How to Choose a Commercial French Fry Cutter
No one can deny the appeal of fresh-cut French fries: they give customers a fresher, tastier product and can serve as a distinctive signature item. They also involve cutting a lot of potatoes, day after day. A good French fry cutter saves time and effort, as anyone who has had to cut a large number of potatoes into French fries by hand will tell you. It also gives fries a uniformly consistent size and shape.
Choosing the right cutter for your needs largely depends on volume: if you’re making cut fries all the time an electric cutter would be a wise investment, but even a solid manual cutter can process an impressive amount of potatoes. And bear in mind that French fry cutters can also cut other vegetables like carrots, zucchini, cucumbers and sweet potatoes.
Manual French Fry Cutters
Manual French fry cutters are all built along much the same lines. A frame supports a sliding mechanism with the blade at one end and a handle attached to a pusher block at the other. Pull the arm, which forces the pusher block down the slider to the awaiting blades, and the potato is sent through the blade, cutting it into french fry lengths.
French fry cutters don’t demand a great deal of skill to operate but, depending on the model and the volume of potatoes needing to be processed, upper body strength is often an asset.
Regular Duty Manual French Fry Cutters
This type is more suitable for domestic use, or for small or occasional commercial servings. If, for example, only one menu item comes with fries this type would be suitable. Their advantages are that they are usually smaller and so take up less space, and they are cheaper.
Look for models with a sturdy metal frame that can be firmly attached to a work surface or can be wall-mounted.
Heavy Duty Manual French Fry Cutters
If you have to cut more than a few dozen potatoes a day, a heavy-duty French fry cutter would be a wise investment. Although they work along exactly the same lines as the regular models, they are more robust, durable and can handle high volume commercial kitchen requirements. They are also heavier and take up more space. Most models have longer handles, giving better leverage and so require less effort. They should be able to process tough customers like sweet potatoes without too much of a problem – something that regular cutters might struggle with.
Automatic French Fry Cutters
There are limits to what even the most efficient hand-powered cutter can achieve. If hundreds – or thousands - of potatoes need cutting each day, you’ll need an automatic French fry cutter.
Powered by electricity, or more rarely by air, automatic French fry cutters range from models that require potatoes to be fed into them individually, to models with a large hopper that holds 50 lb potatoes or more.
Naturally, these come at a price, but they will save you significant labour costs. Operations with large daily French fry sales really have no option here.
Whichever model you choose it should be capable of accommodating potatoes up to 6” long to avoid having to spend extra time trimming them to size.
Many food processors have discs available in different cut sizes that can whiz through pounds of potatoes.
Considering the potential profit that French fry sales can generate, a French fry cutter is not an item to economize on unduly. Far better to choose the model that most closely matches your needs, even if it means investing in an automatic French fry cutter. Buying the right model first time around is going to save you money in the long run.
A commercial-grade French fry cutter is a large, heavy object. Not only that, most models have handles that have to be pulled back well beyond the rear end of the machine. If space is limited, a wall-mounted cutter deserves serious consideration.
Check to see you have a convenient and sufficiently large area to accommodate all this before making your purchase decision.
Counter- or Wall-mounted French Fry Cutter?
A French fry cutter has to be firmly anchored to whatever it’s standing on – you don’t want it sliding all over the place when in operation. One option is to bolt it down to a counter, which would certainly prevent slipping, but it would mean the cutter staying wherever it was bolted - permanently.
Another option is strong suction cups attached to the feet. Some models give you both options. An advantage with models with suction feet is that they can be easily moved from place to place.
In theory, any French fry cutter that can be bolted down to a horizontal surface can also be wall-mounted, but it’s advisable to choose a model specifically designed to be wall mounted. Because of the weight of the machine, and the pressure exerted when in use, the unit must be securely attached to sufficiently solid wall material. Cutters specifically designed to be wall mounted, usually by means of a stainless-steel plate or wall hanger bracket, assure secure attachment.
Wall-mounting saves precious counter space, and the cut potatoes can drop conveniently into a receptacle placed beneath. They need less effort to use: pulling the handle down means that gravity is doing some of the work.
French Fry Cutter Blades
Sharp, durable blades are essential. Changing damaged or dull blades, especially mid-service, is both a nuisance and costly. A sharp blade reduces the effort needed to slice through potatoes. Durable blades are less prone to bending or warping and will last longer.
Unless you want to stick to just one size of fry, you will need a variety of cutter blades – and push blocks – that can be changed as required. If you plan on changing blades make sure they can be easily detached and replaced.
The most common blade sizes are ½”, 3/8” and ¼”. There are also blades that cut potatoes into wedges.
French Fry Cutter Parts
The blade is the most likely part to need replacing so make sure you can order replacements when purchasing. Having a spare set of blades on hand should give you added peace of mind.
You shouldn’t have to replace other parts all that often, if ever. French fry cutters, especially the heavy-duty models, are built for strength and durability. Occasionally, though, other components do need replacing: wing nuts can get lost for instance, or guide rails can get bent. Check with the manufacturer on the availability of individual parts when you make your purchase.
French Fry Cutter Materials
Frames and handles can be made of cast iron, stainless steel or aluminum, or a combination of materials. All of these are perfectly acceptable, although cast iron, unless it’s coated, is not as easy to keep rust- or stain-free. Nickel plating or a powder-coated finish solves this problem. Cast iron models tend to be a bit heavier than stainless steel or aluminum models, if that’s an issue.
Whichever you choose, also consider how easy the unit and the material it is made of is to clean.
Where do the fries go after cutting? Most often they drop into a waiting pail or something similar. When you choose your model and where you want to put it, make sure there is a clear, convenient space in front of, and below, the business end of the machine where you can place a container for the fries. Food pans and food storage containers are the perfect choice for most kitchen cutting pounds of fresh fries daily.
Preparing quality French fries using fresh potatoes consistently day after day of any kind of volume isn't possible without a commercial French fry cutter.
Written by Charles Bruce-Thompson