I’ll admit it, meat slicers look daunting. The sharp blade and bulky appearance made me shy away from this kitchen appliance at first too. Thankfully, I got over it—which is why I’m bringing you this guide on how to use a meat slicer safely and confidently.
Sure, you could skip this one out and keep using the mandolin on your vegetable chopper or buying sliced meat from the grocery store. Or you could carry on, read through this article, and save a ton of money by slicing your own meats, cheeses, and other food items at home.
Despite this being one of the most intimidating kitchen gadgets for home use, you can conquer it in no time—it takes just six steps! Trust me, it will pay off in the end.
Table of Contents
Step 1: Safely Place Your Food in the Slicer
Start by opening the clamp arm and placing the food you want to slice into the food carriage. Close it. You should make sure that the cut of meat or cheese is firmly held in place on the carriage surface.
If you want, you can place a sheet of wax paper on the meat slicer where your slices will eventually fall onto. This could help to keep your slices in perfect shape and not mangled.
Step 2: Adjust the Thickness of the Slices
How thick do you want your slices to be? This is entirely up to you and now is the time to make that decision. Use the index knob to adjust the thickness of the slices manually. This will move the blade closer or further away from you. If you don’t know how to position the knob, cut a sample slice, try it, and make any adjustments you need.
Step 3: Turn on the Meat Slicer
Now you’re ready to turn on your meat slicer. Plug it into the power source and switch on the power button. The blade will start rotating very quickly now, so be extra careful from now on when handling your machine!
If you’re using manual meat slicers, you will obviously skip this step.
Step 4: Make Swift Slicing Motions
This is the part when most home cooks get a little queasy. If you have a manual deli slicer, this will be a much easier step for you than if you had a commercial home meat slicer. Nevertheless, the key is being gentle and keeping calm.
For electric food slicers, slowly push the sliding tray forward. The blade will swiftly go through the meat and drop your slice to the left of your machine. Then pull the carriage toward you. If you feel confident enough, you can let your hand hover where the sliced meat will come out. It will help to keep the slices as intact as possible.
Manual slicers are much easier to handle. Simply bring down the blade on the cut of meat or cheese and then bring it back up. Voilà.
Step 5: Turn Off the Meat Slicer
When you’re done slicing, turn off your food slicer and unplug it from the power source. Make sure to dial back the index knob to zero so the blade is up against the rest of the machine. This will make sure you don’t accidentally cut yourself on the sharp blade when handling meat slicers.
Step 6: Clean Your Meat Slicer
Just as important as knowing how to use a meat slicer is knowing how often a meat slicer should be cleaned. I wrote an entire guide on it—go read it if you’re thinking of only wiping down your meat slicers (cross-contamination isn’t fun!). Fortunately for you, I have also put together a guide on how to clean a meat slicer. Spoiler alert: it won’t take you too long.
As a reminder, you should be cleaning every crevice of your stainless steel meat slicer—from carriage surface to meat slicer blade cover. And remember to always wear cut-resistant gloves!
Just As Important: How NOT to Use a Meat Slicer
That’s it for your guide on how to use a food slicer! Doesn’t it seem less daunting already? If you still have some questions about using this appliance, don’t fret. Here are a few more tips, but this time on how you should not be using a meat slicer.
Slicing Frozen Meat
While you should always run frozen meat through your meat grinder, you should never do this with a food slicer. The ice crystals in the meat will damage the blades on your machine over time.
Cutting Meat with Bones
You also shouldn’t slice meat that’s still attached to bone. For starters, who wants pieces of hard bone in their deli sandwiches? Secondly, the tough bones will also eat away at your meat slicer blade. Who knew sharp, unforgiving blades could be this fragile?
Slicing Soft Cheese
You can (and should!) slice cheese with meat slicers. If you want to slice a large block of cheese, you’ll actually have an easier time using this appliance over a cheese slicer. That said you shouldn’t try to slice soft cheeses. The slices just wouldn’t turn out good (mushy mozzarella slices?) and soft cheese can gunk up your slicing machine.
Trying to Fit Oversized Meats
Never, under any circumstances, jam an oversized cut of meat in your meat slicer. If it won’t fit in the meat carriage under the clamp arm, it’s too big. Cut it into smaller, more manageable pieces, and you’re good to go.
Slicing Raw Then Cooked Meats
One more thing I’m absolutely forbidding you from doing is running raw meat and cooked meat through your meat slicer one after the other in that order without cleaning your machine in between. I know it sounds harsh, but it’s for your safety! Bacteria from raw meat will easily transfer over to your cooked meat and could cause food poisoning. It’s best to not risk it at all.
Opperating the Meat Slicer Bare-Handed
While there are a lot of safety features built into your meat slicer, you also have to play it safe if you want to keep all your fingers. One of the worst things you can do when operating a slicer is pushing the meat with your bare hands. The clamp arm and food pusher are there for a reason! What would happen if the cut of meat slipped from your grip? You’d have some not-so-appetizing meat slices come out the other hand of the appliance.
Using the Wrong Blade
Did you know you can alternate between a serrated blade and a smooth-edge blade? The former works best for slicing bread, hard cheeses, and any other hard food item you'd slice with a serrated knife; while the second is the most commonly used because it works so well with meat. Using the right blade will give you better results at the end of the day and extend the life expectancy of meat slicers. If your appliance doesn't already come with a serrated blade, it would be wise to invest in one.
Foregoing Protective Equipment
We’re closing on one of the most important safety tips out there: always wear cut-resistant gloves when using your meat slicer. You'll find them easily at a varied price range, with more affordable gloves being just as effective as more expensive ones. They're worth getting because they could spell the difference between coming out unscathed from the slicing process and landing a trip to the ER.