Slicing by Hand with Flywheel Slicers

Flywheel Slicers: Going Retro

The humble meat slicer has a long history, dating back to 1898 when it was invented by a Dutch butcher named Wilhelmus Adrianus van Berkel, the same Berkel who would found a company that still bears his family name. While most modern slicers are powered by electricity and employ motors to turn their blades, the early models were cranked by hand. They were also more than just practical pieces of equipment; these slicers were works of art.

Sharp Art

While most modern meat slicers are made of utilitarian stainless steel, these vintage slicers were most often coated in a bright, eye-catching red enamel. Some models were also available in black or ivory, often with red and gold accents. These were made with rounded corners, tapering slopes, and details like claw feet and raised lips. These machines were intricate and exact in their design, resulting in smooth and easy operation and very precise cuts.

While modern slicers are sufficient for most back-of-house uses, when you want to turn slicing meat into a show, you need a more attractive stage. Many traditional flywheel cutters come on pedestals with casters, making it easy to move them around a restaurant, enabling servers to cut each charcuterie meat to order. The more expensive showpieces also sometimes feature marble receiving trays in place of stainless steel.

Modern-day Marvels

While there are quite a few antique flywheel slicers still around, which is a testament to their quality construction, they are often hard to come by and can be incredibly costly. To meet demand for these presentation pieces, Berkel and Globe now offer hand-operated flywheel slicers, bringing the retro European design into modern-day restaurants. In addition to the attractive appearance, many operators believe these flywheel slicers produce superior cuts. Because motors generate heat, that heat can transfer to the blade and cause fat to melt slightly into the meat, resulting in a more jagged cut. Flywheel slicers are manually operated, so the blade only turns when it is actively slicing through meat, helping it stay cool and cut through meat more efficiently.

Berkel Volano Slicers

Available in red, ivory, and black, this flywheel meat slicer is available in a range of sizes and can be ordered with or without the claw-footed stand made to match the slicer. Berkel meat slicers made in the flywheel style have built-in sharpeners, which helps keep them operating at their maximum efficiency and extends the lifespans of the blades. Slice thickness can be adjusted, with a maximum of 2 to 3 mm, depending on the specific model. A blade protection device is also included to help ensure user safety when slicing and cleaning.

Globe Flywheel Slicers

Globe meat slicers include a flywheel model that has a 14-inch blade, allowing the operator to slice products that are 11 inches wide and 912 inches tall. The Globe flywheel slicer is easy to clean and includes a ring guard to help prevent cuts. Nine slice thickness settings go up to 212 millimeters. Like the Berkel slicers, the Globe model can come on a pedestal, which has locking casters to allow the unit to be wheeled around the restaurant.