Commercial Slicers Buyer's Guide
From delis to pizza parlors to cafés, very few kitchen tools are as adaptable as a commercial slicer. Not only can you pile a sub high with sliced meat and cheese, you can also slice up vegetables to top the perfect pizza. Even high volume steak houses can use a slicer to produce consistent steaks and chops, helping to create precise cooking times.
As with any kitchen tool, you'll need to consider how you'll be using your commercial slicer before you purchase one. You'll want to think about what you'll be slicing and how often. Not all slicers are the same, and a little research will help ensure you get the proper tool for the job.
Once you find the right one and put it into service in your operation, it can help increase yield and can unleash more intense flavor because the blade opens up more flavor pockets.
Economy models are typically made of lightweight aluminum, while the more heavy-duty units are constructed of stainless steel. Both are durable and designed to be easy to clean and sanitize. Blades may be made of stainless steel or carbon steel. Stainless is ideal for most applications, carbon steel a better choice for high-volume applications, since it will hold its edge longer and is easier to sharpen. The size of the blade will also indicate how much product you can slice per day:
Blade Size and Horsepower
- 9-inch blade: For limited slicing of meat and vegetables, a light-duty, 9-inch blade and 1/5 or 1/4 horsepower motor make these units suitable for low-volume, occasional use.
- 10-inch blade: A medium duty 10-inch blade and 1/5 or 1/4 horsepower motor will stand up to slightly more use, up to an hour a day.
- 12-inch blade: The most popular size of blade, the 12-inch size, can be found in many busy restaurants and delis that are serving up fresh meat and cheese all day. These usually sport a 1/2 horsepower motor, but some include a motor with 1/3 horsepower.
- 13-inch blade: Once you move into slicers with 13-inch blades and higher, you can begin to place larger items into the staging area. Look for motors with 1/2 horsepower or more to get the most out of these slicers.
- 14-inch blade: If you'll be slicing frozen meat throughout the day, you may want to consider this size, as the increased surface area will enable the blade to glide through the frozen material more easily.
Commercial slicers can be belt- or gear-driven. Belt driven models tend to be less expensive and made for light duty, since the belts tend to wear out more quickly with heavier usage. Heavy-duty, gear-driven units typically need fewer repairs, last longer, and stand up to high-volume applications. However, they are much more expensive to repair when problems arise, whereas a belt is relatively inexpensive to replace.
The thickness of the slices you'll be preparing is something to consider. Models are available that will slice up steaks and chops up to 1-1/2 inch thick. Others will slice prosciutto paper thin. By slicing meats thinly, you open flavor pockets. This results in bolder flavors with less meat. Also, the thin slices have more surface area, so it seems, at least visually, that the customer is getting more, even though the weight is the same.
What Are You Slicing?
Commercial slicers are designed primarily to slice fresh meat, but there are some models that can cut cheese, frozen meat, and vegetables as well. Light-duty machines aren't recommended for slicing cheese at all, but some medium-duty models will slice some cheese for a short time each day. Heavy-duty units are quite capable of slicing cheese all day while still keeping up with constant demand for fresh or frozen sliced meats and even dense vegetables.
How Much of It Are You Slicing?
If you're just serving up the occasional sandwich and will only be using the slicer sporadically, you may opt for a manual slicer. While these are relatively inexpensive compared to their automatic counterparts, they can be heavy and difficult to operate, particularly for long periods of time. Automatic slicers, however, move the food along without the aid of the worker. This capability will help cut down on employee fatigue and maybe even injuries in cases of continuous, bulk slicing. Automatic slicers can also be operated manually when needed.
How Long Will You Be Running the Slicer?
If you can estimate that you'll operate your machine for fewer than two hours a day to produce less than about 700 slices, a light-duty machine should suffice. A medium-duty slicer is best suited for use between 2 and 4 hours a day and for about 1400 slices. Anything beyond those hours and that capacity, and you'll definitely need a heavy-duty machine.
The obvious and inherent dangers that apply to commercial slicers are many, but manufacturers have integrated new safety features that make today's slicers as safe as possible. Even with these innovations, however, nothing replaces proper training or following the recommendations laid out by manufacturers in the owner's manual. If you don't feel comfortable training new people to use the slicer, many manufacturers have sales reps who will be happy to do the training for you. These new features, coupled with proper training, should make for non-eventful operation:
- A gauge plate interlock keeps the blade from spinning when the gauge plate is not in the correct position.
- The no-voltage release requires the unit to be turned back on in the event of a power failure.
- The knife guard protects the blade from damage, as well as protecting the operator's hands and fingers from mishaps.
- While they must be purchased separately, cut-resistant gloves should be mandatory when operating the slicer, particularly when removing and handling the blade.
If you'll be selling sliced meat and cheese by the pound, it will be necessary to have a scale that is rated for food service. Some models will have a scale included. If yours doesn't, you may elect to purchase a scale from the same manufacturer, as they may interface for easy installation and operation.