How to Cut Meat Thinly Tips

How to Cut Meat Thinly for Hot Pot

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Hot Pots are one of the best dishes you can enjoy, especially when the weather is cold. It’s even better when you make it yourself, since you can adjust the taste according to your preference. And when it comes to good hot pot, thinly sliced meat is a must.

The key to cutting meat thinly is to place it in the freezer for a few hours. This makes the meat hard enough to be sliced paper-thin. Just don’t forget to cut the meat into manageable chunks before you freeze it or you’ll have a tough time cutting it into smaller pieces once it’s frozen.

Now, you might wonder – why should I do all the extra work when I can just buy pre-sliced meat in the grocer? Well, for starters, you can save a lot by slicing your own meat. I mean a lot. A quick comparison at my local grocery store shows that sliced beef is almost 50% more expensive than regularly cut beef on a per pound basis. I don’t know about you, but that’s a huge rip off to me. With deli meats, the mark up is even more outrageous, not to mention unhealthy.

How to Slice Meat Thinly

How to Manually Cut Meat Thinly

There are two ways to slice meat thinly. You can either do it manually or by using a meat slicer.

The good news is that doing it by hand isn’t that hard. While the results you get won’t be as good as when you use a meat slicer, it’s still very practical if you’re on a budget or if you don’t plan on making dishes that require thinly sliced meat that often.

Here’s a step-by-step guide that you can follow:

  1. Wash your meat and cut it into easy-to-manage chunks.
  2. Place it inside a freezer bag to prevent it from losing flavor, color and texture.
  3. Keep it in the freezer for 2 to 4 hours or until the meat is firm enough to be sliced thinly.
  4. Once it’s firm enough, use a sharp knife to slice the meat thinly. Make sure that you’re cutting against the grain.

To give you a better idea on how you can manually cut meat thinly, check out this video:

How to Cut Meat Using a Mandoline or Meat Slicer

If you want to make your life easier, a much more efficient way to slice meat (or vegetables) is with the aid of modern technology. A mandoline is a simple but efficient tool for slicing meat. In the market, French and Japanese mandolines are both popular choices. Or you can go all out and invest in a meat slicer to take things up a notch. As long as you get a quality product, it will pay for itself many times over.

Get a Mandoline

Cut Meat Thinly Using a Mandoline

The Gourmia GMS9105 Mandoline Slicer is a good choice if you prefer using a mandoline to cut your hot pot meat thinly. Not only is it affordable, it’s made of stainless steel as well so it will last a long time. It also has several safety features and adjustable blades. This means that you can use it not just for slicing meat, but for other types of food too.

To use your mandoline to slice meat for hot pot, just follow these steps:

  1. Wash your meat and cut it into chunks that will fit inside the hand guard.
  2. Place it inside a freezer bag to prevent it from losing flavor, color and texture.
  3. Keep it in the freezer for 2 to 4 hours or until the meat is firm enough.
  4. Use the hand guard to slide the semi-frozen meat across the blade of the mandoline.

Get a Electric Meat Slicer

Cut Meat Thinly Using a Meat Slicer

Instead of a mandoline, you might want to get a meat slicer instead if you like to serve hot pots often at home. For this, I highly recommend the Chef’s Choice 609-A Electric Food Slicer. It’s a very good investment if you’re cooking for a lot of people.

Once you have your meat slicer ready, just follow these steps to make thinly sliced meat for your hot pot:

  1. Wash your meat and cut it into chunks that will fit inside the food carriage.
  2. Place it inside a freezer bag to prevent it from losing flavor, color and texture.
  3. Keep it in the freezer for 2 to 4 hours or until the meat is firm enough.
  4. Put your semi-frozen meat inside the food carriage.
  5. Adjust the blade to the thinnest setting.
  6. Turn your meat slicer on.
  7. Unlock the special safety button.
  8. Gently push the food carriage to the right to slice your meat.
  9. Be sure to follow important safety tips for operating a meat slicer at all times.

Best Meats to Slice for Hot Pot

Now that we’ve tackled how you can slice meat thinly, let’s talk what kind of meat works best in a hot pot.

