Our Top Pick for 2016: Cuisinart CEK-40 Electric Knife
Read our full review.
If you do not happen to be a trained chef, and most of us are not, then food preparation both before cooking or after serving can be a bit stressful. To make matters worse, each individual food item whether it is meat, bread, cheeses, veggies, or anything else, all require their own specific serving techniques. Generally, we can manage and make do with the tools and skills we have, but that does not prevent us from wondering if there is a better way. Enter the electric knife. An invention that was first patented and widely sold commercially in the early 1960s, the electric knife has become a staple in many households across the world for its ability to simplify a nuance task that is often more of a chore than anything else. That is why we poured through the offerings and came up with our list of top 3 electric knives on the market as well as a solid budget option for those not looking to spend quite as much.
Table of contents
- #1 Gold Pick (1st Place Winner)
- #2 Silver Pick (2nd Place Runner-Up)
- #3 Bronze Pick (3rd Place)
- #4 Budget Pick (Best Cheap)
Custom Storage Case
High Quality Stainless Steel Blades
Space-saving Storage Case
Wood Block Storage Tray
Bread Guide Makes Perfect Slices
Removable Stainless Steel Cutting Blade
Includes Bread Blade, Carving Blade
Multipurpose Blade And Fork
Special Cutting Tip For Hard To Carve Areas
Perfect For Carving And Slicing
Designed For Comfortable Use
Built To North American Electrical Standards
Two Serrated Stainless-steel Blades
#1 Gold pick (Winner): Cuisinart CEK-40 Electric Knife
View it on Amazon for $45.60*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.
When selecting an electric knife, it can be somewhat difficult to determine what makes a given product better than its competitor. Often times the difference in price between the various electric knives on the market may be the difference of $20 to $40, which is unlikely to break the bank. Of course, there is still no sense in spending more than you have to, but that does not mean you should just give a quick cursory review of your options and go with the cheapest that feels good enough.
That is why the Cuisinart CEK-40 Electric Knife took the Gold Pick First Place Winner position in our list. Now while this electric knife will run you about $30 more than the next closest competitor on this list—which is actually twice as expensive as that competitor’s total price—you are paying for the quality of a product that was designed regular use, potentially for long periods of time. Essentially, there are a number of design specifications and features that the Cuisinart considered that the other models simply do not.
For instance, this electric knife does have a container of sorts but in the standard case. Instead, the Cuisinart makes use of a cutting board to hold the meat carving blade, the bread slicing blade, and the handle with its 4-foot cord coiled neatly, either standing or lying flat for easy storage in a drawer. The wood block locks the parts in place to prevent them from coming loose. The blades themselves are made from 8 inches of high quality stainless steel which is resistant to rust if properly cleaned and dried after use. One accessory that is offered by some of the other entries on list but is missing from the Cuisinart is a carving fork. The handle is ergonomically designed to be used ambidextrously and features a safety lock to prevent accidental use of the trigger control
One factor that may be overlooked as obvious but is, in fact, a subtle advantage, is the Cuisinart’s motor design specification to North American standards. This is important for two reasons. First, each region has its own electrical grid and infrastructure settings. So if you are in East Asia or Europe, the distribution of electricity through outlets will be different than it is in the United States. Of course, an electronic appliance does not necessarily know where it is being used and will simply try to perform its function when powered. This can create problems for the electric appliance is the power settings it receives in amps, volts, or other variables do match up. This is not to say the product will not work, but it will not function as designed and will not be as durable in the long run. Since the Cuisinart is specifically designed for use in North America, the power settings of the electric knife will not create the issues that you can see with other products that are not as specialized and will potentially fail or not last as long.
The other reason the electrical standard is important is a more obvious and practical one. Americans are accustomed to certain standards from their electronic appliances, but products that are made to other global standards do not necessarily take into account an American’s specific expectations. As such, in the United States, we general expect a more powerful piece of equipment—often regardless of its use or purpose—than perhaps people in other parts of the world expect. That is why for some of the cheapest electric knives on the market, they do not seem to work at all, from our perspective. We are expecting the knife to almost serve as a miniature chainsaw, able to cut through the thickest roast with ease. However, we as a people are also a notoriously carnivorous group, a characteristic which is definitely not shared in many places across the globe—even in major industrialized nations. For instance, East Asia is known more for fish and chicken with beef and pork being a far less common staple. Thus, electric knives might not be designed for regular or continuous use on the denser meats.
