From large firm vegetables to small delicate fruits, here are the most popular solutions for chopping, dicing and slicing in today’s restaurant kitchens.
While diners continue to demand fresher and healthier foods, chefs are searching for ways to prepare these items in the most efficient manner possible. Luckily, they have plenty of resources to help them out.
Manufacturers have long offered food preparation equipment that gets the job done faster, cleaner and cheaper, thus reducing in-kitchen cleanup and labor. But these tools have evolved to cut cleaner and faster than ever before, allowing for better presentation and a reduction in waste due to bruising or inaccurate chopping.
So which food prep tools are best suited for restaurant chefs? We asked the manufacturers, who not only revealed their best-sellers but also some of the latest equipment to hit the restaurant kitchen.
Product: HL200 Legacy Mixer
Introduced in 2001, the HL200 Legacy 20-quart mixer can be the workhorse in any commercial kitchen, according to Kevin Kemper, brand communications manager. “These units are designed to take on the heaviest doughs in the industry,” he says. “They have the ability to mix the toughest pizza and pretzel dough and deliver consistent results. Mixing cake batters, mashing potatoes, whipping cream or shredding cooked meat with a flat beater can be easily accomplished.”
It includes a swing-out bowl and a variable frequency drive that enables soft-start agitation, which slowly builds to optimal stir speed to prevent splashing. It can also change operating speeds without stopping the mixer, and it includes a smart timer that automatically recalls the last set speed, which is great for multiple batches.
Product: HS9 Heavy-Duty Slicer
Marketed since 2012, this slicer provides precision-cut performance for delicate meats and the power to slice difficult cheeses. It also offers variable speeds to meet any challenge and features Interlock technology that keeps blades in place during operation. It boasts a 13-inch ClearCut knife made of a bonded alloy to ensure precise cuts as well as a variable four-speed automatic carriage with front-mount controls. Plus, the unit’s exclusive tilt-and-remove carriage system makes cleaning easier, which saves on labor.
Product: HCC34 Combination Food Processor
Launched at the 2016 NRA Show, the HCC34 food processor provides the flexibility and versatility that a commercial kitchen needs, including the ability to puree and create emulsified dressings as well as shred, dice and slice vegetables consistently with the speed required for a busy operation. SureSense speed controls identify which processor head is installed and adjusts the speed accordingly. Continuous feed operation at 500/800 RPM provides reliable, consistent cuts. The Bowl Style mode’s 1450/2650 RPM is excellent for blending and emulsifying, and a transparent cover allows chefs to view the product. Stainless steel cutting accessories are included for dough as well as vegetables.
Product: Vita-Prep 3
Vitamix machines feature high-speed blades that fully incorporate ingredients, including ice and frozen fruits for signature cocktails. These machines also rough-chop ingredients for chunky dips and sauces to reduce knife work. They all offer a full range of speeds to refine every texture.
By far the most popular Vitamix products come from the company’s Vita-Prep line. The Vita-Prep 3, which was introduced only a few short years ago, is particularly popular. It can pulverize the toughest whole-food ingredients with its 3-horsepower motor. It also has variable speed control, a cooling fan to prevent overheating regardless of use and a patented high-impact container. “The vast number of menu items is what makes the Vita-Prep 3 popular, especially in upscale restaurants,” says Christy Bevujean, commercial product manager at Vitamix. “It can turn yogurt and frozen strawberries into a frozen sorbet in 45 seconds. It can be used in making ice coffees, smoothies, hollandaise sauce and vinaigrettes. The mild heat generated by the fast rotating blades warms clarified butter.”
Product: Vitamix XL Blender
Second in popularity among Vitamix food preparation blenders is the Vitamix XL, which has a 4.2-horsepower motor that performs heavy blending, from delicate tomatoes to dense meats. It also holds a 1.5-gallon container that blends up to 12 pounds of food at once. Its low countertop profile and removable lid plug allows chefs to add ingredients during blending. Variable Speed Control and the pulse function achieve countless textures with culinary precision. It’s also available in a programmable model.
Product: R2N Combination Cutter Bowl/Vegetable Prep
The R2N Combination Cutter Bowl and Vegetable Preparation Machine has been the signature product of Robot-Coupe USA for many years. All functions run on the same motor and, thus, in the same compact footprint. Functions include chopping, grinding, kneading and mixing, and the selection of discs include grating, dicing (for R2 Dice only), slicing and julienne. Features include both a large-feed opening that can handle fruits and vegetables as well as a one-round slot for slicing long or fragile items. Furthermore, it boasts a 1-horsepower motor (2-horsepower in R2N Dicer models) that processes vegetables and fruits at 1,725 RPM. A pulse control helps achieve the proper texture when mixing and pureeing in the 3-quart bowl, which helps chefs create mayonnaise, steak tartare or fruit puree in under two minutes.
Product: CL50E Vegetable Prep
Almost as popular in restaurants is Robot-Coupe’s line of Vegetable Preparation machines, in which the CL50E is the standout. It has a large hopper that can process bulky vegetables, such as lettuce and cabbage. A comprehensive range of 52 discs are available for slicing, ripple-cutting, grating, dicing and cutting into sticks or strips with consistent precision. For the CL50 Gourmet model, other discs are available to produce unique specialty cuts like brunoises and gaufrette or waffle cuts. Fine-dining chefs are also using this machine’s versatility to their advantage when it comes to creative plating. This 425-RPM single-speed appliance is ideal for processing delicate foodstuffs like cucumbers, mushrooms and tomatoes, yet it can also handle intricate julienne cuts.
