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How to Properly Choose A Meat Slicer for Your Kitchen

Everything You Need to Know About Choosing A Meat Slicer for Your Kitchen

When you're putting together a restaurant kitchen, chances are you're going to want a commercial meat slicer on-hand.  Being able to slice your own meats, veggies, cheeses, and other goods will save you time and money, as well as allowing you to serve fresher food to your customers.  Having a great slicer is also all-important for putting together those popular charcuterie boards!

A good meat slicer isn't cheap, but it shouldn't break your budget either.  Better yet, if you pick the right slicer, it should last you for years, or even decades, with proper care and treatment.  Make the right choice now, and you -along with your customers- will enjoy the results for a long time to come!

So, in this guide we're going to go over your basic choices in meat slicers, features and accessories you may want, as well as basic care.  Let's get started!

Types of Meat Slicers: Light, Medium, Heavy-Duty

Most commercial meat slicers operate on the same basic principle: an electric motor powers a rapidly spinning blade, and you push the meat or another item through repeatedly to make slices.  The fundamental design doesn't change much between slicer types, just its power, and capacity.  They break down into three basic categories:

Light-duty slicers

Light-duty slicers are generally more aimed at advanced amateur home cooks, rather than professional restaurants. They should not be run for more than 1-2 total hours per day, and the engine is weak enough that they're only suitable for softer meats and vegetables. Cheeses, particularly hard cheeses, will quickly wear out both the blade and the motor.

However, some smaller cafes or operations with limited hours might still find use from a light-duty slicer. With most models only costing a few hundred dollars, almost anyone can afford one. Still, if you are running a professional kitchen, you should consider getting a larger model.

Medium-duty slicers

Medium-duty slicers are an excellent all-around choice for most typical restaurants and cafes. They can stand up to several hours of slicing per day, featuring larger blades as well as more powerful motors. These are also capable of cutting hard cheeses, although this will still cause more strain on the slicer than if you're cutting meat or veggies.

With a medium-duty slicer, you're also likely to get more options and features, particularly safety features. As long as you don't work it too hard, a medium-duty slicer should be fine for almost any small-to-medium-sized commercial kitchen. Just don't use it all day.

Heavy-duty slicers

Heavy-duty slicers, as the name suggests, are intended for operations that expect the slicer to be in use for a large portion of the day. Butcher's shops, groceries, and other stores selling fresh-cut meats will undoubtedly be using a heavy-duty model. This could also extend to restaurants that specialize in fresh sandwiches or otherwise have a menu focused on fresh-sliced foods. Plus, with huge blades - often larger than a foot - and extremely powerful motors, they can slice through even the hardest of foods with ease. Likewise, they have the largest feeding trays and can chew through a lot of material in a hurry.

Also, the price difference between medium- and heavy-duty slicers is less than you might expect. There's some overlap in the pricing. Therefore, even if you have a smaller operation, it might be worth getting a more-powerful slicer just so you'll have that power there if you ever need it. Plus, a heavy-duty slicer that generally only sees medium-duty work will last for ages.

Belts vs Gears - Is There A Major Difference?

One of the biggest mechanical differences between various models of meat slicer is whether the blade is powered by a belt, or by gears. Generally, smaller/lighter models use belts and larger/heavier models use gears, but not always.

In terms of utility, there is very little difference between the two designs. They operate in the same basic way. The main deciding factor involves maintenance. A belt-driven slicer will be more prone to failure (particularly belt problems) but is easy to open up and work on. You could probably repair it yourself if you have a spare belt. On the other hand, a gear-driven model will be more reliable, but significantly more expensive and time-consuming to repair should it ever break.

You're probably fine with a belt-driven model unless around-the-clock reliability is a genuine concern.

Should You Ever Consider A Manual Slicer?

Most commercial food slicers on the market are automatic, meaning that the electric engine also powers a tray that automatically slides back and forth beneath the blade. However, you can still purchase old-fashioned manual slicer models as well. These require you to push the meat through by hand and may also need hand-cranking as well.

Why would you ever want one? They make a great showpiece. If you wanted to put your meat slicer in view of the guests, you could put on a show of having the most handcrafted meats around. They're also designed for visual aesthetics and will look nice within most restaurants.

Still, these are basically a gimmick. Beyond being showy, the only pragmatic benefit they bring is the capacity to work even without electrical power. This is another situation where you shouldn't buy one unless you know you'll make use of its unique features.

Important Safety Features and Accessories to Look For

Any device that involves a large spinning blade must-have safety features in place to protect your workers! Fortunately, modern meat slicers have a lot of thought put into safety.
Some of the most common safety features and accessories include:

Knife guards: Any modern slicer will minimize the amount of blade left exposed, using a large knife guard. Usually, these are removable, to make cleaning easier, but not always.

Failsafe no-volt power release: When a slicer has this feature, the power button will automatically switch to "off" if the slicer ever uses power. That way, if there's an electrical failure, there's no chance of it coming back to life unexpectedly.

Gauge plate interlock: The gauge plate surrounds the blade and moving it up or down controls the thickness of each slice. An interlock requires the plate to be at its lowest setting to be able to open the unit for cleaning - helping protect workers' fingers.

Fabric covers: Keeping your meat slicer exposed when not in use is not a good idea, in terms of both safety and maintenance. A high-quality fabric cover for your meat slicer protects the slicer and your people.

Kickstands: Some slicers come with a small leg, or kickstand, which can be used to prop up the slicer. This makes it easy to safely clean underneath the unit. Other slicers may have raised feet, eliminating the need for a kickstand.

Cleaning and Maintenance

Fortunately, meat slicers are relatively easy to clean and maintain.

The most important rule is to ALWAYS sanitize your meat slicer every day! It needs to be sprayed down with your disinfectant of choice at least once a day, and possibly every few hours if it's under heavy use. Even small particles of meat trapped in the mechanisms could potentially go rotten and contaminate your work, so it's vital to keep the slicer as clean as possible.

Typically, most of the mechanical features of a meat slicer will be out in the open. Nearly everything that might touch meat is already exposed, making it even easier to clean them out. Likewise, they're water-resistant, so washing them or hosing them down is simple.

The other important aspect of maintenance is to keep your slicer well-lubricated! You want to use a food-grade lubricant on all exposed moving parts regularly, to keep everything moving smoothly. Without proper lubrication, the slicer will degrade much more quickly than usual, as well as potentially giving unreliable performance.

Zanduco Has Everything Your Restaurant Needs for Success

Zanduco Restaurant Equipment & Supplies is an all-in-one restaurant supplier, bringing together the very best in restaurant equipment, decor, and more. We constantly update our list of suppliers, looking for new equipment to offer, and making sure that our customers always have excellent products throughout their restaurant.

We can supply single items as needed, or we can work with you to outfit your entire kitchen and dining room. All you supply is the food and the customers!

If you intend to make a large bulk order, please contact us directly for a quote on your purchase.