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Choosing the Best Commercial Meat Slicer

In this meat slicing guide, we will explore everything you need to know about meat slicers, helping you improve the efficiency of your food service establishment and select the best meat slicer for your needs!

How to Choose a Commercial Meat Slicer

When purchasing a commercial food slicer, it's important to take into consideration exactly what (and how much) you intend to slice, as different slicers have different capabilities for slicing meats, cheeses, and vegetables.

While entry level, lighter duty slicers offer a significantly lower price tag than larger, heavier duty models, they will quickly burn out if consistently pushed beyond their capacity. They are usually not designed to handle much, if any slicing of cheese.

Berkel 330M-STD 13 inch Prosciutto Meat Slicer

Generally, heavier duty models also incorporate more usability and safety features. Depending on how much you use your deli slicer, you could make up the cost difference very quickly in increased productivity and safety, between a higher-end model and a less expensive option.

A specialty slicer, like Berkel's 330M Prosciutto meat slicer, is designed for slicing paper thin pieces of prosciutto and other gourmet deli meats. Blending the "wow" factor of its show-piece nature with the precision performance, it's a great addition to a classic bistro or deli.

Backyard Pro entry level meat slicer on a counter with a worker slicing a ham

Entry Level Slicers

Entry level meat slicers are best suited for operations where the slicer would be used for an hour or two at most per day. While designed for simple, safe operation, they are not recommended for slicing cheese, and do not offer as many safety or convenience features as higher-end models.

  • Operation: Manual
  • Blade Size: 9 to 12"
  • Horsepower: 1/16 to 1/3
  • Cheese Slicing: Not Recommended

Worker using an Avantco standard duty meat slicer to slice a ham

Standard Duty Slicers

Standard duty slicers are best suited for operations where the unit will be used for 1 - 2 hours per day. Most are not recommended for cheese slicing and have fewer safety or convenience features compared to mid-tier or premium types.

  • Operation: Manual
  • Blade Size: 9 to 12"
  • Horsepower: 1/4 to 2/5
  • Cheese Slicing: Not Recommended / Minimal

Worker using an Avantco mid tier slicer to slice roast beef

Mid-Tier Slicers

Mid-tier slicers generally have larger blades, a bit more horsepower, and can withstand more constant use than an entry-level model. Some models can handle occasional slicing of cheese, but are primarily intended for a few hours of vegetable or deli meat slicing per day. They usually offer a few more safety and convenience features than an entry-level model too.

  • Operation: Manual or Automatic
  • Blade Size: 10 to 14"
  • Horsepower: 1/3 to 1/2
  • Cheese Slicing: 1 to 6 Hours per Day

Globe premium slicer on a countertop, being used to slice a chub of bologna

Premium Slicers

Premium slicers represent the top-of-the-line offerings from each of the commercial meat slicer brands. Most are designed for heavy duty, constant use, and can slice cheese as well. These models offer design features that enhance the smoothness of operation, slice precision, and safe operation.

  • Operation: Manual or Automatic
  • Blade Size: 13"
  • Horsepower: 1/2
  • Cheese Slicing: Continuous

How to Use a Meat Slicer

  1. Wash your hands and put gloves on.
  2. Lift up the weighted pusher arm and place the food on the product carriage. Put the pusher and guide back into place to hold the food.
  3. Open the gauge place to the desired thickness.
  4. Turn the unit on.
  5. Push the carriage back and forth to move the food across the sharp, spinning blade. Check your first slice to ensure it matches the desired thickness and adjust if needed.
  6. Continue pushing the carriage back and forth manually until you have sliced the desired amount of food or, if available, the slicer may be switched to automatic mode to finish the job.
  7. Turn the slicer off and close the gauge plate (turn blade back to 0) before removing the product.
  8. Wipe down your meat slicer between types of products, and be sure to do a thorough cleaning as needed.

Meat slicer uses vary from slicing meat to slicing cheese, shredding lettuce, or cutting up cucumbers or other vegetable into slices. Whatever you are slicing, be sure to follow the operator’s instructions that come with your meat slicer. Also, for safety always use the provide guide arm to push food - never your hands - and be sure any safety features are functioning properly.

