Most people never need to slice meat very thin, but those who really enjoy preparing food or making interesting (and delicious) recipes will encounter a recipe that calls for very thin meat slices. There are many Japanese recipes, such as Sukiyaki and Okonomiyaki, that call for thin meat slices, as well as several hotpot and stir-fry recipes.
At this point, you’ll ask yourself how the heck you’re supposed to achieve thinly sliced meat with your basic kitchen knife. Or, if you’re prepared and have a proper knife or two, you’ll be wondering how you’ll slice the meat without losing a finger in the process. Well, fear not, for you have stumbled upon a guide that will help you slice meat into thin strips while playing it safe.
Butchers and ‘meat masters’ make slicing meat into thin strips or slices look like child’s play, but it really isn’t. Always use a sharp knife and keep your safety in mind when cutting the meat. Remember, the meat can be replaced, but a finger that gets accidentally cut off will be a tricky thing to get back.
Table of Contents
- 1 What will you need to cut meat nice and thin?
- 2 The problem
- 3 The method everyone swears by
- 4 How to sharpen a meat knife
- 5 How to keep meat bacteria-free and prevent food poisoning
- 6 Conclusion
What will you need to cut meat nice and thin?
The advice you’ll find here will help you a lot, but it won’t be enough to actually cut your meat. You will need some equipment:
- A very sharp knife – Never use a dull knife because you’re more likely to have an accident with a dull knife than with one that is nicely sharpened.
- A fridge or freezer – The reason for this will become obvious in just a moment.
- A metal tray and freezer bag(s) – Another thing that will become clear after you read further.
- Meat – This is pretty self-explanatory, really.
- Delicious recipe – What else will you be doing with the meat once it has been cut?
There’s a trick to cutting meat into thin slices, and, once you know it, you’ll be able to cut like a pro and impress all of your friends.
Your freezer. Cold meat is much easier to slice than thawed meat will ever be. For better results, you just need to let it chill long enough before applying the knife to your meat.
Before we dive into that secret, let’s quickly discuss why people like thinly sliced meat so much.
This is probably the biggest motivation for having thinly sliced meat. Instead of taking hours for a big piece of meat to cook properly, a sliced piece of lamb or pork will make preparing dinner so much quicker.
Many people appreciate thinly sliced meat more for some reason. Perhaps they like to think it looks good, tastes good, and is healthier than a big chunk of meat on a plate.
Thin slices of meat are called for in many recipes – it’s especially popular with Japanese recipes, as discussed above. If you want to cook a meal that is as authentic as you can make it, thin slices of meat will go a long way towards a professional look.
Anyone who has ever tried to cut raw meat will tell you it’s one of the most frustrating things you could do in a kitchen. It is very difficult to get a good grip on the meat, and struggling with your grip becomes dangerous when you’ve got a sharp object in the other hand. Sure, a deli slicer would do wonders, but how many of us actually have one of those just lying around?
The method everyone swears by
We’re finally getting to the reason you’re reading this – how to slice meat thin. For whatever reason, you’ve got to slice your meat thinly, and you want to know how to achieve that.
Freeze the meat
There are two ways of freezing the meat that you’ll be cutting. You can place it on a rimmed baking sheet and put it in the freezer, uncovered, for about 15 minutes. You can be extra efficient and use these 15 minutes to do all the prep work for your recipe – chopping veggies, pouring some wine, getting the rice on the stove, etc. Just remember that you don’t want your meat completely frozen, just chilled enough to be ok with you cutting it into thin slices.
The other way to freeze your meat is to put it in a large freezer bag, remove all the air, and close it tightly, making sure it’s sealed. Then, you will place the meat on a metal tray (most kitchens have a baking tray of some sort that can be used for this purpose) so the heat can be transferred quicker. Put the meat in the freezer and leave it for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, depending on how fatty and how large the meat is.
Note: These two methods suggest different times in the freezer. You can choose which option will work best for you, or you can use both and find the one you like most. Part of the fun of making food is learning new ways to do things.
Slice the meat
Once your meat comes out of the freezer, you will notice that it has firmed up nicely, which will make it a lot easier to handle and cut. At this point, you should have no issues getting the desired thinness that you need.
It is recommended that you cut your slices no thicker than a quarter-inch – the thinner you can get it, the better.
Prepare the meat
Once you’ve got the slices you’ve been hoping for, you can go ahead and season it with salt, pepper, or whatever herbs you prefer or whatever the recipe calls for. You can even marinate it if you feel like it. The meat can be thrown into a hot skillet with olive oil and left to cook for about three minutes, or until the outside starts becoming deep brown. You can then flip the slices and cook for one more minute, and voila!
