Can you guess one of the dirtiest places in your commercial kitchen? It’s your meat slicer. These workhorses are essential everywhere from small cafes to busy delis. However, they are known to carry dangerous bacteria that cause foodborne illness. It’s crucial to clean your meat slicer on a regular schedule in order to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria. We’ve laid out an easy-to-follow guide on how to clean a commercial meat slicer and even gave some tips for making the process painless.

Slicer on Table in Kitchen

Why Do I Need to Clean My Meat Slicer?

It may feel like an unnecessary chore, but cleaning your meat slicer is an essential part of food safety. Once you get a routine established of cleaning your slicer, it will be second nature to you and your staff to keep it sanitized. Not only is a clean slicer going to run more efficiently, but it will also help you prevent foodborne illness as well as pass health inspections.

Prevent Foodborne Illness 

Recent outbreaks of foodborne illness in various chain restaurants across America have shown the importance of keeping equipment sanitary in a foodservice kitchen. According to an article on deli slicers by the FDA; “Recent outbreaks of foodborne illness have been associated with the build-up of food soils and disease-causing microorganisms on areas of deli slicers that are difficult to clean and sanitize.” While meat slicers involve a lot of steps to clean and can be challenging to take apart, it’s crucial that your slicer is sanitized regularly in order to prevent foodborne illness.

Pass Health Inspections 

While surprise inspections can be scary to a restaurant owner, health inspections are designed to keep consumers safe and healthy when eating at any foodservice establishment. Food Safety Magazine discussed in an article the importance of sanitizing contamination-prone equipment in the kitchen as it relates to health and passing health inspections. When your meat slicer is properly cleaned and maintained, you’re going to get positive feedback from health inspectors.

Keep Equipment Running Smoothly 

Any equipment that’s well maintained will increase the useful life of your unit, and this also applies to meat slicers. When you regularly clean and sanitize your slicer, you ensure that it can run its best with fewer issues. Leaving your slicer overnight without cleaning it, for example, can cause the build-up of food particles and juices that become harder to clean when settled. Build-up will not only encourage the growth of bacteria on your slicer but can also prevent the parts from working as they should.

How to Clean a Meat Slicer

Understanding the why of cleaning your slicer is only half of it! You need to understand how to properly clean a meat slicer to prevent foodborne illness, keep it running smoothly, and pass health inspections. We’ve laid out two types of cleaning that you need to incorporate: light and full cleaning. These both are important to the proper maintenance of your slicer. 

Light Slicer Cleaning 

Light cleaning should be done after every use of your slicer, or after every product change. This should be done at least once per day, if not multiple times per day depending on the volume of operation. If you operate your slicer more than four hours daily, you should do this multiple times per day. For less than four hours of operation daily, lightly clean your slicer once per shift. Light cleaning should keep food particles and juices from building up but does not replace deep cleaning and sanitation.

  1. Unplug your machine and set the blade to zero.
  2. Wipe away large food pieces with a paper towel or cloth.
  3. Take a new cloth, food-grade cleaner, and hot water and wipe down the blade, carriage, food chute, product pusher, and product catcher areas. Be sure to wipe down the small nooks and crannies of your unit as well. Do not use steel wool or abrasive sponges to clean.
  4. Take a new towel and rinse areas with hot water. Let unit air dry before using it again.

Full/Deep Slicer Cleaning 

Deep cleaning your slicer is the key to preventing foodborne illness. You cannot get by with only light cleaning your slicer! It’s important to do a full cleaning of a deli slicer at the end of every day of use. This prevents food and juice build-up as well as bacteria growth. Full cleaning involves taking apart the unit and cleaning all parts thoroughly.

Cleaning Parts 

  1. To start deep cleaning, unplug your machine and set the blade to zero. 
  2. Wipe away large food particles with a cloth or paper towel. 
  3. Disassemble your slicer by removing the blade (if the unit includes a knife removal tool, see owners’ manual), product tray, carriage, and product pusher. Take all these parts to a prepared dish sink of hot water and detergent. If your unit does not include a knife removal tool, read your owners’ manual for recommended ways to deep clean the slicer blade. This will often include a more thorough wipe down of the blade with detergent and hot water, rinsing, and using sanitizing spray to finish.
  4. Wash all parts thoroughly with hot water and soap. Rinse these pieces and spray them with a sanitizing spray. Let air dry completely in the dish drying area. 

Cleaning Main Unit 

  1. Use a small brush on parts of the main unit like the knobs, receiving tray, screws, controls, seams, gaskets, and handles. These pieces are often overlooked and can, therefore, harbor lots of bacteria over time. Use hot water and a food-grade cleaner on these pieces.
  2. Use a cloth or paper towel and insert between the blade and blade guard to remove any residue.
  3. Use a new wet towel and wash the cleaner off the entire unit.
  4. Spray sanitizing solution on all areas of the unit. Be sure to read directions for specific usage guidelines of spray.
  5. Air-dry the unit completely before reassembling. 

Finishing Up 

Once your parts and main unit are clean, dry, and sanitized, reassemble your slicer according to your owners’ manual. Cover your clean slicer to ensure that it stays clean and sanitary for the next use.

Tips for Cleaning a Meat Slicer

Now that you’re familiar with the steps of cleaning your slicer, we’ve listed some tips to help make cleaning easier.

  • Never use abrasive cleaning sponges/cloths like steel wool. It can scratch or create pores in your equipment which will harbor bacteria. 
  • Use cut-resistant gloves when cleaning the slicer blade, especially when removing the blade for deep cleaning. 
  • Wear food handling gloves when cleaning the rest of the slicer to prevent spreading germs. 
  • Prepare your dish sinks with hot water and detergent to clean your slicer parts. Be sure there aren’t any other dishes in the sink! 
  • Set up tubs with hot water and detergent and another with only hot water for cleaning the slicer unit. 
  • Ensure you have your sanitizing spray ready for use after the slicer is clean but before it’s reassembled. 
  • Your slicer may require food-safe oil for lubricant to keep it running the best. Read your owners’ manual to see where the lubricant is required. 
  • Preserve sanitation on your slicer by using a slicer cover after closing the kitchen for the day.
Hobart Commercial Meat Slicer

More on Meat Slicing

Interested in buying a meat slicer for the first time, or in replacing your current slicer? Read more in our resource center on buying the cutlery and meat slicers for your commercial kitchen.