Product: VP2 Vegetable Dryer
The VP2 vegetable dryer is the most popular and widely used food preparation product from Electrolux Professional. “This device quickly dries fruits and vegetables where foodservice establishments are serving healthier food choices to customers,” says Tracy Drake, marketing sales and support specialist. Drake also noted that it excels at quickly drying leafy greens, which helps prevent product waste from oversaturated, watered-down lettuce that repels salad dressing. “As the dressing is the most expensive component of a restaurant salad, the dryer cuts costs by drying the lettuce, thus allowing the dressing to fully coat its fixings.”
Product: TRK Vegetable Cutter/Food Processor
Electrolux’s TRS vegetable cutters and K Series food processors are extremely popular in nearly all types of restaurants. “With the TRS vegetable cutter, chefs can choose from a variety of discs to cut a variety of food options,” Drake says. “These cutters will slice, dice, shred and julienne, depending on the disc selected. K Series food processors can chop, mince, grind and blend. “Another option available is the TRK Combination Vegetable Cutter and Food Processor, which combines the functions of the TRS and the K Series equipment into one incredibly capable machine.”
Nemco Food Equipment
Product: Easy Tomato Slicer
Not all food prep equipment needs to be powered by electricity. Nemco Food Equipment has a long history of producing quality manual food preparation tools for cutting, slicing and dicing of vegetables, fruits and meats. But its current line of tools has evolved by building on past successes. “Our most popular line has been our Easy Tomato Slicer, which was first introduced in 1986,” says Joe Carcoine, director of sales. “But Nemco has made improvements and different models to reflect changes in the industry.”
The original Easy Tomato Slicer was designed to do the same work of other slicers but with 60 percent less counter space. It features razor-sharp blades that cut with trouble-free precision, which is possible because of its unique self-lubricating track material that resists misalignment problems that cause nicks and broken blades. A vertical handle and protective guards improve user comfort and safety, and the machine itself cleans quickly and easily. A scalloped blade option is available on all models as well. “Over the years, tomatoes became larger, so Nemco introduced the Easy Tomato Slicer 2, which can handle tomatoes up to 4 1/2 inches in diameter, rather than the 3-inch tomatoes that the original could slice,” says Carcoine. The Roma Tomato Slicer was introduced in 2015 to accommodate the increasing use of Roma tomatoes in restaurant salads. The specialized slicer was created to preserve the smaller bulb shape and size of the Roma without slowing the slicing process.
Product: Easy Chopper 3
The same process affected Nemco’s Easy Chopper, which was first introduced in 1985 for the chopping, cutting and dicing of onions, tomatoes, potatoes, celery, peppers and other firm vegetables. Used in nearly all types of restaurants, it can help prepare salsa and pizza toppings as well as wedging citrus and other fruits using the Wedger Kit.
The original had a 3 1/2-inch cutting area, but the Easy Chopper 2 increased that area to 4 1/4 inches and can fit a round 2-quart container underneath it to catch produce that falls from the blades. The Easy Chopper 3 was marketed last year as boasting industry-first enhancements, such as push blocks that are color-coded according to the cut size of the corresponding blade-set, which makes destructive mismatches nearly impossible. Each push block also features a flexible gasket that fits over the tooth-grid of the push block prior to chopping. Then, after a busy day, the gasket easily comes off with an effortless pull of its two tabs, taking all the built-up food debris with it in one motion and eliminating the tedious “picking” associated with traditional chopping blocks. Thus, the Easy Chopper 3 requires nothing more than a rinse, wash and sanitization.
Product: Redco InstaCut 5.0
The versatile Redco InstaCut 5.0 is by far the most widely used food prep appliance marketed by Vollrath Co. The manual device can slice, dice, wedge and core with simple pop-in, pop-out blade accessories that make switching from dicing onions to coring apples a fast and efficient process in any restaurant kitchen, said Tiffany Wieser, marketing specialist. With a 5-inch square cutting area, it can process large fruits and vegetables, including apples, celery, lemons, limes, onions, oranges, pears, peppers and tomatoes. Features include corrosion-resistant Thermoset blade frames that never need adjustment as well as finely honed blades that make clean cuts without bruising softer produce.
Almost as popular is its 5.0 version, the Redco InstaCut 3.5 dices, wedges and cores fruits and vegetables with a one-stroke operation that produces quick, clean cuts without bruising or waste. A simple one-piece blade assembly pops in and out for quick transitions between ingredients and easy cleaning during busy operations. To keep everything in place and for extra support, a wall-mount bracket is also available.
Product: Redco Cucumber Slicer
Building on its line of manual food prep appliances, Vollrath introduced the Redco Fruit Slicer and Redco Cucumber Slicer at the 2016 NRA Show. With 28 blades and a one-stroke operation, the Fruit Slicer eliminates 75 percent of the time and cost of cutting fruit by hand. With blades that never need adjustment and a 5-inch cutting area, this device can handle larger produce than other Redco prep tools, including pineapple, cantaloupe and honeydew melon. Of course, it can also slice cucumbers lengthwise and simultaneously core them in a single stroke. This comes standard with one 14-section core, but it’s designed to also accommodate a 10-section core.