Have you ever found a great deal on ham or turkey around the holidays and thought about how great it would be to slice your own deli meat? One of the best things about having your own meat slicer is making custom deli meat slices, arranging your charcuterie board, and getting perfect, thin slices of cheeses, fruits, and vegetables quicker and more safely than using a knife or a mandolin.
A commercial-grade meat slicer is often outside the budget for the average DIYer, and these large, heavy tools are not appropriate for your home kitchen. But the good news is that there are affordable meat slicer designs out there that do a good job and will make it a snap for you to shave deli meat like a professional butcher.
We'll walk through some tips and tricks that make it easier to get thin slices of meat or cheese with or without a meat slicer.
How Do You Shave Deli Meat?
When you go to the deli to pick up some turkey, ham, chicken, or roast beef, you get consistent, thin slices of meat. A decent butcher will slice meat for you in just about any thickness you want. The best way to shave deli meat is by using a meat slicer. One of the more popular designs out there is the 7.5-inch electric meat slicer from Meat Your Maker. We have used this slicer ourselves and it does a good job of getting thin slices when it is set up and used properly.
If you are not using a slicer, a mandolin is an alternative. Essentially a manual slicer, a mandolin can get decent, thin slices, but is more appropriate for hard-cured meats over something delicate like turkey breast.
Of course, you can always shave thin slices of meat with a good, sharp knife and some patience. A heavier knife tends to work best for this task. You can use a cleaver or a chef's knife to get thin slices. Just make sure the blade is as sharp as possible.
How Thin is Shaved Deli Meat?
Shaved deli meat is the thinnest cut you'll find. It is literally shaved, so the thickness will be less than 1/16-inch and it will be so thin that you will practically see through it when held up to the light. Shaved deli meat is the hardest to do at home because it requires an extremely sharp slicer and quite a bit of control to ensure you aren't pushing the meat against the slicer plate too hard which makes inconsistent slices.
Shaving Meat at Home
Let's start by talking about buying your own deli slicer for use at home. We think the best meat slicer around is from Meat Your Maker. It is a good combination of quality construction, durable design, and high performance. While it will struggle if you are trying to slice too large of cuts of meat, it is perfectly suited to slicing thin deli meat cuts and works brilliantly for slicing cheese and vegetables.
Most meat slicers come with a serrated or wavy edge blade. Serrated blades are fine for thicker cuts and bread, but it leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to getting that perfect, thin slice of deli meat at home. You'll need to upgrade the blade to a stainless steel blade with a smooth-edge design. There are a number of smooth designs that will work on a variety of slicers available.
Learning to use a sharpener for a deli slicer is an essential skill when you decide to start using one of these tools. Just like your favorite chef's knife, a meat slicer blade will need to be sharpened regularly to perform well. Some slicers include built-in sharpening systems while others require a more universal solution.
Using a Mandolin to Slice Meat
A mandolin is a great tool to have in your kitchen. Ideally suited for thinly slicing vegetables and fruit, a mandolin also works well for hard cheese and some meats. The best meats for slicing with a mandolin are hard-cured meats like pepperoni or salami. If you are hoping to slice a cooked chicken breast, you might reconsider.
Getting thin slices of soft, cooked meat is nearly impossible due to the amount of force required to hold the meat in place as it slides past the blade. The trick here is to slightly freeze the meat before slicing. Depending on your freezer, this can take from 30 minutes to four hours depending on the size and fattiness of the cut.
Using a Knife to Slice Meat
The trick to getting thin slices of meat with a knife is to start with very cold meat, but not frozen. You should use cut-resistant glovesto be safe and make sure your knife is as sharp as possible. A heavy-bladed knife tends to work best. You can use a sharp cleaver or a good chef's knife for slicing meat.
We like the Victorinox Chef's Knifefor this task. The Victorinox boning knife can also be useful for getting fairly thin slices of meat but requires a little more patience and effort to keep the flexible blade from getting off-center.
Meat Slicer FAQs
Q: Is buying a meat slicer worth it?
A: A meat slicer can save you lots of money because it allows you to take fairly inexpensive cuts of meat and slice them into thin deli cuts that are often much more expensive to purchase already cut.
Q: How much power does a meat slicer need?
A: You'll notice that most commercial meat slicers are advertised with a horsepower rating that indicates how powerful the motor is. Smaller home-use slicers are typically advertised in terms of wattage which is also useful for indicating how powerful the slicer is.
We typically recommend that if you are planning on doing anything more than just casual meat and veggie slicing, you should invest in a larger slicer rated for at least 1 horsepower. Most of the smaller 7.5-inch designs will use an electric motor of around 500 watts. This is a good amount of power for slicing cured meats and cheeses, but it might struggle to get thin cuts of tougher meat cuts.
Q: How much maintenance does a slicer require?
A: A meat slicer does require some maintenance to perform at its best. You will need to learn to sharpen the blade, disassemble and clean the slicer, and it will need regular treatment with food-grade lubricant.
Is It Worth Slicing Your Own Meat?
Around our house, there are a few things that get devoured quicker than thin-sliced deli meat. Whether it goes on sandwiches, gets rolled up around a stick of string cheese, or just gets eaten as it is, the stuff flies out of the fridge. Having a meat slicer saves us a lot of money over buying presliced ham and turkey and the initial cost of the slicer has more than been made up for over the years.
Another aspect of slicing your own meat is that you can smoke ham or turkey, add your own flavors, and get the ideal flavor combination that you want, something that isn't typically possible when buying meat at the deli counter. You also have the ability to slice the meat the way you want using the adjustable thickness dial. This way, you can have thicker roast beef slices perfect for an au jus sandwich, or you can easily switch to a wafer-thin cut of turkey.
The best advice is to buy a heavy-duty slicer that meets your needs. Buy one from a reputable company that makes it easy to find replacement blades or other parts that might break or wear out. You'll save money in the long run by buying a better-quality slicer.
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