Slicers Buyer's Guide
There are many different varieties of slicers available for your commercial kitchen and choosing the perfect one to fit your business' needs is very important. This useful guide to today's growing food slicer market should help to make your decision a little easier.
Slicers are a valuable asset to your commercial kitchen because they slice a variety of products, such as meat, cheese, and vegetables more evenly than can be done by hand, producing a more consist size of sliced food product. Uniformly sliced products not only save your business money by increasing production, but also present a neat appearance to customers.
Slicers are available in both manual and automatic varieties. With the manual slicer, an operator must move the food back and forth consistently to produce the desired product. Automatic model slicers feature an electric motor to move the carriage back and forth, thus eliminating the time, labor, and safety risk that comes with the manual models. However, if manual slicing becomes necessary, the automatic models can be switched to this function. Most automatic slicers have one slicing speed; however there are a few models with up to three speeds. Manual slicers are often used for small deli or restaurant operations, while large, fast paced restaurants tend to use the automatic slicers.
On the KaTom Restaurant Supply site, our slicers are categorized by slicer blade size. We offer 9-inch slicers , 10-inch slicers , and large 12-14 inch slicers . This cutting blade categorization is made because the size of the blade will determine the type of product the slicer is capable of cutting.
The 9 inch blade automatic slicers feature a 1/4 or 1/5 horsepower knife motor and are perfect for cutting meats and cheeses. The 10 inch slicer category features plenty of medium duty slicers with motors ranging from 1/5 to 1/3 horsepower. KaTom's larger slicer category features heavy duty slicers in a variety of motor strengths. These slicers can be used for everything from slicing meats to frozen products.
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.