Unfortunately, while this may be the best of the bunch—without spending $100 or more—it has some potential issues with its motor. First, if you use this knife for a long time, the motor will eventually get hot. However, this is somewhat to be expected. There was a customer who complained that the knife gave out after 20 continuous minutes of carving a 60 lb. full pig for a luau, presumably roasted on a spit over an open fire. While it would be nice if it were otherwise, it is almost somewhat unreasonable to expect a motor that can fit in the palm of your hand to run continuously against that kind of resistance forever. Keep in mind, the full pig was unlikely to have been marinated or otherwise tenderized before being roasted due to storage limitations. That is almost certainly a job for one of the highest end electric knives which cost over $100 but more likely for a manual blade.
Another issue, which coincides with the first, is the gears which move the blades are made out of a nylon plastic. This is not a soft plastic by any means, but it is a plastic nonetheless. Therefore, if the blades start to meet strong resistance and the user simply tries to push down and power through, the gears may become stripped and render the knife immobile. However, this again should not really come as too much of a surprise. It is akin to driving a screw into hard wood and simply continuing to torque the screw once you hit a tough whorl of wood. If you persist in cranking the screw, you should not be surprised when you strip the head’s drive. Likewise, if you are using this electric knife—or any for that matter—and your blade begins to dig into bone, you should not be surprised if the motor eventually strips the gear in its attempt to cut the hard bone.
Regardless, if you are careful with the Cuisinart and attentive to how long you are using it, this electric knife is an amazing option that has the potential to be a mainstay in your kitchen cutlery for years to come. Moreover, if you do have any issues, you can feel comfortable in your purchase with a 3-year manufacturer’s warranty.
#2 Silver pick (Runner-up): Oster FPSTEK2803B Electric Knife
View it on Amazon for $19.99*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.
Much like Cuisinart, Oster is a fairly well-known brand that makes a wide variety of appliances for use in the kitchen. Over the years it has earned a reputation for producing solid products that provide a quality experience without being exorbitantly priced. However, for less than half the price of the Cuisinart, your expectations should be appropriately tempered as well. Specifically, you will face many of the same issues that you might find with the Cuisinart, but with the Oster, you will have to be extra attentive.
First, we will start with some of the positives that make this electric knife our Silver Pick Second Place Runner-Up. Like any respectable electric knife, the blade is made out of stainless steel. As mentioned before, this means that the blade itself will be more resistant to rust if it is cleaned and dried quickly after every use. However, unlike the Cuisinart, the Oster only comes with a single blade. This means that regardless the foodstuff that you plan to cut, you will simply have to learn to make do or use a different knife altogether. As electric knives are generally designed for carving, the single blade of the Oster is indeed a carving blade with deep serrated edges—deeper than the Cuisinart.
Moreover, the Oster does not use the same kind of alternating mechanism that the Cuisinart does. The Cuisinart has two blades that are spaced closely apart with about 1/8th of an inch motion between the connecting rivet. This allows the Cuisinart blade to generate a sawing type of action. The Oster, in comparison, still uses two blades, but the rivet offers little if any give. Thus, the Oster blade acts more as a single saw and does not cut as effectively. This has been noted by some customers who complained that the Oster mushed their meat more than cut it. This is even more of a problem considering the blade is designed to cut bread more so than it is to cut vegetables or meat.
The Oster’s handle is a bit of a mixed bag as well. It is sharply designed with a sleek form that fits comfortably in your hand and matches the case and fork. It also has the benefit, much like the Cuisinart of being able to be used by either left or right handed people. However, that is where the favorable comparison ends. While the Cuisinart has an easy to grip and use trigger underneath the handle, the Oster is powered by a button on the top which is pressed with the thumb. This is a clever design in some ways, but ultimately not as good as the trigger. To point, the top-mounted button makes accidentally turning the electric knife on more difficult than a trigger—which could easily be activated if you are not paying attention.
