June 1999 Issue (Updated March 2002 Issue)
By Jennifer Hicks
SPECIAL REPORT: Different Strokes For Manual Folks
Dont want to use a powered chopper? No problem. Theres a host of manual veggie tools out there that efficiently and attractively cut and chop every which way. And if you dont find a tool you like, you can work with your supplier to design a tool just for your stores.
With all due respect to Thomas Alva Edison, electricity isnt always the preferred way to power foodservice prep. If youve got young employees and/or a high turnover rate, you might want to look closely at manual veggie prep machines. Manual units are easy to train on and require no more than two hands to power. And to some degree they decrease the risk of injury should one of your staffers become overly exuberant in mid-chop.
Like their electric counterparts, manual cutters use nearly all of the vegetable or fruit, reducing your food waste to a bare minimum. They provide consistent, professional-looking cuts every single time, and for some jobs manual processors are indispensable. (Those of you with blooming onions on your menu know what we mean.) Plus, manual machines cost a fraction of what electric veggie processors run.
A handful of suppliers are in this category, offering nonpowered veggie processing machines that peel, wedge, dice, slice, chop and more. If you can think of a way to process a vegetable, chances are theres a manual device out there thatll do it. In fact, many of the manual machines sold today exist because some large chain needed to cut product a new way, and suppliers stepped in to customize.
While this isnt a complete sampling, well cover here some of the top products, including cutters from Dito Dean Food Prep, Lincoln Foodservice Products, Mouli Mfg., Nemco Food Equipment, Prince Castle and Vollrath Co. With the exception of Dito Dean, these companies have lines of anywhere from three to a dozen manual processors.
Prices vary widely based on the type and style of tool, but you can count on spending less than $100 to a couple hundred dollars for all multi-use and some single-use tools. All-steel products usually cost more.
And what do you get for your money? Your choice of multi-use veggie preppersunits that core, wedge and dice, for exampleas well as single-use, product-specific toolstomato slicers, cabbage slicers, etc. All the cutters featured here sit on a tabletop, clamp to a countertop or mount to a wall. Operation varies; youll find pull-down cutting arms, horizontal-push handles and hand cranks.
How you choose a manual tool depends on what you want to use it for, obviously. If all youre slicing is tomatoes day in and day out, youll be fine with a tomato slicer, which can basically slice one in two or three seconds. But if you find you have other product to slice, too, youll want a more all-purpose slicing tool. Suppliers usually dont sell these products based on volume per hour because productivity really depends on the product and the person cutting.
Zap Those Food Acids
Whatever you choose, pay attention to care and cleaning. Metals, in these cases aluminum or steel or stainless, are susceptible to food acids, so clean the unit after each use. Food acids dont just make corrosion thats ugly; theyll quickly ruin cutting edges, too. Dunk these cutters in hot soapy water, brush if necessary and rinse before letting them air dry. (For safety reasons, you dont want kitchen staff hand-drying anything sharper than themselves.)
Some prep tools can go in your warewasher, of course, but two things to watch out for: First, aluminum tools will discolor from detergent use. Their discoloration wont affect their performance or the safety of your food, but the units wont look as nice as when you first bought them. (Stainless will be fine.) And second, with machine washing you might run the risk of cutting blades knocking against other hard surfaces and being damaged or dulled.
So, on to the products. First up alphabetically, Dito Dean sells Mr. Peely. This cutter received high praise in our first smallwares competition in 1998 for its ability to peel up to 30 lbs. of carrots in 10 minutes. Once you clamp the carrot into the vertical unit, you simply push down on the top handle to move the carrot down through suspended blades. You can also get blades for peeling cucumbers, radishes and asparagus.
By the way, Dito Dean also offers a tomato slicer, a wedger/corer, a french fry cutter and its Multi-Prep System, which lets you cut fries, wedge lemons, core and cut cabbage, chop lettuce, etc.
Lincoln Foodservice Products offers its Redco line of manual processors, 12 in all for handling vegetables and fruit. There are two cutters solely for lettuce, three dedicated to tomatoes, a wedger, a tool for making crown-like tops on melons, and others.
But here we feature the Insta Slice, a 17-blade tool dedicated to slicing tomatoes. The blades are scalloped, which lets you slice larger tomatoes and use vine-ripe product without pre-scoring the tomato skin. The one-piece blade assembly pops in and out easily, while the knob is designed for right- or left-handed employees. Rubber feet ensure your Insta Slice stays steady on the countertop.
Of Spirals, Slices And Sabers
Mouli Mfg. offers at least four cutter/ dicer/choppers not counting its fruit peelers and tomato crushers. We feature the Spiral Slicer here, a stainless steel unit that produces continuous strips or flat ribbons of cabbage. The hand-crank slicer comes with three cutter blades, and you can use it without the blades for full-width ribbons. Once the cabbage or other product is mounted, the spiraling motion pushes it against the blades to cut the ribbons.
Next up is Nemco. Here again, theres a whole line of processors to choose from, including choppers, wedgers, slicers, lettuce cutters and a flowering onion unit. Here you see the Easy Slicer suitable for both fruits and veggies. The aluminum-based unit gives you an adjustable stainless steel blade providing a full range of slicing from 1&Mac218;16 to 1&Mac218;2 in thickness; turn a thumbscrew control to lock in your setting.
The Easy Slicer mounts to your table, and when you need to use it you simply load product into a side holder. You exert minimal pressure against the holders handle, turn the hand crank and voila! you slice.
Prince Castle, meanwhile, touts sevencount emFasline slicers, cutters, wedgers and dicers. The star of the Fasline group is the Tomato Saber, which was introduced in 98 and drew high scores in our magazines first smallwares competition. The aluminum-bodied Tomato Saber features a blade cartridge that never needs adjustment or tightening. A pusher handle carries the tomato through the blades, and a catcher at the other end helps reduce cleanup.
Finally we come to Vollrath and its three stainless spud cuttersthe Wedge-Cut Potato Cutter, French Fry Potato Cutter and the Kurly-Q Kutter. In particular, the Kurly-Q handles up to 6 potatoes and cuts curls for specialty fries. It hand screws to the edge of a table or mounts permanently.
By the way, all it takes is a simple phone call to find out if your supplier can customize a unit for you. You wont know if you dont ask.