Spec check: Food Processors

Because of their versatile nature, food processors are often considered a cornerstone of any commercial kitchen's preparation activities. Not only does this equipment allow operators to efficiently and consistently prepare vegetables, fruit and a wide range of menu items, but food processors are key to saving prep time and labor.

Indeed, the kitchen tasks that food processors can perform are many, including chopping, dicing, grinding, slicing, shredding, grating, whipping and pureeing. What makes this piece of equipment so valuable is that it allows kitchen staff to complete these tasks in a minimal amount of time. Food processors are effective for most any type of food, whether the product is dense like meat and cheese or delicate like tomatoes and olives.

Following are four considerations foodservice operators and their supply chain partners should weigh when specifying food processors.

The Need for Speed and Power
When specifying, decide if one-, two- or variable speeds are needed for a majority of the tasks that will be performed. With a pulse feature, operators can prepare items without running the unit continuously. This can help increase energy efficiency.

When determining appropriate horsepower, it is important to pinpoint the type of food that staff will use the unit to prepare. For example, denser items, such as cheese, will require more horsepower. Keep in mind that the higher the revolutions per minute (rpms), the less precise the cut. Most food processors run at between 320 and 350 rpms.

Food Type and Applications

Also, consider food type when choosing bowl sizes and attachments. Volume of food being prepared also comes into play and is an important consideration when specifying these units. Bowl capacities on combination and bowl cutter food processors range from 2.5 to 7 quarts, while vertical cutter-mixer capacities are between 8 and 60 quarts.

Operators performing high-volume pureeing, emulsifying and/or liquefying tasks may want to consider a unit with a sealing system that helps prevent leaking during processing. High-volume operations also should consider units with larger bowls, more horsepower and extra feed chutes, which can help reduce prep time and increase efficiency.

The product being prepared also dictates the type of blade that should be used. Be aware that different blades produce different cuts. The denser the product, the thicker the blade required, as fine blades can be damaged when used inappropriately. For unique cuts, such as homemade waffle fries, specialty machines rotate blades in two directions simultaneously, saving time.

Safety and Maintenance
If quick cleaning is the goal, consider specifying a unit with fewer crevices that can trap food and one where the attachments can be easily removed for washing.

Safe use is a primary factor with these units, especially in operations with inexperienced staff. When choosing a food processor, confirm that safety features, such as guards and automatic turn-off switches, are provided.

Unit Placement

Another key factor is deciding on placement. Will the food processor have a set spot in the kitchen or be moved around during use? Although the majority of food processors are for tabletop use, mobile units also are available. Footprints are not a big factor, as these units are typically only 1 to 2 sq. ft. in size.

Three Types of Food Processors
When deciding what type of food processor to purchase, it's important to be familiar with the three basic types:

  • Bowl cutters provide a closed bowl and are most often used for mixing, pureeing or emulsifying.
  • Continuous-feed food processors require operators to supply product nonstop into the unit. These versatile machines dice, slice, shred, grate and julienne.
  • Combination units, which have interchangeable heads, combine features of both the bowl type and continuous feed food processors. The range of tasks this type of equipment can perform includes shredding, dicing, grating and julienne cuts.

Operators can choose from belt- and gear-driven models. Belt-driven food processors have the bowl positioned away from the motor housing, unlike gear or direct-drive units, where the bowl sits over the motor.

Operators can choose from new innovations that include discs that accomplish more than one task, unique bowl designs, one-touch operation and quieter motors.
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