How to Sharpen a Meat Slicer Blade

  1. Ensure the slicer is clean prior to sharpening.
  2. Loosen the bolt on the built-in sharpener.
  3. Turn the sharpener 180 degrees so that it rests over the blade and tighten it down.
  4. Turn the slicer on so that the blade is spinning.
  5. Press and hold the rear sharpening button on the sharpening assembly. Sharpen briefly, no longer than 1 minute at a time, and then release the button.
  6. Press the front finishing button on the sharpener briefly to smooth out the edge and remove any burrs.
  7. Turn off the unit.
  8. Return the sharpening assembly to its original position and tighten in place.
  9. Additional cleaning may be required to remove any residue from sharpening.

A meat slicer should be sharpened at least every couple of weeks to keep the blade in optimum shape. Not sure if the blade is sharp enough? You can use a piece of paper to test the sharpness to see if you need to sharpen the blade.

Parts of a Meat Slicer

Commercial meat slicers all share the same basic components. Here's a quick rundown of what's what:

parts diagram parts diagram

















  • Product Table, carriage, or product tray, is where you place the piece of meat, cheese, or vegetable to be sliced. These are often grooved and set at a specific angle so the product slides more easily toward the blade. On some models, this tilts up for easier cleaning.
  • Pusher: Also called "meat grip." It is attached to the product table, and holds the product still while you're slicing it. On some models, this is removable for easy cleaning.
  • Gauge Plate: This part surrounds the knife. When you adjust the thickness control knob, sometimes referred to as index knob, this is what moves.
  • Sharpener: All slicers have a built-in blade sharpener to keep the blade razor-sharp and in perfect operating condition. On many, it's removable for cleaning.
  • Blade and Blade Guard: On most slicers, the blade is permanently attached to the unit and protected by a blade guard, for safety. Depending on the model, the blade guard, or ring guard, is removable, in varying degrees, for cleaning. On some higher end models, the blade can be removed from the slicer using a special tool for a more thorough cleaning.

Other Design Features to Consider

  • Horsepower: Generally, higher horsepower slicers are designed for more frequent use.
  • Blade Size: Mid Tier and Premium slicers usually have larger cutting blades (12"-14") for all-around use, whereas entry level models often use smaller cutting blades (9" and 10") for lighter use. Industry-wide, a 12" cutting blade is the most common size.
  • Product Tray (Carriage) Size: Most slicers can hold products that range from 7 1/2" to 12" in diameter within the carriage. If you plan to slice products larger than 12", it is important to verify that the slicer's carriage will accommodate it prior to purchasing the slicer.
  • Manual vs. Automatic: An automatic slicer, where an electric motor moves the product tray back and forth, is convenient when slicing large amounts of product because it can slice continuously without constant staff assistance. Automatic slicers can also be operated manually, so the main deciding factor is how much slicing you do. Large delis or supermarkets would see the most benefit from an automatic slicer.
  • Belt Driven or Gear Driven: Nearly all of the slicers we sell are belt driven. In theory, a slicer with a gear driven blade will be more durable, but in actual practice, if your gear-driven slicer does require a repair, it will cost a lot more than simply replacing a drive belt.
  • Cleaning Leg / "Kickstand": Some slicers come with a special kickstand-style leg that lets you prop up the deli meat slicer to clean underneath it.
Meat slicer safety cleaning kit with caddy, three cleaners, gloves, sponges, and cleaning brush

Slicer Cleaning and Maintenance

How do you clean a meat slicer? And how often? As proper cleaning and sanitizing procedures dictate, food slicers should be sanitized on a regular, daily basis. This can best be accomplished by using a properly mixed commercial sanitizing concentrate and water. Our professional meat slicer safety cleaning kit comes with everything you need to safely clean and sanitize your slicer, including detailed, step-by-step instructions!

It is important to properly lubricate each of the moving parts within the feeder tray, as well as the carriage assemblies. By using a food-grade lubricant regularly, you will ensure that your slicer operates as smoothly as possible and lasts for years to come.

Safety and Design Features

When you're talking about a piece of equipment that's operated by hand and uses a razor-sharp spinning blade to slice products, obviously safety cannot be understated. Proper training is essential for any employee who operates the slicer.

  • Knife Guard: Generally, all slicers expose as little of the blade as possible to prevent cut hazards. On some slicers, you can remove it to clean the knife. On others, it is permanently attached.
  • No-Volt Release: This safety feature requires the user to push the power button to restart the slicer after it has been unplugged for cleaning, or if the power was interrupted.
  • Gauge Plate Interlock: This feature requires the gauge plate to be set at "zero" to be able to tilt or remove the product tray/carriage for cleaning. This protects the blade's edge and the operator's fingers!

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