Butchery equipment every successful butcher needs
Running a butchery efficiently requires more than good management and knowledgeable staff. You also need to have the best equipment available for the many specialised tasks and maintain it properly.
The appropriate countertop equipment can literally be the difference between success and struggle in this competitive industry. But getting the right equipment is only half of the story – once you have the right equipment, you also need to focus on maintaining it.
When considering countertop equipment, weighing systems spring to mind first. There are a range of weighing and barcode-printing scales for price-embedded and weight-embedded barcode systems available from suppliers such as Bizerba, Teraoka, etc. But if such a system can be linked to your Point-of-Sale (POS) system it will considerably improve efficiency and cost management.
Maintaining weighing and barcode-printing scales are obviously crucial to ensure accurate pricing. Your supplier should be able to provide advice, as well as maintenance and service back up.
One of the most popular delicacies in any South African butcher shop is the biltong. Once the drying process is complete, you may be able to sell whole pieces to your customers, but in these days when convenience is the consumer’s holy grail, it is far more likely that they will want it sliced. A biltong slicer can be placed on the counter and the sharp blade does all of the cutting. This is easier and safer than trying to cut the dried biltong with a butcher’s knife – the only other method that works.
When using one of these slicers, proper maintenance is crucial. The remnants of meat left behind on the slicer can mould – the most common cause of spoilage in dried meats. Without sufficient levels of water in the meat bacteria cannot multiply but mould can still form. One of the best cleaning solutions is a combination of warm water and soap then a rinse consisting of 95% cold water and 5% vinegar, after which powdered potassium sorbate, which kills mould, yeast, and some bacteria, should also be applied. However, make sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions and clean the slicer as recommended after each use or at the end of the day.
Sticking with slicers, a meat slicer is an absolute must for butchers and delis. Look for flexible slicers that can handle both cooked and uncooked meats with ease and safety, and that incorporate a blade sharpener. You may, however, need different slicers for intricate slicing on a wide range of foods that may be offered to customers, including meat, ham, salmon, or cheese and wafer slicing of meats to be added to salads or high-end sandwiches.
Because most slicers are made from steel, maintenance is fairly easy. However, customer safety should always be a top concern and precautions must be taken to prevent against cross-contamination of raw meats and cooked ones. After the slicing of one food, a wipe down with a sterile cloth is usually sufficient to remove traces of the other flavour. However, if raw meat is cut on the slicer than a full cleaning is required before other meat or cheese is sliced on the equipment. This should also be done at the end of each day to prevent the growth of bacteria on the blades which can be transferred onto the food being sliced.
From slicing to stuffing – and every butcher needs a sausage filler for boerewors, salami, viennas, pork sausages and a range of other sausages. Keeping these sausages on hand requires a reliable sausage filler that is versatile enough to create different types and varieties of sausages using different casings and different sizes. Table top versions are often hand sausage fillers for specialist and small runs. Vacuum fillers are fast and certain models are connected to microprocessors that stores parameters to enable portion control and accurate weight selection. There are also skinless sausage systems that can offer butchers considerable advantages.
Selecting a sausage filler made from stainless steel in a hygienic design without nooks and crannies is a good choice because less maintenance is required and because bacteria do not grow on it as easily. However, daily cleaning after use is still important because raw meat is going through the filler and can lead to cross contamination.
Along with a filling system, butchers will need emulsifiers, bowl cutters and mincers for making processed meats such as ham and French polony, among others. A pickle injector, brine pump and tumblers may also be required, depending on the range of processed meats offered. Smaller models of cooking cabinets and smoking cabinets are also counter top equipment essential for making processed meats.
Whether making the filling for sausages or creating a combination of ingredients for tastier hamburger patties, a table mincer is indispensible for any butcher. While larger mincers are useful when making big volumes of ground beef, for example, smaller models are ideal for smaller batches of minced meats. The table mincer will come with different attachments that can be used on different types of meat. Most will work on both uncooked and cooked meats, although both usually need to be chopped up into smaller pieces before being added to the machine. If a recipe calls for hard vegetables, such as carrots, they may need to be steamed before being added to the machine so they will be cut up without damaging the blades.
If raw meat has been used in the mincer, be sure to thoroughly clean it before adding more meat or ingredients for a new batch of minced meats to avoid cross contamination. At the end of each day or once mincing for the day is over, the mincer needs to be completely disassembled and all of the parts need to be soaked in warm water before being washed thoroughly.
While the items listed above are some of the most important pieces of countertop equipment a butcher can have, there are other table top pieces that can also provide additional benefits. For example, the hand operated or automatic patty makers can be useful for butchers who sell pre-formed patties to customers. Using the machine, the patties can be the same size and weight to ensure consistency in the finished product. These machines are also a good choice for patties made from other types of meats or combined with other ingredients, such as onions, peppers, fresh spices, or cheese.
A tabletop meat tenderiser is also not a bad idea for lighter work where an electric model is not required. Some models are combined with a strip cutter. Butchers who sell tender meat to their customers are more likely to see repeat business from those customers. The machine makes it easier and less time-consuming to break down the collagen on the surface of the meat.
Packing equipment is also essential. These include clippers to seal the ends of packaged processed meats such as polony, and vacuum packaging machines to ensure the packaged products are properly sealed for extended shelf-life. Also included in this category are wrapping boards containing heating bars for quick and efficient wrapping, and heat sealing machines. Packaging Equipment is available from suppliers such as Bizerba and AGQPE.
And perhaps the most important, albeit quite humble compared to the technological marvels described above, is the butcher’s knife. Butchers should choose knives with ergonomic handles for safety and improved performance and have a selection suitable to various tasks, such as a boning knife, skinning knife, steak knife and the all-round butcher’s knife. The blades should be free of micropores or microcracks and the knives should be dishwasher safe. In a similar vein, a quality handsaw with different blades is essential, as is a cleaver. In this regard, butchers will also need a knife and tool sharpener or knife steels to keep the blades razor sharp.
Whatever equipment you require, make sure you source it from a reputable supplier that can offer you quality equipment at cost-effective prices, and can offer the after-sales service, spares and maintenance you will need.
For butchers, time is money. The more time needed to create the sausages, patties, and sliced biltong, the less profitable each sale becomes. Choosing the right table top equipment is a smart investment that saves time and money in the long run.