Monday, January 25, 2010

Any Way You Slice It - Meat Slicers

One of the luxuries I have is a meat slicer that my parents gave me for Christmas a few years ago.

While my favorite "meat slicer" is my carving knife, it's hard to beat an electric meat slicer for making thin sliced lunch meat. I thought I would share a few of the tips for using meat slicers that I have picked up over the last few years of using mine.

FIRST AND FOREMOST: There is no substitute for reading, understanding, and following the instructions provided in the user manual for your specific meat slicer.

TIP: Cold meat or cheese slices easier and more evenly.
I roasted an eye of beef round on the Big Green Egg (grill) this weekend, wrapped it in foil and stuck it in the fridge for a day. (It was cooked by searing over direct heat at 500f for 1-2 minutes a side and then roasted indirect heat at 350f until it hit an internal temp of 140f. Normally I'd have pulled it 5 degrees earlier and let it rest but since it was going straight into the fridge.) Here it is after searing and about to go on for the roasting. It's on a raised rack over 2 cups of beef broth and 1 cup of red wine to collect the au jus.

TIP: Start your slicing with a flat even surface.
Roasts are not uniform in shape but you need to have a stable surface to start slicing. To do this, I slice them in half across the grain like this and then put the flat side against the back of the meat slicer.

TIP: Wipe your slicer surfaces down with vegetable oil BEFORE slicing.
This makes sliding your meat/cheese while slicing much easier but more importantly, it makes clean up afterward much easier.

TIP: It's Hip To Be Square
To get even slices, you have to hold the meat still with even pressure on THREE sides so it has no where to go except into the blade. In this picture, the meat is pressed between the back plate and the plastic safety guard but notice the gap on the left side against the push plate.

This will result in the meat sliding left and right as you try to slice it. Instead get it snug against all three like in the picture below. Notice it can't go right, it can't go left, and it can't go back. The only place it can go is into the slicer blade.

TIP: Work quickly but purposely.
Sliced meat dries out quickly, so be ready to package it as soon as possible after slicing. During slicing, I just keep covering the meat in layers so none of it is exposed to air too long.

TIP: Debris
If you want a good New Orleans treat AND you totally trust the sanitation job you did on your slicer the last time, use all of the "debris" from the slicer and make the NOLA classic, Roast Beef Po' Boy with Debris Gravy. Who dat!?!?!

  1. Always and I mean always use the safety guard(s). Never bare hand it. There are no such thing as small cuts on a meat slicer.
  2. Always turn off the slicer when reaching in to clear stock from the cutting area.
  3. Always UNPLUG the slicer when cleaning it. Whatever you do, RESIST the temptation to hold a cleaning rag on the side of a spinning blade. I worked in the safety/workers comp department in a grocery store chain....doing this "short cut" never ends well, eventually.
  4. Always return the cutting thickness to "zero" or neutral when wiping the slicer down. Even when powered off, you can jack your hand up by bumping into the blade.
If you follow the manufacturer's manual and these tips, you should have a nice batch of thin sliced meat like this AND all of your fingers still attached.

Oh yeah, never use the meat slicer in the bath tub. It's not in my owner manual, but I'm just sayin'.

Tomorrow for lunch? Roast beef & smoked swiss paninis with au jus for dipping. What are your favorite dishes using thin sliced roast beef?