Consultant Q&A: Dan Bendall, principal, FoodStrategy, Inc., Rockville, Md.
FE&S: Are some slicers better for certain products than others?
DB: Most can be used for a variety of foods, including meat and vegetables. When it comes to hard items, like cheese or frozen items, it’s best to use a heavy-duty unit with at least a ½ hp motor.
FE&S: When should an operator consider purchasing an electric slicer versus a manual type?
DB: There is a big cost difference between a manual type slicer, where the user moves the carriage back and forth to slice, and units that feature an automated carriage. Most restaurants don’t need an automatic slicer, unless high-volume slicing, such as for sandwich meats, will be performed.
FE&S: What are important safety features to look for?
DB: Some slicers have blade covers for added protection during cleaning, while others have removable blades for added safety. The majority of slicers have interlocks, which prevent powering on when the blade guard cover is off. Safety features are key, especially when unskilled workers will be operating the unit.
FE&S: Are there features operators should look for that simplify cleaning?
DB: Operators should look at the cleaning procedure for the unit, including how easily the machine can be broken down and the overall cleanability of the unit. The blade guards or sharpeners should be assessed. Also, cleaning under the slicer is a consideration, so clearance to the counter is a factor.
FE&S: What should operators look for with sharpeners?
DB: A slicer sharpener is good to have, and permanently mounted ones are convenient. This type is lined up perfectly to make blades sharp at the right angles.
FE&S: Are there accessories commonly specified with slicers?
DB: There are different types of product holders offered on some units. Also, fences can vary. If general purpose slicers are being used with just vegetables and sliced meats, operators most likely won’t need accessories. However, there are food chutes that can help with vegetable slicing.
FE&S: What are the finish options?
DB: It depends on the budget. There are some economy slicer models that have different finishes. The more expensive ones have more stainless steel parts, including harder blades.