Types: Commercial slicers are typically classified as manual, semi-automatic or automatic. These units feature a rotating blade on a movable carriage in either a gravity-fed angled or spring-loaded upright configuration. The design of angled models allows them to drop slices directly onto a receiving table, while upright slicers commonly use a lever arm to stack products in various patterns. Manual versions require staff to move the carriage, while automatic models employ a motor to drive that component. Vegetable cutters are built with slower RPMs and razor-sharp blades to retain the cell structure of the item being cut, which extends shelf life and guarantees an end-product with superior look, taste and aroma. End-users can choose from a variety of discs to replicate virtually any hand-cutting style.

Capacities/Footprints: Most slicers can yield portions ranging from paper-thin to 1¼" thick. Larger units can hold food pieces up to 7½" in diameter, and up to 12" long. Foodservice operators can adjust automatic slicer activity from 20 to 60 strokes per minute. Compact slicers have footprints as small as 18" X 15", while larger units may require 3' on each side to accommodate carriage movement.

Energy Source(s): Most slicers can run off of 115V-120V electric outlets at 60 Hz and draw from 1 to 7 amps.

Manufacturing Method: Slicers' bases can be made of either anodized aluminum or #304 stainless steel; food chutes, slicer tables, end weights and knife covers most often are made of steel. Radiused corners allow easier cleaning and sanitizing. All slicers include a belt- or gear-driven knife motor that ranges from ¼ to ½ hp. Automatic slicers feature a separate DC motor driven by a chain and sprocket system and end-users can disengage it for manual operation.

Standard Features: Blades typically range from 7" to 13"; most are hollow-ground, high-carbon steel, though some units feature chrome-plated steel or hardened steel alloys. Edge guards protect staff operating the units, while built-in sharpeners allow blades to maintain their edges. Other standard features include stainless-steel construction, precision slice-thickness adjustment, built-in antimicrobial protection for increased food sanitation, a knife-cover interlock and a permanently attached knife ring guard. Table lockout mechanisms on some models cover the knife's edge when the knife guard is removed for cleaning, which protects operators. Rubber feet keep slicers from moving during operation. Top-mounted knife sharpeners offer easy access and added convenience. Full gravity-feed food chutes are available on heavy-duty models. Slide bars on some slicers are designed to be continually lubricated during operation for smooth, easy carriage movement. Sealed touch-pad controls for power and chute speed are easy to clean. Heavy-duty clear plastic covers offer added protection for slicers when not in use. Slicer stands also are available.

New Features/Technology/ Options: One newer slicer model offers simplified controls, improved geometry and an enhanced product tray design, making it easier to use and quicker to clean. The unit's 50° cutting plane, glassbead- finished gauge plate and top knife cover offer improved product retention, smoother glide and better operator visibility. The automatic version's linear drive has a lower profile and working height, which enhances ergonomics and reduces operator fatigue. The slicer's new technology remembers stroke lengths of slicing jobs, offering higher productivity with no wasted motion.

Slicing blades made of heavy-duty materials are designed to stay sharp for longer periods of time. Updated portion controls measure output in increments of as little as 0.01 lbs. On many slicers, both metal and plastic parts are now constructed with materials infused with antimicrobial agents, helping to ensure sanitation. Some units have redesigned feet that prevent the machine from "walking" while in operation.

Prime Functions: Portion-controlled slicing. By allowing users to set slice thicknesses, these machines can yield uniform portions.

Key Kitchen Applications: Slicers are most often used to prepare deli meats and cheeses for sandwiches, but can also provide uniform slices of vegetables for grilling or garnishing. Gear-driven slicers are good for cutting thicker sausage, meat and cheese. Ideal for high-volume operations, these units typically offer heavyduty gravity-feed features.

Purchasing Guidelines: Operations with on-demand slicing or light volume should consider a manual slicer. Higher-volume operations, such as schools, hospitals or sandwich shops, are best served by automatic slicers. Cheeses require a medium-duty slicer, at minimum.

Since slicers help guarantee portion sizes, they are extremely useful in controlling food costs. In addition, slicers present the dual benefit of cutting both faster and potentially more safely than knives. Product temperature does affect the quality of the slice. For this reason, end-users should take note of the product temperature range at which they get their best quality slices. To reduce cross-contamination fears, some high-volume operations, such as delis, will look to employ two slicers — one for meats and another for cheeses.

The volume being cut and product size are major considerations when selecting a blade size. High-volume slicers cut in varying thickness and offer oversized 13" chrome-plated blades for busy operations. Smaller operations can make do with 9" or 10" cutting blades. Light-duty economy slicers typically offer slice thickness adjustment knobs. Medium-duty slicers typically slice without manually feeding product onto the carriage. Compact automatic slicers may offer a hollow-ground knife blade that is more easily sharpened and maintains a sharp edge for a longer period. Models offering noiseless operation also are available.

Chicken slicers, which have no sharp blades and are virtually injuryproof, also are available. These units are designed to cut breaded and cooked chicken fast and efficiently. Pusher blocks and blades are designed to minimize lodging of meat.

Maintenance Requirements: Motors are usually sealed and are, thus, maintenance-free. Knife blades can usually be honed in place with built-in sharpeners. Food chutes must be removed for cleaning. Permanently mounted knife covers allow cleaning without exposing the blade. Removable carriage systems provide easy cleaning and sanitation.

Food Safety & Sanitation Essentials: End-users should reserve slicers for deli meats and cheeses, as well as fruit and vegetables and refrain from slicing cooked or uncooked meats of other varieties. Both deli meats and cheeses should be sliced cold, with unsliced portions returned quickly to refrigerated storage. However, crosscontamination can occur if products being sliced are warmer than 40°F. A slicer constructed out of aluminum can be more likely to collect scratches and pits in the casting that can collect pathogens. Stainless steel works well and decreases the odds of contamination. To best maintain food safety, a slicer blade and table should be thoroughly cleaned before switching to any foods that will be eaten raw. Machines should also be cleaned and sanitized after each use. The most efficient use of a slicer is to pre-portion foods in larger quantities, reducing the number of times a unit must be disassembled for cleaning. Antibacterial protection on knobs, handles and other key slicer parts can impede bacterial growth and help improve food safety.

Slicers can be hazardous to operate by inexperienced personnel. As a result, there are a number of safety features available with these units. Some slicers will not operate when the knife cover is removed. Other units have a feature that prevents the slicer from reactivating after power interruption. Permanently mounted knife covers allow cleaning with exposing the sharp blade. Child-proof safety switches also are available.