Meat slicers are getting more and more popular across the United States, and for good reason. They let home cooks everywhere try new flavor combos in their sandwiches and neatly arranged charcuterie boards. But this meat-cheese-slicer craze could have worrying health-endangering consequences. That’s because not everyone knows how often should a meat slicer be cleaned.
Fortunately, that ends now. This helpful guide will tell you everything you need to know about the importance of sanitizing and cleaning a meat slicer. Reading it is a must for learning about food safety.
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Cleaning vs. Sanitizing Meat Slicers
First things first, we have to talk about the elephant in the room: cleaning and sanitizing a meat slicer are not the same thing. I’m willing to bet you clean your meat slicer after every use, but you likely don’t sanitize it as you should.
Cleaning a meat slicer means removing food residue from your machine. When you use a paper towel to wipe down the blade, tray, and pusher, you’re only removing the grease and gunk from the cured and raw meat that builds up while the machine is running. But there are small and large food particles you’re not getting rid of. That is where sanitization comes in. This process uses cleaning products to kill harmful bacteria that could build up and go unnoticed. If you don’t do this, you could put your health and that of your loved ones in great danger. More on that later.
In short, only a cleaned and sanitized meat slicer can promote food safety.
Is Not Sanitizing a Meat Slicer Thoroughly That Big of a Deal?
As we’ve seen, only wiping down a meat slicer isn’t enough. There will always be food residue you’re missing, while will fester in the blades of the machine. As you can guess, this isn’t good.
For starters, if a dirty meat slicer is used, the deli items you slice won’t taste good. They will have soaked up whatever food particles were left from the last time you used your machine. In the end, you will have wasted money on cuts of meat or cheese that you won’t enjoy.
Secondly (and most importantly), raw meat can leave behind Listeria monocytogenes if you don’t sanitize your meat slicer well enough. This sometimes deadly bacteria can be found in deli items (meats and cheeses), but it can easily spread to other food items you slice through cross-contamination. The only way to get rid of it is to use hot water and soaps or bleach.
When Should Deli Slicers Be Cleaned?
Meat slicers that are used continuously (like the ones at grocery stores) need to be cleaned and sanitized several times every day. Blade guards, food trays, meat pushers—they all have to be cleaned with a soap solution and degreaser spray. The FDA has guidelines for how often must a meat slicer be cleaned. They recommend sanitizing these slicers every 4 hours for as long as they're in constant use.
What About At-Home Meat Slicers?
At home, things are a little different. The FDA guidelines are for slicing machines to be cleaned and sanitized when in constant use. I’m willing to bet you don’t use your low- or heavy-duty slicer every day, right? Thus, there’s no need to clean the slicer every 4 hours.
If you’re only using the meat slicer for less than four hours at a time, you can clean and sanitize it only when you’re done. But if you’re planning on using the slicer for an entire day, follow the FDA recommendations to clean and sanitize it after every 4 hours. However you do it, make sure you're being thorough with the cleaning!
How to Clean a Meat Slicer? Is It Hard?
We’ve answered how often must a meat slicer be cleaned, so now comes the trickier part: how do you clean it? We’ve thought ahead and written an entire guide with a meat slicer sanitizer routine that is comprehensive and easy to follow, from step 1 to the end.
In short, you will need only a few supplies: sanitizer solution, a spray bottle, a gentle scrub pad, hot water, a clean towel, and you’ll need to wear protective cut-resistant gloves made of steel wool. Make sure you have everything before even running your machine.
Keep in mind that, although not overly complicated, there are quite a few components that need to be cleaned and sanitized. The meat slicer blade, gauge place, slice deflector, sharpening stone, food chute, slide rods, blade plate, face plate, gauge plate, center plate, blade guard, ring guard mount, product tray will all need your attention.
You will even need to make sure you clean the food table surfaces! Food safety hinges on being thorough and only using a clean meat slicer. And trust me, you don't want to deal with a bad case of Listeria monocytogenes.