However, that is simply an absence sold as a feature. The Oster does not have a safety lock, so the top-mounted button acts as a prevention of sorts. Of course, this means that if you have a good deal of carving to do, your thumb is likely to get sore. Unfortunately, part of the draw of an electric knife is that is supposed to allow people who have strength issues or problems gripping the ability to more easily carve meat or cut bread. But if you have to constantly press down with you thumb to keep the knife running, you will inevitably put more downward force on the knife anyway, not to mention the difficulty for people with arthritis.
Still, there are other features which may makes this an attractive purchase. The blade, though using a less effective motion, is 10 inches long. This is a full 2 inches longer than the Cuisinart which allows it to cut straight across more foods without having to reposition the blade. This may come in handy for larger hams, roasts, or turkeys in particular. Moreover, the blade is touted as having a special tip which is designed to reach difficult areas near the bone. Of course, just like with the Cuisinart, if you hit bone, your first move should be to immediately stop, disengage the blade from the bone, then resume carving. Based on consumer reviews, the motor of the Oster is not as strong as the Cuisinart, so this is an issue of which you will have to be more careful should you choose to go with this model.
Also, the Oster comes with a matching carving fork that is also sleek and stainless steel. Though, it does not necessary seem as though this addition is sufficient to unseat the superior Cuisinart from its Gold Pick position on the list, it is still a nice addition all the same. You can think of it as one less thing to worry about, since the Cuisinart is more than twice the cost and requires a carving fork to be purchased separately. This electric knife also comes with a manufacturer’s warranty but only a 1-year instead of the more impressive 3-year offered by Cuisinart.
#3 Bronze pick (3rd place): Hamilton Beach 74375N Electric Knife
View it on Amazon for $17.79*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.
As part of a continuing trend, our Bronze Pick Third Place Winner is similar to the entry before it, except it does not come with as many additional features or accessories. Like the first and second place entries on this list, the Hamilton Beach comes from a company that has earned a solid reputation for providing excellent kitchen appliances at affordable prices, and this electric knife is no different. Despite an absence of extra goodies, it does still come with basic necessities and the level of quality one would expect from solid electric knife.
Much like the Oster, the Hamilton Beach uses two blades that are spaced very close together with little wiggle room between the rivet. Again, this means the cutting action will not be as effective, nor will it generate the cross-cutting sawing effect that the Cuisinart will. One advantage over the Oster is that the groove in the blade where the rivet sits is a bit larger. This means that while both blades will not create a cross-cutting sawing motion, the single sawing action will be pronounced and allow a nice cut. Though customers have complained that this allows an uncontrolled space between the blades which makes the cuts less even. However, for bread—even soft, warm, freshly baked bread—this is still an excellent knife.
Unfortunately, another knock on the Hamilton Beach is that the blade is only 7 inches long. This is a full 3 inches shorter than the Oster and still an inch shorter than the Cuisinart. This means that you are far more likely to have to pick up the blade and reposition to cut a single piece from whatever foodstuff you are cutting. In this case, you are less likely to cut perfectly even pieces, especially if you are carving meat that has bones—one of the primary purposes of an electric knife. Still, the blades themselves are stainless steel and should not only resist rusting if properly cleaned and cared for, but the blades should also remain sharp for a long time, assuming you do not try to cut through rough, hard surfaces—something all electric knives would have difficulty doing and should be avoided.
Another similarity with the Oster is that this electric knife comes with a carrying case that is large enough to accommodate the cord when coiled. Also included with the Hamilton Beach is a matching stainless steel carving fork which provides value and is one less thing to worry about. However, this electric knife comes with an additional feature that is absent both the Oster and even the Cuisinart. The Hamilton Beach comes with a bread slicing guide that can be attached to the handle, prior to attaching the blade, to make slicing even pieces that much easier. This may be to compensate for the supposed wiggle of the blades, but it still puts this electric knife in a prime position if your primary purpose is to cut even slices from freshly baked bread.
Still, the third place position has to show up elsewhere, and the bread guide does not make up for the handle. Unlike the Cuisinart and the Oster, the Hamilton Beach is not specifically ergonomically designed, and many of the complaints from customers—aside from the wiggle of the blades—relates to the comfort of the handle, or lack thereof. The handle does not have the same curves or grooves the other two electric knives are noted for and consequently is not as comfortable for extended uses.
