As anyone that has ever worked in foodservice can tell you, prepping fruits and vegetables in large quantities is time consuming work, and even though many cooks enjoy showing off their knife work, it isn’t always prudent to spend time cutting by hand. Additionally, consistency is incredibly important in the commercial food industry, and after an employee has been chopping for several hours, their once steady hand may begin to fail them. For this reason fruit and vegetable slicers and cutters are a must in many operations. There are, however, a number of various vegetable prep tools that cut, slice, and dice, so it is important to know what your needs are before weighing your options. Let’s take a look at some of the prep tools specifically intended to work with specific fruits and vegetables, and then a few multi-purpose units that can be used for a number of different foods.
Specific Fruit & Vegetable Cutters & Slicers: Some fruits and vegetables can be difficult to prepare without (or even with) a knife for one reason or another, and thus, manufacturers produce some prep tools specifically for them.
- Tomato Slicers – Tomatoes can be a pain to prepare with many machines, and a tomato slicer is the best way to get consistent tomato slices without destroying the tomato. Though these slicers have an incredibly sharp set of blades intended to cut through tomato skin and pulp, they can also do slice items like small citrus fruits (though citrus will definitely dull the blades faster than a tomato).
- Onion Bloomers – Though for standard cuts an onion can be placed into a standard vegetable chopper or slicer, there is a growing demand for the onion bloomer. These manual cutters cut and open large onions without severing the onion completely so that it can be battered, fried, and served.
- Fry Cutters – Purveyors of French fries want consistency in their fry size first and foremost. Fry cutters offer business owners the consistency they desire from their fried potatoes, and offer a plethora of different of cutting options, such as spiral cuts, that would other wise be difficult to by hand.
- Lettuce Cutters – Heads of lettuce are significantly larger than most other vegetables that need to be prepared; however, lettuce is one of the most common items cut in a commercial kitchen. Commercial kitchens tend to go through incredibly high volumes of lettuce, and a lettuce cutter can save prep cooks incredibly large amounts of time.
- Citrus Wedgers & Apple Corers – Restaurants with bars tend to use large quantities of citrus fruits like lemons and limes to stock their condiment stations. Bartenders also tend to have large amounts of side work, and a citrus wedger not only saves them innumerable amounts of time, but also ensures consistent cuts (something bartenders are not necessarily known for). There are several different blade sets available, so a citrus wedger can also be used to cut larger lemon wedges for things like fish garnishes, or can be used to core and wedge apples (with an apple attachment).
- Pineapple Corers – Pineapples require a hefty amount of prep work to get them ready for the line, and a pineapple corer / peeler takes much of that work away. After slicing the top and bottom off, these machines strip away the rind and remove the core of the pineapple, leaving only the edible part of the fruit. Though they must be sliced afterwards, these corers take a fraction of the time to remove the inedible parts of the fruit.
- Miscellaneous Cutters & Slicers – There are other cutters and slicers on the market for assorted fruits and vegetables. If there is a specific variety of food prep that is taking up significant amounts of prep time in your kitchen, there is a good chance that someone has had that problem before and there is a prep tool that can make your life easier.
- Blades – Tomato slicers, lettuce cutters, and citrus wedgers all require blade sets for operation. Tomato and lettuce cutters often have an option for the size of the cut they will make at the time of purchase, and replacement blade sets of varying cuts can be purchased and easily attached, as do citrus wedgers. French fry cutters are similar, however, different cutters are needed for standard or spiral cuts.
All-Purpose Fruit & Vegetable Cutters: In many instances, it is not necessary to get a specific cutter or slicer to prepare your fruits or vegetables, or it may be necessary to speed the food prep process up even more.
- Manual Slicers & Dicers – There are a tremendous amount of standard manual slicers and dicers that, like the aforementioned food specific cutters, have removable blades and push blocks. These prep tools can either dice or slice, and can prepare anything ranging from zucchini to onions. Some of these machines can be used to cut tomatoes as well, however it should be noted that if the blades are not sharp enough or there is an incorrect amount of force applied the final product may end up a bit messy.
- Automatic Cutters & Slicers – As kitchen technology has advanced, so has the speed at which prep cooks can prepare vegetables and fruit. There are a tremendous amount of automatic slicers and cutters on the market, some food specific cutters and choppers (like automatic French fry cutters), continuous feed vegetable cutters that can prep a variety of different vegetables several different ways, and even bowl cutters that can cut and blend product at the same time.
- Cutting & Slicing Attachments – Some machines, such as food processors or planetary mixers, have add-on attachments that can be used as automatic slicers, cutters, or graters. These attachments often have a number of blade attachments (though extras may have to be purchased separately), and can often be less expensive than purchasing an additional machine or prep tool.