Food Blenders & Processors
Types: Blenders have a single blade assembly at the bottom of their mixing containers. Blender blade and container designs are paired specifically, depending upon whether they are to be used for food prep or beverage production. Portable immersion blenders have a removable blade affixed to their shafts, and can be used with any food container. Food processors employ a shaft on which interchangeable blades or discs are placed to allow a variety of foods to be sliced, shredded, blended or ground. A "blixer" is a hybrid, with the same design as a food processor, but such units run at speeds of up to 3,450 rpm, compared to a maximum speed of 425 to 1,725 rpm for regular food processors.
Capacities/Footprints: Blenders may have glass, stainless-steel or polycarbonate containers in sizes ranging from 32 oz. to 1 gal., and normally take up less than 1-sq.-ft. of space. Tabletop food processors have bowls that range in size from 0.75 to 6 qts. and can occupy less than 1-sq.-ft. or up to 2-sq.-ft. of space. Floor-model processors can prepare up to 1,200 lbs. of vegetables per hour and have a footprint of about 2-sq.-ft.
Energy Source(s): Blenders and tabletop processors require 120V-AC power at 50/60 Hz, but some are available in 220/240-volt models. Floor-model processors require 60 Hz power, at 155 or 208/240V-AC and may require 3-phase wiring.
Manufacturing Method: Blenders and tabletop processors have a power base that runs the mixing shaft. Depending on the size, the base is constructed of either high-impact plastic or stainless steel. On models with removable bowls, heavy-duty plastic or stainless-steel replacements can be purchased. Continuous-feed processors employ cast-aluminum feed heads. Processors use a variety of different cutting discs made of stainless steel, which are mounted on high-impact plastic shafts. Immersion blenders have stainless-steel cutting shafts and blades; while the blades are easily removed for cleaning, the shaft also can be detached from the hand-set motor mount to remove trapped food particles.
Standard Features: Blenders have either one-, two- or variable-speed configurations and motors ranging from 1/2 to 3 hp. Food processors usually come with a basic set of slicing/cutting blades. Because they run at lower rpms than blenders, processor motors range from 1/2 to 1 hp.
Food Blenders & Processors
New Features/Technology/Options: Now replacing buttons and switches on some blenders are touch-pad controls and LCD screens. New 2-step blenders use electronic controls to apply high torque levels to mixing blades to grind ice, before shifting into higher speeds to prevent motor burnout. Special-purpose blenders have been designed for specific needs, such as preparing chunky salsas. New, smaller food processors offer interchangeable bowls with specially designed blades to eliminate hand-slicing or -chopping. Stackable grinding and chopping bowls are designed specifically for those tasks. New models with bowl-in-bowl capabilities or adjustable-height blades allow efficient processing of small and large loads.
Optional sound enclosures for blenders reduce the noise of their operation. Food processors can now accommodate up to 43 different processing plates and grid assemblies to yield different sizes and thicknesses of sliced/diced/shredded foods. Some models offer continuous-feed configurations for high-quantity processing. Some food processors have combination feed heads; a swing-away top accommodates larger items such as cabbage heads, while the top itself employs smaller round holes to feed smaller vegetables efficiently.
Prime Functions: Blenders liquefy ingredients, creating homogenous mixtures. Food processors replace hand-cutting, -slicing and -shredding.
Key Kitchen Applications: Blenders are designed to produce smooth dressings, sauces and purées; at drink stations, they're used to make frozen drinks and smoothies. With the use of interchangeable blades and discs, food processors can slice or shred fruit, vegetables and cheeses, chop ingredients, grind nuts or grains or mix and blend doughs and batters.
Maintenance Requirements: Containers, mixing discs and blades should be disassembled for cleaning. Some blenders allow motor drive couplings or clutches to be replaced on-site. Otherwise, in both processors and blenders, sealed motors usually require no maintenance.
Food Safety Functions: By reducing or eliminating the need to wield a knife to hand-prepare ingredients, food processors reduce the chances of injuries, as well as cross-contamination on cutting boards. Because foods are quickly processed to their final forms, they can be rapidly cooked or returned to refrigeration.
Hot Prep & Display
Types: Items in this category include induction and gas-fired hot plates, countertop ovens, cooker/warmers and hot wells, warming drawers and heated display merchandisers.