One of the best things about hotpot is that you can use just about any kind of meat. As long as you prepare it properly for fast cooking, you should be able to use any meat of your choice.

  • Beef – This is a must-have when you’re making hot pot. The fatty cuts work best but as long as you use fresh and quality beef, you’re good to go. Check if the meat is well-marbled. When cooking, just swish your thin slices of beef in the broth for about 5 seconds and you’ll get melt-in-your-mouth beef.
  • Lamb – Lamb is another meat that pairs well with hot pots. The shoulder and the leg are often used and sliced paper thin. And just like beef, it only takes a few seconds until it’s ready to eat.
  • Chicken – If you want to use chicken for your hot pot, get either the breast or the thigh part.
  • Pork – For pork, get the fatty cuts. The best one is, of course, pork belly but you can also get the loin, jowl or shoulder. Cut perpendicular to the grain and slice thin.

Tips for Slicing Meat for Chinese Hot Pot or Shabu Shabu

Here are the things that you need to remember when preparing your meat for Chinese hot pot.

  • Chill your choice of meat for a couple of hours to make it firm enough to be sliced thinly. Just make sure to cut it into chunks before you place it in the freezer. You don’t want to be stuck with a huge pieces of frozen meats that will be too hard to cut. Also, if you’re using a mandoline or a meat slicer, you’ll want to cut the meat into pieces that will fit into the hand guard or the carriage of the meat slicer.
  • Use a very sharp knife if you’re doing it manually. It’s also a good idea to have a whetstone ready while you slice the meat.
  • Always cut against the grain so that your cooked meat will be smooth and melty. If you cut it along the grain, the resulting meat will be chewier, requiring you to cook it longer. Look closely at the meat to see which way the fibers are going.
  • If you’re using a mandoline or a meat slicer, make sure to carefully read the instructions that come with the product. Wear protective gloves while you are slicing the meat.
  • Aim to slice the meat at least ⅛ inch or thinner.
  • Once you’ve put the meat in a freezer bag, you can place it on a metal tray to hasten the chilling time. This is especially helpful if you’re pressed for time.

The Different Hot Pot Variants

Hot pots come in many variants. Some of these include chinese hot pots, Japanese shabu shabu and sukiyaki, Cambodian yao hon and the Thai suki. Even in China, you’ll find that the hot pots vary from region to region.

The way these hot pot variants are cooked are very much alike. In fact, they only differ in terms of the soup base and dipping sauce.

  • Chinese Hot Pot – Most of the hot pots in China have a soup base that is spicy and mouth-numbing. However, a hot pot that can be found in Yunnan uses mushroom to flavor the broth. For the dipping sauce, sesame oil is mixed with some crushed garlic and chopped green onions.
  • Sukiyaki – This Japanese hot pot has a sweet soy sauce based broth contained in a shallow iron pot. Once the food is cooked, it is dipped in some beaten raw eggs.
  • Shabu Shabu – Shabu shabu is another popular Japanese hot pot. The food is cooked in a kelp-flavored soup base and then dipped in a sesame sauce.
  • Yao Hon – Cambodia’s version of the hot pot is creamy and smooth-tasting thanks to the coconut milk that is added to the broth. An herb sauce is used as a dip to add more flavor.
  • Thai Suki – Thai suki offers more ingredients to choose from, albeit in smaller portions. The spicy dipping sauce is made from chili sauce, chili, lime and coriander leaves.

The great thing about the different hot pot variants is that most of them use thinly sliced meat. So if you’re getting a mandoline or a meat slicer, you can use it to the fullest by trying out different hot pots.

Hot Pot Equipment

Most of the equipment that you need to cook and serve hot pot, you probably already have in your kitchen. Here’s a list that you can refer to.

  • Portable Stove – A portable stove is also a must so that you can keep the soup base on a constant simmer. A portable butane burner works well but you can also use electric and induction sets if you have them.
  • Hot Pot – Another essential is, of course, the hot pot itself. While you can always stick to regular pots, I highly recommend using a split pot so that you can enjoy two types of broth. You can even get a split hot pot with a built-in heating system.
  • Mini Tongs and Slotted Ladle – These are very useful in fishing out the cooked ingredients. You can even put an egg on the slotted ladle so that it will get cooked without getting lost in the broth.
  • Chopsticks and Spoons – Use this to pick up the food and sip the broth.
  • Small bowls and plates – You’ll need plates and small bowls for eating and some bowls where you can make your dipping sauces.

