Choosing which slicer to use in your home or professional kitchen can easily become a confusing task, given the plethora of options now on the market. Berkel stands apart as one of the most trusted names in the industry. When you buy a Berkel slicer, you can be sure you are getting a high-quality product.
Yet, there are numerous Berkel slicers, and regardless of brand, there are a number of important factors to take into consideration when deciding which slicer is right for you.
Below, we look at five important areas of consideration when getting ready to buy a new professional-grade slicer:
1. Horsepower and “Duty Level”
One major consideration in selecting your slicer is how much, how often and what kinds of food products you intend to slice. For example, an entry level or light-duty model might be sufficient for occasionally slicing meats only, but daily use and slicing cheeses would require a heavy-duty or at least a medium-duty model.
Using a lower duty model for heavy-duty use will shorten the slicer’s lifespan and could cause it to burn out.
Light-duty slicers may need only 1/4 hp and are best used not more than an hour or two per day with deli meats only. They are often more compact and always more affordable than other models, but they will not work well slicing cheese or vegetables.
Medium-duty slicers will generally have 1/3 hp. They can slice both meats and (occasionally) cheeses and can be safely used for two to three hours per day. They will also typically have larger blades than light-duty models, allowing larger slices and quicker slicing time.
Heavy-duty slicers will have 1/2 hp or more and can slice all manner of food products, including frozen foods. They can be used four to six hours daily or even all day long with the best models. They have the smoothest, most precise operation and the best safety and cleaning features available.
2. Manual or Automatic?
A second major choice is whether to invest in an automatic or manually operated machine. Automatic models use a motor to move the feed tray instead of requiring a worker to do this task by hand. Automatic models can, however, also be operated manually when desired.
Those who will be slicing large amounts of food all at once or those who will be slicing all day long should probably purchase an automatic slicing machine. It will free up staff to do other things and minimize safety risks, since no one is constantly handling the machine. There will normally be different speed settings as well, allowing you to decide how many slices per minute to produce.
For smaller operations, however, a manual slicer can save space on the counter top and in the company budget.
3. Performance Features
Investing in a higher-end slicer will provide you with more and better performance features. Here are some of the common features to look for:
- An angled, easy-feed product table that allows meats to simply slide toward the blade without usually needing to be pushed.
- An over-sized product table that can accommodate food products over the standard 12-inch length.
- A 12- to 14-inch diameter cutting blade, which is often on higher-end models. A 9- to 10-inch blade is usually used on light-duty models.
- A gear-driven blade, which tends to be more durable than a belt-driven blade. However, gear-driven blades will cost more to repair if they do ever have a problem.
- A specialty slicer, like the Berkel 330M Prosciutto slicer, for making “wafer thin” slices on your gourmet deli meats.
4. Easy Cleaning
Saving time on routine cleanings is important in busy delis and bistros, which makes it worthwhile to buy a slicer with features that make it easy to clean, such as the following:
- Product table tilts upwards for easier wiping down and washing off.
- Built-in blade sharpener is removable for easy cleaning.
- Either the ring guard is removable or the whole blade. Either way, this makes it easy to clean the machine.
- Pusher and knife guard are also removable.
- Quick, easy disassembly without any need for specialized tools.
- Stainless steel or anodized aluminum build makes for easy maintenance.
- Kickstand leg allows you to prop up the slicer so you can easily clean beneath it (without relocating it).
- NSF certification, which indicates the machine has fewer seams and is thus easier to clean.
5. Safety Features
Higher-end models will incorporate a number of special safety enhancements, which is a major concern when dealing with a sharp-bladed tool. Here are a few of the most common safety features to look for:
- Knife guard: the guard should cover as much of the blade as possible to minimize cutting hazards.
- Gauge plate interlock: A gauge plate interlock will allow you to tilt the product tray for an easy feed and easy cleaning. It will also put an extra barrier between the blade and one’s fingers.
- No-volt release: This mechanism disallows the slicer to start up again after being unplugged or having the power interrupted for a time, until the power button has been pressed.
Berkel slicers are immensely popular at delis, sandwich chains, bakeries, bistros and other restaurants. They are also much loved in many home kitchens. Knowing which Berkel slicer will best fit your needs will maximize your investment and result in years of efficient meat, bread and cheese slicing.