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!
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 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.