Slicer Maintenance 101
Stephen Covey wrote about metaphorically “sharpening the saw” in his books, explaining why it was so important for wood-cutters to take the time to sharpen their saw—so that it cut at a higher production rate. The same is true of slicers; the sharper the blade, the better. By taking the time to sharpen and properly care for your slicing investment, your slicer will be more effective and will save you dollars and headaches.
Many establishments that serve deli sandwiches come equipped with at least one slicer. Operators know the time-, money- and labor-saving value the slicer brings to the bottom line. There’s no better way to get fast and consistent cuts of meats and cheeses and other food products than using a well maintained and properly calibrated slicer. You can accurately calculate your product costs down to the penny. Gone are the days when prep cooks hand carved slices of meats and cheeses; only in a gourmet- or artisan-style deli shop might you see this type of carving done.
Although just a single-task piece of equipment, the slicer is a critical addition to the kitchen when it comes to saving labor. Simple to use, easy to clean and fast, these machines have earned valuable counter space. Have one go down and you’ll see how long prepping takes. For the most part, slicers require minimal effort to keep in tip-top working order. But failure to follow the manufacturer’s guidelines can lead to an inoperable slicer.
Avoid This Mistake
From a service technician’s standpoint, the most common service call for a slicer is that it’s hard to push or pull. This often results from an employee failing to oil the slide rod or using the wrong substance on it. Many employees have the impression that when the slicer starts sticking, by using a few drops of cooking oil or vegetable oil on the slide rod, it makes the slicer move easier, and it can; that is until the oil heats up from friction and and solidifies, seizing the carriage. Instead of calling for service, the employee repeats the process and applies more oil until the unit is so built up with hardened oil, it won’t move at all. Then, in an expensive service call, the technician has to remove all the old oil before properly lubricating the slide rod with slicer-grade oil to make the unit work again. Avoid all of this by using the proper lubricating oil, which is inexpensive and available from slicer manufacturers.
Cleaning Your Slicer
With the 2010 NSF/ANSI 8 standards now in place, one manufacturer puts slicer cleaning in perspective: “It’s a common perception that slicers are now easier to clean. While this is an added benefi t, the fact is that they’re designed to make them hard to get dirty in the first place.” Makers have sealed seams and fasteners, added gaskets and protective boots around openings and changed the design of slicers to channel off liquids such as meat juices, so there are fewer ways for food particles to find hiding places. With minimal training and by following the required laminated cleaning and sanitizing chart supplied by the manufacturer, there’s no reason a new slicer can’t stay in top running order for many years.
To keep your machine in perfect running shape, always follow the manufacturers’ specifications and recommendations. Additionally, consider the following tips for cleaning:
• Clean the machine daily with warm water and a mild detergent.
• Never use a steel wool pad or scratch pad to clean the unit.
• When using a chlorine-based sanitizer, a little goes a long way; don’t use too much. Chlorine and stainless don’t mix well.
• Clean and sanitize the slicer every four hours of use for optimal performance.
• Spray on the sanitizer but let it air dry. Don’t wipe it off with a cloth.
• Sharpen the blade regularly as needed; a sharp blade cuts better.
• After sharpening, carefully wipe off the blade to clear minerals left behind from the sharpening stones.
• Lubricate the slide rod with the proper lubricant (mineral-oil based).
Never be casual about maintaining a slicer. The blade is extremely sharp and heavy and a mishap can lead to severe injury. One service technician reports a blade once fell from a table and sheared through the steel toe of his boot, just missing his toes inside. The carriage is also a moving part and can pinch or jam a finger. Most slicers are heavy and bulky and their uneven weight distribution can come as a surprise when an employee tries to lift, tilt or move the machine. It cannot be stressed enough: exercise extreme caution when moving, maintaining or operating any slicer. Some basic safety tips include the following:
• Always disconnect the power/unplug the unit before servicing and wait for the blade to stop rotating.
• Always use cut-resistant safety gloves when dismantling the blade for cleaning.
• Always wear eye protection when sharpening the blade.
• Most importantly, get to know the slicer operation, its capabilities and limitations—for example, trying to cut something very dense or hard to slice on a light-duty slicer can be dangerous.
Many slicers are reliable, quality pieces of equipment, built to last long and perform effortlessly. Making sure employees know and abide by the proper operating and maintenance procedures will ensure that your machine provides labor savings and standardized slicing for years to come.
From The Field
The following tips are based on service technicians’ experiences in the field:
• Although parts of the slicer may be dishwasher safe, the whole unit is not—even if it does fit in the warewasher.
• When the machine sounds like a rock-crusher (grinding noises), it’s time to get it repaired, not place a loud radio next to it.
• If the blade rubs against the guard plate, don’t “rig” the unit to work without the guard. Call your service technician.
• If water or other liquids run on the power cord to the outlet, don’t tie a plastic bag over the outlet. Rearrange the cord placement or get the outlet moved by an electrician.
• If you have lost or broken your sharpener, don’t use a standard kitchen knife sharpener. Get the OEM part.
• If you don’t have the proper oil for lubricating the equipment, get it. Don’t use cooking oil, vegetable
oil, motor oil or any other substitute.
Meat-Type Slicer Manufacturers
Chef’s Choice By EdgeCraft
German Knife/Turbo Air
Globe Food Equipment Co.
The Vollrath Co.
Find more slicer manufacturers online using the FER Buyers Guide at fermag.com/bg.