Eat the meat
After just four minutes in the hot pan, you’ve got the meat ready to munch on and enjoy however your recipe wants you to.
While that is all there is to cutting meat thinly, there are some other things you might find useful to know, such as how to sharpen your knife and how to keep your meat bacteria-free and prevent food poisoning.
How to sharpen a meat knife
With a dull knife, you could easily slip up and not only ruin whatever you were cutting, but you could also hurt yourself very badly. More accidents happen with dull knives than with sharp knives – just ask professionals. A sharp knife will make your job easier, quicker, and smoother.
You can easily test your knife to see if it’s sharp enough to use when you want to cut your meat very thinly – use a tomato for this. Tomato skins can be really tough buggers and are the perfect way to test the sharpness of a knife. If you can cut a tomato in half with no problems, your knife is good to go. However, if you had to help the knife, or it turned the tomato to mush, you have a dull knife that isn’t safe for use.
You can quickly use an electric knife sharpener if you have one nearby. If you don’t have one but have a sharpening steel, we’ll go over how to use one of those. If you have neither, you really should consider investing in one or both of these items.
How to sharpen your knife with a sharpening steel
A sharpening steel is another word for the steel rod that is used to straighten the edges of a dull knife. While you can find one with most decent knife sets, you can also find these items separately in stores. They’re not expensive and are necessary for the kitchen. Remember to have a firm grip while doing this. Hold the steel vertically in one hand and the knife by the handle in the other.
Be sure to have the knife’s blade pointing upward and then move it from the wide part of the knife to the point. You should hold your knife at a twenty-degree angle and apply slight pressure. Keeping the knife in a firm grip, use your arm for movement, not your wrist. You should have your knife perfectly sharpened after 10 or 20 precise strokes.
You can test the knife’s sharpness with the use of a tomato again, or you can use a plain piece of paper. If you’re able to cut the paper into thin ribbons, you’re ready to start cutting that meat into the thinnest possible slices. If not, try sharpening your knife again or consider getting a newer, sharper replacement.
How to keep meat bacteria-free and prevent food poisoning
These things may seem like obvious stuff that every chef or cook knows, but it’s never a bad idea to quickly scan through all the actions you should take to keep your family safe from food poisoning and meat that is less-than-clean.
Wash those hands
This is the first rule when it comes to anything related to food, and we all know why – hygiene is a must when it comes to the things you’ll be putting inside your body. Even if you know you’ll be preparing the meat at high temperatures and that you’ll cook, roast, or fry away all the bacteria, you should still work with clean hands. You never know what bacteria will survive your cooking method or be transferred to other objects in the kitchen from underneath your nails.
Keep the worktops clean
Any place that will serve as a surface for placing your meat will have to be very clean. It takes just one transfer of gross germs and bacteria to infect everyone. However, you do not have to go to extremes – hot and soapy water is good enough in this case. Also, make sure the freezer you will use and your metal tray and freezing bags are all nice and clean.
Use separate chopping boards
This is a general rule that you should apply any time you cut meat or fish. It is a really good idea to use a separate cutting board for your raw food and another one for your fruit, vegetables, and other cutting needs. This way you will prevent other food from becoming contaminated by the bacteria that thrive in raw food.
Keep meat separate from other food
As mentioned above, keeping raw meat away from other food is necessary to prevent the transfer of bacteria. Make sure your meat isn’t able to even slightly touch anything else stored near it. In fact, keep your raw meat on a completely different shelf. Is this approach a little dramatic? Perhaps, but you’d rather be safe than sorry, right?
This is another common rule that most people are aware of, but there’s no harm in making sure you keep it in mind. This is especially true when we’re talking about meat.
Don’t forget to play it safe
Your newly acquired skill of cutting meat thinly may leave you feeling rather arrogant (after all, you’re human), but be careful not to forget about your safety. Do not get over-excited about being able to cut meat the way you see it done on TV or in restaurants and get carried away. Such excitement could lead to very preventable injuries.
Well, now you know how to slice meat thin by using just one neat little ‘trick’, how to avoid accidents by keeping your knives nice and sharp, and how to avoid food poisoning when it comes to cooking meat. All you need now is to go to your kitchen and start preparing delicious, meaty meals.
Of course, you also need a recipe that calls for thinly sliced meat. Otherwise, why are you going to all of this trouble? Most importantly, have fun – preparing food is a chore for many, but it doesn’t have to be. Making food can be fun and should be enjoyed.