Capacities/Footprints: Capacity ranges from 20 to 1,500 hot dogs per hour on roller grills, while hot dog steamers can heat and hold from 24 to 170 hot dogs per hour. Countertop ovens have one or two 18-sq.-in. decks to bake pizzas, pretzels or flatbreads. Cooker/warmers can hold one 7- to 11-qt. shouldered insert. Hot wells can be freestanding or built into countertops and can hold one to four steam table pans. Drawer warmers usually hold one steam table pan per drawer, while low-profile heated holding cabinets can accommodate up to six sheet pans of products. Countertop merchandising cabinets normally hold individually packaged products, and capacities vary depending on cabinet size and number of shelves. Most units occupy from 1- to 4-sq.-ft., making them most advantageous for use in operations with limited space.
Energy Source(s): With the exception of natural-gas-fired hot plates, most warming and display equipment requires 120V electrical power. Some larger food-warming units, such as those with ceramic heating elements, may require 208/240V connections.
Manufacturing Method: Countertop warmers and hot wells have stainless-steel housings and linings, with insulating material in between to retain heat. Gas hot plates include cast-iron grates and burners and stainless-steel bodies. Countertop ovens include steel tubular heating elements and removable ceramic hearths. Roller grills have stainless-steel exterior sheeting and employ a non-stick coating on the rollers.
Standard Features: These include heating elements, thermostat controls that may govern separate zones (depending on equipment size) and insulation to ensure foods maintain temperatures above 140°F. for designated time periods.
New Features/Technology/Options: Induction units employ an internal electronic power supply that produces a magnetic field to generate heat in iron and magnetic stainless-steel cookware; highly energy efficient, they convert more than 80% of electric power to heat and are designed to be controlled via touch-pad thermostats.
Some heated merchandising cabinets incorporate new heated-glass technology that radiates heat down and conducts energy up from stainless-steel heated base plates and top-mounted infrared lamps. Some hot wells can be operated as refrigerated units with the addition of condensing coils. Options include a variety of case colors that can be tied in with facility decor schemes. Some units, such as kettle-type soup warmers, can be permanently mounted to countertops for safer handling by customers.
Prime Functions: Some units cook or heat chilled or frozen foods to safe serving temperatures, while other units hold or display prepared foods above 140°F.
Key Kitchen Applications: Foods can be prepared in quantity in prep areas, then either finished or rethermed at counters or in display areas.
Maintenance Requirements: Depending on the heat source, bulbs or heating elements need to be replaced when they burn out. For units that require water, water softeners may be necessary, and units should be delimed regularly to prevent scale buildup.
Food Safety Functions: By rapidly heating foods and/or holding them above 140°F., cooker/warmers and heated display units help to ensure foods are maintained at safe temperatures.
Mixers & Cutter Mixers
Types: Both planetary mixers and vertical cutter/mixers are used to blend doughs and batters or to slice, shred or cut food products.
Capacities/Footprints: Vertical planetary mixers come in models as small as 41/2 qts. that take up about 1-sq.-ft. of counter space and those as large as 140 qts., which occupy about 39 3 49 of floor space. Common intermediary sizes include 12-, 20-, 40-, 60- and 80-qt. mixers. While some food processors can be considered cutter/mixers, the term cutter/mixer usually applies to a floor model that ranges from 40 to 45 qts. in capacity and occupies about 6-sq.-ft. of space.
Energy Source(s): Vertical cutter/mixers employ 5-hp motors because they need to work at high speeds to produce the powerful cutting action required. As a result, the electrical connection is usually 3-phase, at 208V or 230/460V. Power requirements for planetary mixers depend on their size. The smaller 41/2-, 5-, 12-, 20- and 30-qt. tabletop mixers can operate on a household current of 110/115V, while 40-qt. and larger sizes have electric requirements that range from 112/120V, to 3-phase 220V, 208/240V or 230/460V, with power needs increasing with the size of a mixer.
Manufacturing Method: Cutter/mixers are made from stainless steel with a bottom-mounted motor that drives the mixing shaft and a tilting bowl with a pouring lip for easy discharge. The mixing attachments lock to the mixing shaft at the bottom and include a cutter/mixer blade for food processing and a kneader/mixer blade for preparing doughs and batters. The mixing baffle at the top has a built-in scraper arm that sweeps the sides of the bowl when a knob on top is turned. For safety, an interlock prevents a unit from operating when its cover is open or bowl is tilted.
Some planetary mixers are made from heavy-duty cast iron; more-expensive models have stainless-steel exteriors. They include sealed motors from 1/6 to 5 hp, and drives that are either gear-enabled and have a 3- or 4-speed transmission or gear- and belt-connected torque-sensing pulleys that allow variable-speed mixing.
