The trick is to smoke the meat and not make the meat smoke
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Electric Knife - MVP

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I’ve owned and used an electric knife for 25 years and I’ve yet to find a better knife at any price that does a better job carving not only meats, but bread based meals. There are some tasks I’ve found impossible to do without the use of an electric knife. Interestingly I run across so many people who say they own an electric knife, but never think to use it. This blog entry will attempt to persuade you why you should own an electric knife and why you should use it.

I have developed a real Love/Hate relationship with this knife due to ongoing reliability problems. I discuss these in a 2014 blog entry called FAILS & QUALIFIED SUCCESS



The first electric knife I owned was a hand-me-down GE electric knife from my parents. They owned it from the mid-sixties, a point easily proven by its green avocado color plastic body. This knife lasted forty years and was a workhorse. I replaced it with a Cuisinart electric knife which has two blades: a meat blade and a wider bread blade. Sadly I am on my second Cuisinart knife in the last five years. So while I like this knife, it does not appear to be particularly well built. The problem appears to be the gearing system in the drive train. There is a place where a plastic gear and a metal gear come together. Using dissimilar materials like this is generally not a good idea. This is second hand information gleaned from comments on websites that sell the knife. My knife has gotten hot on several occasions and you there is a burning smell. At this point the knife stops working. Most of the time it starts working after about 5 minutes, but the first one died completely after about 3 1/2 years. I replaced it with another Cuisinart as I do like the second blade, the bread blade, that comes with this knife. I do try to steer clear of cutting bones or anything that would put an undo strain on the drive train. But cutting crusty breads seems to put quite a bit of strain on the knife too. So buyer beware if you get the Cuisinart knife.

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One of the nice things about my knife is the wide bread blade that comes along with the regular blade.

What do you look for in an electric knife? The ergonomics are important. You want a knife with the right weight and shape that fits comfortably in your hand. It should have a sharp blade and be able to cut smoothly through the meat. There should be splash guards that protect the knife body so that meat juices can’t make their way up the blade and into the motor. The blades should be easy to remove and attach. There should be a trigger lock which prevents you from accidentally pressing the trigger. A long cord is a definite plus. One of the things I like about my knife is the extra bread blade, but I would gladly give it up for a model that is better built. My knife also comes with a wooden stand which holds the knife and it’s two blades vertically on your counter. The vertical nature of the stand means it doesn’t take up very much countertop space. Once again a nice touch, but not essential. It doesn’t come free, so if you can’t or won’t be using it you are paying more for this knife due to it having the stand.

What do I use my knife for? Just about every carving task for one. About the only carving task I don’t use it for is cutting the wings and legs off of poultry and cutting the breast away from the bone. The only other one that comes to mind is if I need really thin slices of meat for sandwiches I’ll use my electric slicer. Speaking of thin slices, I own a very expensive Wusthof carving knife that cost 3x what the electric knife did. I thought I’d be using the Wusthof knife more than the electric knife and 99 time out of 100 the electric knife will do a better job. Frankly I wasted my money getting the carving knife, but who knew? Here is a list of carving tasks that I find the electric knife ideally sited for:

  • General carving tasks where you want slices 3/16” (0.75 cm) or more thick.

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Stuffed roasts are a breeze for an electric knife

  • Delicate roasts like pinwheel roasts or stuffed roasts. A conventional knife will often tear these delicate roasts apart. You would think an electric knife might do even worse, but the opposite is true. Perhaps it is the serrated blade, or it could also be the short rapid back and forth motion of the blade. With a regular knife and a soft stuffed roast the knife tends to drag the loose meat back and forth instead of digging in and cutting the meat.

 
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The matambre combines two hard to slice attributes. It is a pinwheel roast that is also wrapped in bacon. You are cutting through multiple layers of food with different consistency.

  • Roasts that are wrapped with bacon or something similar. A regular knife tends to start dislodging the bacon instead of cutting it. The electric knife easily cuts through it. A matambre is a combination of a delicate roast and a roast wrapped with bacon. The electric knife is the only way I know how to cut matambres.
  • General cutting of bread. The electric knife makes quick work of this task. The wider blade of bread blade helps make this task easier. The blade is less likely to twist or wobble than the regular blade.

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Thin slices of bread are a quick task with an electric knife.

  • Thin slicing of breads such as for croutons topping onion soup. It is relatively easy to quickly and easily cut slices down to about 3/16” thickness.

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Look how evenly sliced these quesadillas are. You have a crispy tortilla shell on the outside & a soft filling on the inside and the electric knife breezed through it.

  • Cutting soft and delicate items wrapped in breads such as sandwiches, paninis or quesadillas. Trying to use a regular knife on these types of foods simply doesn’t work nearly as well. They tend to end up torn apart, with uneven cuts with cracking along the cut lines and the fillings squeezed out. The electric knife zips right through these. When I cut quesadillas apart I end up with a nice smooth even cut line. There is no cracking of the toasted tortilla along the cut line and the fillings remain in place.
 
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This Breakfast Pizza had a crispy crust topped with crispy bacon and soft eggs on top. The electric knife gave me slices with perfect edges & the toppings remained intact in the process.

  • Cutting pizzas with delicate toppings and a crunch crust. I recently made a Breakfast pizza with bacon and eggs on top and it had a crispy crust. The electric knife handled both with aplomb.

One other thing I should mention about cutting stuffed roasts with an electric knife. While the knife cuts through the roast easily, there is a trick to keeping the slices intact while cutting them and removing them to the serving platter. I’ve already done a blog entry on this technique of using two spatulas. There will be a link to this blog at the bottom of this page.

So there you have it. For me the electric knife is essential for the majority of carving tasks. If you don’t have an electric knife, get one. They cost less than an expensive carving knife and can do a better job and do it faster. If you already own one and it is gathering dust, start using it.

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SOME RELATED LINKS:
Here is the link for the previous Blog Entry detailing a tip for cutting and maintaining the integrity of a pinwheel or stuffed roast as mentioned above

  SUCCESSFULLY CARVING A STUFFED ROAST 2010 Blog Entry


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