A meat slicer is designed to reduce food prep time. The perfect slicer for your commercial kitchen depends on your needs. When buying a commercial meat slicer, you’ll find that there are a lot of variables:
- Safety features
Today, we’re going to cover some of the basic tips every restaurant owner can follow when choosing slicing equipment.
Start with Slicer Types
You’ll find an array of different slicers by types and capability. There are three main “purpose” slicers that you’ll find:
Light-duty. Low volume equipment that can be used to slice meat or vegetables. These machines are best used for an hour or less per day, and they’re not designed to slice through frozen items.
Medium-duty. A good commercial slicer that’s ideal for when a restaurant needs something more powerful than a light-duty option, but not as powerful as a heavy-duty model. These models can withstand several hours of use per day, and this is a great option as a small meat slicer. Cheese should only be cut for a maximum of 30 minutes with these slicers, or as advised in the user manual.
Heavy-duty. Top-of-the-line models fall into this category, and they’re what large restaurants use. The motors are designed to withstand intense use, and while costly, this is the best meat slicer available. These slicers are your best option for a frozen meat slicer, and they’re what you would find at a butcher.
But you’ll also find hand crank, electrical and automatic slicers available.
Hand crank or manual models
Hand crack (aka manual slicers) are what you would have seen used in delis or butcher shops a long time ago. These models have no electronic components, so while they’re more durable than automatic or electric models, they’re also going to be more labor intensive.
Best suited when meat is rarely sliced, and you’ll find options available for frozen meat slicing, too.
Again, these models are often found in homes, but you may see them in smaller kitchens where meat slicing is not a frequent process. These models can often cut through:
An electric food slicer will be able to handle an array of meats, cheeses and vegetables. These models will have limitations based on the motor, so if you want to cut through cheese often or frozen meats, you’ll need to find a model that offers these features.
Electric models are most common, and they’ll come with safety guards and settings for thickness.
The size of the blade will be very important when making your selection. Larger blades are designed to handle larger cuts of meat, and the size you need will be highly dependent on what your restaurant offers.
Automatic food slicers
The automatic meat slicer is not going to be cheap, but it’s the best slicer for a busy kitchen that has to cut meat quickly. There are an array of models to pick from, and you’ll find that the automatic mode will often be able to cut 40 or more slices of meat per minute.
There are stops in place for thickness, and many of these models also have an adjustment option to use the slicer in manual mode. Clamps will allow you to secure odd shaped cuts securely in place. Quick and easy adjustments allow for added safety, and you’ll need to review the maximum dimensions of cuts that can fit into the slicer before purchase.
High-end models may also include:
- Multi-speed motors
- Zero knife exposure
- Built-in sharpeners
- Thickness settings
Restaurant owners should sit down and write down all of the meats, cheeses and vegetables they plan on slicing with their slicer. While one model may be designed to handle large batches of cheese slicing, a lot of models are not.
Cheese slicing is very intensive, and if cheese is your main product, you’ll want to invest in a commercial cheese slicer or a high-end meat and cheese slicer. When slicing cheese, more friction is produced because of the density and texture of the cheese. A general rule of thumb is that you’ll need a motor with at least 1/2 HP to do very minor meat slicing.
If you plan on slicing through frozen cuts, this will put a lot of additional strain on the equipment’s motor. It's best to use a high-end motor designed for the intensity of cutting through frozen meats if you want to prevent immature motor wear.
Blade Size Requirements
Stainless steel is the go-to material for blades, and when properly sharpened, these blades will cut through almost any meat with ease. The size of the blade should be based on your restaurant’s needs.
A general rule of thumb for blade sizes is as follows:
12-inch blades are a great all-around option and are the most common size
12-14-inch blades are designed for premium slicers
9-10-inch blades are meant for lighter use and smaller restaurants
Blade quality will be important, but you’ll also have an array of other features to consider when choosing the right slicing equipment.
Features to Consider for Slicing Equipment
Slicing equipment comes with a lot of features, and aside from the type and blade size, you’ll also want to consider the following:
Horsepower. The motor’s horsepower is respective of how much frequent usage the unit can handle. The higher the horsepower, the more intense usage the motor will be able to handle without burning out.
Carriage Size. The carriage size or product tray size is the size of the product or meat that can fit inside of the carriage. You'll find that most models will accommodate sizes of 7.5 inches to 12 inches, but you may be able to find larger carriage sizes if you need them.
Cleaning Leg. A special leg that can be pulled out to prop up the meat slicer. These legs allow for much easier cleaning and will allow for thorough cleaning of underneath the unit.
Safety should also be a key concern. It's easy for a person preparing food to slice their finger on a slicer. But newer slicers come with key features that will allow you to be far safer when slicing than in the past.
A few of the key safety features and designs to consider are:
Guards. Knife guards are going to prevent blade exposure and possible injuries when cutting. Some guards do come off, but others are permanently attached. The permanent guards offer the utmost in safety, and they will be able to prevent cutting hazards.
Gauge Plate Interlock. A key feature that allows the gauge to be set to zero so that it can be tilted. When set to zero, you’ll be able to remove the product tray for quick and easy cleaning. The edge of the blade will be protected for easier, safer cleaning.
You’ll also find that many models come with a no-volt release option. What these options offer is a machine that will not restart on its own after being unplugged or having the power disrupted.
The final thing you’ll want to look for is the machine’s warranty. Some models will have premature motor failure, and if this happens under standard usage, you’ll want to be able to return the unit or have it repaired free of charge. Warranties are often 1 to 2 years long.