Hot Pot Ingredients

 Common Hot Pot Ingredients

We’ve talked about the meat that you can put in your hot pot. Now, let’s talk about the other ingredients that will take your hot pot to the next level.

Soup Base

There are two major types of broth that you can choose from. If you live near an Asian market, you can also find some premade broth that you can use in your hot pot.

  • Spicy Broth – The Sichuan spicy hot pot base is flavored by chili oil, Sichuan peppercorns and different herbs. You might also want to try the Mongolian version which uses chili oil and a lot of cumin. It is relatively milder than the Sichuan one.
  • Clear Broth – This type of hot pot base is very easy to make from scratch. For me, I just mix some water, scallions, ginger, peppers, mushrooms, 1 apple, and jujubes. For extra flavor, use chicken broth as the foundation.

You can also experiment with other soup bases that are flavored using tomato sauce, seafood, coconut milk or soy milk. Here’s a hot pot broth recipe which can be easily tweaked to be spicy that you can follow.

Seafood

For seafood fans, the most common ingredients for hot pots are shellfish like shrimp, scallops, crabs, lobsters, clams, oysters, mussels and abalones. Fish fillet, squid, cuttlefish, fish balls and fish cakes are really good too.

Soybean Products

Soybean products make great hot pot ingredients because they soak up the broth really well. You can pick from tofu slices, bean curd sheets, fried tofu and bean curd sticks, all of which you can find in your local Asian grocery.

Vegetables

Fresh vegetables are a must in a hot pot because it balances the heaviness of the meat. You can use just about any vegetable or go for the ones that are in season.

Leafy greens like lettuce, spinach and bok choy are wonderful additions. The same is true for root crops like potato, sweet potato, lotus root, carrot and daikon. You can add mushrooms like portobello, shiitake and button mushrooms as well. Tomatoes can keep it refreshing especially if you’re using a spicy broth. On the other hand, corns add more flavor to the broth.

Noodles and Dumplings

Dumplings are hot pot must-haves. Noodles are essential as well since they work so well in soaking up the remaining broth. While you can make these from scratch, store-bought ones work just as well.

Dipping Sauce

Common Hot Pot Sauces

There are many combinations that you can use for your dipping sauce. Some of the popular ones are the following.

  • Sesame Paste Sauce – This is made of toasted sesame paste, water, soy sauce, fermented tofu, fermented garlic chives, sesame oil, chopped cilantro, and green onions. You can keep it simple by combining soy sauce, sesame oil, chili oil and cilantro.
  • Shacha Sauce – This is a great sauce to pair with seafood. It’s made of fish paste and different spices.
  • Beaten Raw Egg Yolk – This is a smooth and creamy dipping sauce that is often used for sukiyaki. Since the food is still very hot when you dip it into the raw egg, it gets partially cooked.
  • Yakiniku Sauce– A soy sauce and sake based sauce traditionally used with Japanese Yakiniku (BBQ), this sauce is light but flavorful.

You can also experiment and make your own sauce. There are also hot pot dipping sauces that you can buy from Asian grocery stores and even online.

To know more about how to cook hot pot, you can check out this wonderful guide.

Other Dishes You Can Enjoy Using Sliced Meats

At the end of the day, you won’t always be eating hot pot. However, you can still use your mandoline or meat slicer to make other dishes that use sliced meat. Here are some dishes that you can try.

  • Philly Cheesesteak
  • Beef and Broccoli Stir Fry
  • Gyudon
  • Szechuan Beef
  • Bacon-Wrapped Chicken
  • Pork Cutlets
  • Panini
  • Carpaccio
  • Beef Udon
  • Bulgogi
  • Japchae
  • Okonomiyaki
  • Yakisoba

You can also check out this list of sliced meat recipes. Or if you’re feeling creative, wow your family and friends by making your very own recipe.

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