An increasing number of operators now slice fresh product on demand, including deli meats and cheeses for sandwiches and vegetables as ingredients, side dishes and garnishes.
Slicers provide a safe, fast and efficient method of food preparation. Not only can this equipment create consistent cuts, it can also help portion products, which keeps food costs under control. Depending on the model, slices can vary from very thin to as much as 1¼-inch thick.
Foodservice operators can choose between semi-automatic or automatic commercial slicers. Slicers feature a rotating blade on a removable carriage with a spring-loaded upright or gravity-fed, angled design.
For front-of-the-house on-demand settings or lighter volumes, foodservice operators usually opt for manual slicers. Semi-automatic units have a secondary motor, which moves the product carriage. Sandwich shops and institutions with higher volume slicing needs typically choose automatic slicers, which operators can adjust to perform 20 to 60 strokes per minute.
Mandolin slicers are basic manual units designed for low-volume slicing. Operators often use mandolins for specialty cuts, like wavy fries, carrot shavings or grates.
When it comes to specific tasks, operators can opt for certain specialty slicer models. For example, vegetable cutters have slower RPMs and utilize sharp blades to help retain the cell structure of produce. This not only extends the product’s shelf life but also creates a higher quality appearance, taste and aroma. A variety of discs can mimic a number of hand-cutting styles.
Other slicer configurations provide food deposit options. While angled slicers drop food slices directly onto a receiving table, upright slicers typically use a lever arm to stack products in various patterns.
Although most slicers are constructed of either anodized or burnished aluminum, units are available that combine aluminum with stainless steel. Knife blades are generally hollow-ground, high-carbon steel, though some models include chrome-plated steel or hardened steel alloys.
This equipment includes a belt- or gear-driven knife motor with horsepower that ranges from ¼ to ½. Automatic slicers feature a separate DC motor driven by a chain and sprocket system, which can be disengaged for manual operation.
Ergonomics, or how culinary staff use the slicer, represent another factor to consider. Some units accommodate any prep size pan from ¼ or ½ inch that’s as much as 6 inches deep.
As a rule, the bigger the slicer knife, the higher the motor’s torque and the larger the unit’s footprint. The most common knife sizes measure 12 inches and 13 inches. Medium-duty slicers typically include 12-inch blades, while heavy-duty models have blades between 12 and 14 inches in size. Smaller operations with lower volume slicing will utilize units with 9- or 10-inch cutting blades.
The most appropriate slicer for an operation depends on the menu and slicing volume. While medium-duty slicers can handle one to three hours of slicing a day with a moderate amount of cheese, light-duty models are for operations slicing a half hour or less with little or no cheese.
Slicer options include top-mounted knife sharpeners, which offer easy access and added convenience. Heavy-duty units have full gravity feed vegetable or tubular chutes for easier loading of large batches at one time. Slicer side bars, which are constantly lubricated, are an option that provides smoother carriage movement. For quieter operation, slicer stands can be utilized.
Safety features also are typically standard, including guards that cover the slicer blade and blade cartridge and hoppers to push product by the blade for slicing.
Newer slicers feature a design that accommodates both hard and soft food, including tomatoes and onions. Units with stainless steel bodies are dishwasher safe.
A safety feature on some units prevent the slicer from operating if it’s plugged back in after being unplugged during operation.