Standard Features: Cutter/mixers come with a sealed, solid-state motor, timer, blade attachments and strainer basket. Planetary mixers include stainless-steel mixing bowls and cast-iron bowl adapters that accommodate several sizes, as well as a bowl guard for safe operation. Mixing implements include whips, beaters and dough hooks. Bowls are made of stainless steel for durability; high-impact plastic bowls with metal mounting rings are available for smaller mixer models up to 20 qts.
New Features/Technology/Options: New bowl-guard designs for planetary mixers allow the cage to swing open in the middle for easier access to the mixing container; safety interlocks prevent mixer operation with the guard open. Planetary mixers usually include a power take-off in the head, which can drive optional attachments, such as meat and nut grinders or food slicers and shredders.
Prime Functions: Vertical cutter/mixers can make a variety of doughs and batters. They can also be used to make cole slaw, crush ice, chop hamburger, blend mashed potatoes or make mayonnaise or sauces. Planetary mixers can whip, blend or mix a variety of doughs and batters and, with additional cutting or grinding attachments, process the same products as a vertical cutter/mixer.
Key Kitchen Applications: Planetary mixers are most often found in bake shops and pastry kitchens, although they're useful in a production kitchen to eliminate hand-mixing. Vertical cutter/mixers can perform as a food blender on a larger scale.
Maintenance Requirements: Motors are sealed, but may require lubrication with a food-grade grease or a gearing oil bath.
Food Safety Concerns: Stainless-steel food contact surfaces must be sanitized between uses.
Types: Slicers feature a rotating blade on a movable carriage in either a gravity-fed angled or spring-loaded upright configuration. Angled models drop slices directly onto a receiving table, while upright slicers use a lever arm to stack products in various configurations. Manual versions require unit staff to move the carriage, while automatic models employ a motor to drive the carriage.
Capacities/Footprints: Slicers can yield portions ranging from paper-thin to 11/40 thick. Larger units can hold food pieces up to 71/20 in diameter, and up to 120 long. Automatic slicer speeds can be adjusted from 20 to 60 strokes per minute to yield comparable portions per minute. Compact slicers can occupy as little as 21/2-sq.-ft. of space, while larger units may require 39 on each side to accommodate carriage movement.
Energy Source(s): Most slicers can be plugged into 115-120V electric outlets at 60 Hz, drawing from one to seven amps.
Manufacturing Method: Bases can be made of anodized aluminum or #304 stainless steel; food chutes, slicer tables, end weights and knife covers often are made of steel. Radiused corners allow easier cleaning and sanitizing. All slicers include a belt- or gear-driven knife motor that ranges from 1/4 to 1/2 hp. Automatic slicers feature a separate DC motor driven by a chain and sprocket system; it can be disengaged for manual operation.
Standard Features: Blades typically range from 90 to 130; most are hollow-ground, high-carbon steel though some units feature chrome-plated steel or hardened steel alloys. Edge guards protect end-users, while built-in sharpeners allow blades to maintain their edges.
New Features/Technology/Options: Newer slicers offer touch-pad controls, providing start/stop options for the knife motor and faster/ slower "keys" to regulate slicing speeds. On some slicers, plastic components feature an antimicrobial treatment incorporated during manufacturing to inhibit bacterial growth between cleanings.
To aid portion control, some slicers are available with digital scales that can display product weights in increments as small as .10 oz., and that can shut off a unit when a pre-selected portion weight or number of slices has been reached.
Some slicers allow a vegetable hopper to be used in place of the carriage to process vegetables. Optional heat lamps can be added to hold hot food portions at the correct temperature after slicing.
Prime Functions: Slicers provide access to portion control. By allowing users to set slice thicknesses, these machines can yield uniform portions.
Key Kitchen Applications: Slicers are most often used to prepare deli meats and cheeses for sandwiches, but can also provide uniform slices of vegetables for grilling or garnishing.
Maintenance Requirements: Motors are usually sealed and are, thus, maintenance-free. Knife blades can usually be honed in place with built-in sharpeners. Food chutes must be removed for cleaning; interlocks prevent operation when a chute has been removed.
Food Safety Concerns: Slicers should be reserved for deli meats and cheeses, as well as fruit and vegetables, and not used to slice cooked or uncooked meats. Both deli meats and cheese should be sliced cold, and the unsliced portions returned quickly to refrigerated storage. However, cross-contamination can occur if the meats being sliced are warmer than 40°F. To be on the safe side, the slicer blades and table should be thoroughly cleaned before switching to any foods that will be eaten raw. The most efficient use of a slicer is to pre-portion foods in larger quantities, reducing the number of times the slicers must be disassembled for cleaning.