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Ron Benson

Whole pork loin choppers

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First, I have been following this site for a few months now, but as a total newbie, ( with one knife made), I don't normally post.

I just got back from volunteering with Operation BBQ Relief in Wilmington NC where we prepared hot meals for victims and first responders. (These meals are not just two slices of bread with a slice of ham and cheese.) By the time OBR leaves, they will have prepared well over 300,000 meals. On several days enough meals were prepared to serve every man, woman, and child in Wilmington. Meals include a protein and several sides. Sandwich rolls can be included when serving pulled pork.

The main proteins are pulled pork, turkey breast, and pork loin. The day that pork loin was prepared while I was there, they had smoked several hundred whole loins that had to be chopped into individual portions, and electric meat slicers are just not fast enough. This was accomplished by using ~ 12" butchers  knives with one hand on the handle, and one hand on the end of the blade, and chopping it down with enough force to cut in one quick motion. To say the least, butcher knives are not the most optimal tools.

Talking to one of the volunteers wielding the knives, he agreed that there should be a better solution. It looks like something along the lines of a pizza cutter would work but maybe 12". 

I am looking for two things:

Design help - it needs to be light but sturdy, SS, and tough enough to do the job without stopping to sharpen. (They do have volunteer pro knife sharpeners that come on occasion - but not often enough.)

Someone to make the knives - I will pay for the materials to make two knives. If anyone else is willing to pay for a knife, that would be great. If more than one person would like to make a knife, that would be awesome. The goal is to get two knives, but that would mean no extras. Four would be over the top.

Thanks ~ Ron Benson

Edited by RonB

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First, a big thank you for volunteering! I only had to deal with a couple days without power from Florence, which was bad enough, but nothing like they got hit with out at the coast.

In my experience, a Hobart electric chopper works great for this kind of thing, and is far faster than hand chopping. It's the kind that has the bowl that rotates, you drop fist sized chunks in one side and after 2 times around they are chopped (4 or 5 times through nearly makes meat paste...). Inside the back covered side there's a vertical rotating blade that chops whatever comes around in the bowl. Drop in chunks, wait a few seconds, scoop it out and add the next chunks. I've personally chopped 800+ pounds of pork in just a few hours with one of these; it's a heavy machine that I can barely lift and that's likely older than I am.

That said, I've also watched a whole roast goat chopped into portions in less than 20 minutes using a large cleaver on the end grain of a huge stump, so it definitely can be done by hand, but I think once you have more than maybe 50 pounds or so, it would be faster using electricity. For pork loin, I would think it also could be chopped like pulled pork is, and that might be faster than slicing. A meat cutting band saw might also work, though I've only seen these used on raw/frozen meat.

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How are you presenting the loin?  1/2" thick slices? I think Michael's suggestion of shredding it like pulled pork is the way to speed things up.  I don't think the pizza cutter would offer enough directional stability in the vertical range (think wedge-shaped slices of loin).  If I were tasked to come up with something to cut slices, and a rotary automatic deli slicer wasn't fast enough, I'd say get two more slicers.  On full auto they can lay out a slice per second, all of uniform thickness.  When I worked the deli in my father's grocery store, the auto slicer wasn't fast enough for him when things got busy, so we learned to just work it really fast by hand.  Someone wants 2 pounds of bologna in 1/4" slices?  Lay it in the cradle, set the guard, and start pumping your arm back and forth.  If the slicer is bolted down (this is important!) you can get three slices per second, for two pounds of bologna in 5.5 seconds.  Until you get tired, of course.  Then it becomes a good way to lose a finger or two.

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Thanx Michael. It was an honor to help. They actually have two of the Hobarts, but they are used to chop pork butts into pulled pork. But what they are doing is slicing the loins into ~ 1/2" to 1" chops. As mentioned above, a back and forth slicing action is not fast enough, thus the chopping motion. They have tried cleavers, but they are not accurate enough with the operators available. :rolleyes:

There were 11 smokers that could hold 80 pork butts each, and on some days, they were full. They also had six gas fired cookers that were used to prepare sides. Each could hold 250 servings, and they would have to cook, empty, and start over many times. To speed things up, they had dedicated horizontal water heaters so that they could add hot water to speed cooking sides, (hot enough to cause 1st degree burns from splashes - don't ask how I know...). Each of the heaters had 4 large gas burners to heat the water faster.

Smoking was done by volunteer pro smokers, and there were also rotating pro smoking teams that cooked for the volunteers. They stay for up to a week each.

The Salvation Army and other approved relief groups place orders for how many meals they need, and starting around 10 AM trucks line up to pick up the meals so they can distribute them. When I left, the orders were averaging about 15,000 meals a day, (down from a high of 40,000), and that's a good thing because it means the need is going down.

I will go again if there is a need close enough for me to drive there.

Thanx Alan. Yes - slices. I suggested cleavers, but they didn't like them. They are striving more for speed than precision, and and are slicing a whole loin in about 10 - 15 seconds. No one lost a finger, but it was scary to watch. The idea is to have everything ready in time to load trucks as they start arriving around 10 AM.

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How about something like a big paper cutter?  A big blade on a pivot, maybe with a integral guide.

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1 hour ago, Geoff Keyes said:

How about something like a big paper cutter?  A big blade on a pivot, maybe with a integral guide.

I like it! But I don't think it would be quick enough. Remember, they are chopping a whole loin in 10 to 15 seconds.

 

Ron

Edited by RonB

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buy a port-a-band portable bandsaw (for steel) mount it one of the optional tables with a foot switch  & rip them through. have a couple spare blades laying around. 

If these won't keep up you are in dire straits 

https://www.amazon.com/portaband/s?page=1&rh=i%3Aaps%2Ck%3Aportaband

 

Edited by Tim Jackson
double post ??

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