"I've always wanted to go to Switzerland to see what the army does with those wee red knives."Billy Connolly
Ever wonder how competition BBQ teams get such perfectly even slices of brisket? Many use electric knives. An electric knife makes quick work of slicing a big hunk of meat like turkeys, whole packer briskets, beef tenderloin, prime rib, crown roast of pork, and hams.
We researched several models available in kitchen stores and purchased four high-quality, affordable models. Then we put them through several rigorous tests.
To test the knives, we started by slicing bread. We sliced a soft loaf of French bread, a rock hard stale loaf of heavy grain artisan bread, and a loaf of very dense cheese bread. We also tried slicing a large butternut squash and a quarter wheel of dense Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese into 1" slices. To test meats, we disjointed fresh chickens, and then sliced 1/8" and 1/4" slices of breast meat off roast chickens and turkeys, aiming to keep some crispy skin on each slice. We also use the knives to cut through the breastbone and cut out the backbone and ribs of the cooked birds. To test whole hams, we sliced a large country ham both 1/8 inch and 1/4 inch thick. The ham bones were a challenge for the knives, but the meat was no problem. To their performance for competition bbq, we also sliced smoked brisket. All the knives performed well, and we humbly gave ourselves a 10 for the quality of the smoked meat!
Just for fun, and to see how the blades would wear with really heavy use, we attempted to cut into a 1 x 2" pinch piece of pine wood. Not recommended! The results were not pretty. Stick to real food.
Slicing is one thing, but a knife should also feel comfortable and be easy to use. We graded each knife on how comfortable it was to hold and use, the ease of triggering the start button, and how the knife felt after prolonged vibration and heat generated by friction in the blades. We also rated the noise level of each knife by measuring it with a decibel meter (below).
Important note: only two of the four knives we tested had a safety lock. We think this omission is a critical safety factor.
Keep in mind that electric knives have serrated blades, which stay sharp for a very long time. When they do get dull, serrated blades are extremely difficult and time consuming to sharpen at home (you must sharpen each individual serration). You can pay a professional knife sharpener to hone the serrations, or you can simply buy new blades. You may save a few bucks with a pro knife sharpener, but new blades are not terribly expensive. For example, the Cuisinart knife rated below costs around $50, and replacement blades cost about $18. We asked a local knife sharpener what it would cost to sharpen the blades, and the quote was $13. Of course, knife prices vary greatly. The prices quoted below are those listed when we purchased the knives for testing.
Black & Decker Comfortgrip EK500B
Loudness: 84 DB, the quietest knife we tested with a soft, purring sound
Bread: easily handled soft and hard breads
Squash: with some pressure, it cut a perfect slice of squash
Hard cheese: zipped through the cheese with ease
Poultry & meat: handily cut slices off the birds, ham and brisket
Bones: very little trouble spatchcocking the chicken and removing the back and ribs of the turkey
Handle: most comfortable knife we tested and the least prone to slipping, partially due to the rubberized no-slip strip on top of the handle where your thumb goes
Vibration: very little
Features: lock button, easy blade release, low price, two-year limited warranty
Loudness: 91 DB, comfortable but still somewhat loud
Bread: easily cut through soft bread and cut through hard breads with only slight pressure
Squash: barely able to slice the squash even with lots of pressure
Hard cheese: no problem
Poultry & meat: did a nice job slicing everything
Bones: took a fair amount of pressure to cut through the turkey bones
Handle: comfortable to hold with a slightly squarish handle that is best for large hands; it did get quite warm with prolonged use
Features: lock button, easy blade release, separate set of “bread” blades, wooden holder (not really necessary but a nice bonus), limited three-year warranty
Proctor Silex Easy Slice 74311Y
Loudness: 90 DB, fairly loud but tolerable
Bread: easily cut through soft bread, had to exert extreme pressure to cut through the hard breads
Squash: could not cut the squash skin, as blades slipped and bounced
Hard cheese: slipped at first but managed to slice the cheese with hard pressure
Poultry & meat: no problem slicing the meats
Bones: took a bit of work to get through chicken bones, did not cut through most turkey bones
Handle: fairly wide yet comfortable to hold, not recommended for small hands, becomes slippery very quickly during use
Features: safety lock button, easy blade release, two-year limited warranty
Hamilton Beach Classic Chrome 74275R
Loudness: 94.5 DB, the loudest knife we tested with an irritating grating sound
Bread: easily cut through soft bread, had to press hard to cut through hard breads and tilt these breads to cut through bottom crust
Squash: didn’t cut it
Hard cheese: cut a decent slice with some pressure
Poultry & meat: sliced everything nicely
Bones: cut through chicken bones but had difficulty cutting turkey bones
Handle: too large for most hands (I have big hands and it was even too big and round for me); the handle became slippery very quickly and got quite warm after a dozen or so cuts
Vibration: more vibration than the other knives, especially after long use, as the blades seem to grate together
Features: no lock button, inconsistent and difficult blade released located on the top of the unit, plastic storage case, bonus meat fork (not really necessary), one year limited warranty in US (5 years in Canada)