. Turn off the meat slicer
    Once you’re done with your slicing, turn off the slicer and unplug it. Turn the knob back to zero so that the blade is up against the machine. This prevents any accidental cuts while moving the slicer or removing any remaining food from the food carriage tray.

  6. Clean and sanitize the meat slicer
    Using a meat slicer properly means you are cleaning and sanitizing the slicer, often several times a day. FDA guidelines call for cleaning and sanitizing with every 4 hours of use. The slicer’s blade guards, food trays, meat pushers, and everything else must be cleaned with soap and degreaser spray. This not only removes grease from the raw meat that builds up while slicing, but it also gets at small and large food particles that can foster harmful bacteria. Whenever possible for this step, wear cut-resistant gloves.

How Not to Use a Meat Slicer

Just as important as how to use a meat slicer, you need to be aware of how not to use a meat slicer. An electric meat slicer should never be used with frozen meat. The ice crystals within the meat will damage the blade over time. For the same reason, you shouldn’t cut meat that has bones in it. Those tough bones will shred the blade.

The size of the meat needs to comfortably fit on the food carriage tray. Do not try to force oversized meat, cut it into smaller pieces first. And for food safety, never slice raw then cooked meat. Bacteria from raw meat easily transfers to cooked meat and can cause food poisoning. And lastly, wear protective equipment. This means cut-resistant gloves that will protect from injuries but also keep a steadier hold of the food, so no accidental slipping.

Meat Slicer Maintenance is Key

As with all knife blades, they need to be regularly sharpened to stay in top form. When your meat slicer doesn’t cut cleanly or shreds your meat, it’s time for a sharpening. Another sign is when it becomes difficult to produce uniform cuts of meat. 

With the intricacies of the meat slicer, it’s usually easiest and most effective to have the blade professionally sharpened so you’re sure to keep your meat slicer in top notch condition and ready for action. FoodPrep Solutions gives you the flexibility to maintain your slicer with our recurring scheduled options, preventative maintenance programs, and even emergency service capabilities, so your meat slicer is always up and running.

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