This is a shame, because the Hamilton Beach does use an on/off trigger function on the bottom of the handle which allows an effortless use otherwise. It seems like a real missed opportunity. Of course, the trigger combined with the uncomfortable handle makes this electric knife a bit less safe than either the Cuisinart with its safety lock or the Oster with is integrated safety design. As such, you will need to be especially careful when using this or you may accidentally cut yourself.
#4 Budget pick (Best cheap): MaxiMatic EK-570B Elite Cuisine Electric Knife
View it on Amazon for $15.49*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.
In fairness, the price between the Maxi Matic and the Hamilton Beach or the Oster is less than $10, so calling this a budget option is more a matter of rounding the group out than really suggesting that the second and third place electric knives are considerably more expensive than this one. Still, if you are looking to save a few bucks but still want to pick up an effective electric knife, you really cannot go wrong with this option.
However, it must be known, this knife comes absolutely none of the extra features that you would find with the other entries on this list. There is no included fork, nor does it come with a case—and there is absolutely no chance of it coming with a bread guide. That being said, it does still have the expected qualities that make for an acceptably passable electric knife.
For instance, the Maxi Matic’s blades are serrated stainless steel. So while you will still have to clean and care for them normally, they should remain sharp for years and are rust resistant. Moreover, they are surprisingly adaptable. Whereas some of the other electric knives on this list do not do well beyond the expected bread, meat, and vegetables, the Maxi Matic is specifically marketed as also being useful for cutting through expensive blocks of cheese. Also, the blades are a solid 8 inches long, which longer than the Hamilton Beach, shorter than the Oster, and on par with the Cuisinart. Essentially, you may have to make multiple cuts if the foodstuff has obstructions in it—like bones—or is fairly large. Another thing to consider is that consumers have noted the best results with this knife when cutting slowly.
Unfortunately, this where part of the “budget” designation really starts to show its head. The handle does offer a bit of contour to allow a good, comfortable grip, but the “trigger” mechanism sits on the top of the handle—much like the Oster. However, unlike the Oster, this seems to be one of the biggest complaints customers have. While the Oster’s top-mounted button may become uncomfortable after an extended period of time, the Maxi Matic’s top-mounted button seems to require a relatively great of force to hold down.
Moreover, there is no locking mechanism, so you must hold it manually the whole time. This seems to be a trend with the Maxi Matic, because customers also report that you need to put significant force on the foodstuff being cut for it to cut properly. In this regard, any benefit of an electric knife taking some of the strength out of cutting if nullified by these two issues.
All the same, this is a cheap electric knife, and easily one of the better electric knives in its almost excessively modest price range. Of course, some question whether it is actually more effective than a manual knife in the first place. However, this likely indicates that you need to understand how to effectively use it with its quirks and nuances to get the most out of it.
Fortunately, this is not much a consideration for our list as all of the handle are made from durable plastic and the blades—or forks—are all made from stainless steel. However, if you choose to purchase an electric knife not on this list, you would do well to take note of the materials—especially of the blades. Frankly, if the blades are not stainless steel or better, it is not worth your money. Lesser materials are more prone to rust—even if cleaned and cared for properly—and they will not keep their edge nearly as well, which will require you to have them sharpened or purchase another appliance specifically for that purpose.
By this we mean does the electric knife offer more than one type of blade. Different blades serve different purposes. Only the Cuisinart provides a different blade for bread or meat on this list. That does not mean you cannot cut bread and meat with a single blade. However, your results may not be as consistent or effective. Even more expensive electric knives—the ones that cost over $100—are more likely to have different styles of blade. It is a cost to benefit analysis you will have to weigh when making your purchase.
For this list, we did you the service of providing a wide array of reasonably priced models as well as one that is still modestly priced—when compared to some of the pricier competitors—but significantly more expensive than the others on the list. In this regard, you get what you pay for. For the Oster and Hamilton Beach, which are similarly priced, you will get a similar product. The Cuisinart which is easily the most expensive is also the most reliable and comes with the most accoutrements.
This can be nice, but may not be necessary depending on what you plan to use the knife for and whether or not you already have one. This can be considered icing on the cake, but it should not influence your decision too terribly much. Ironically, the most expensive electric knife on this list does not come with a fork—though it more than makes up for that with a bevy of benefits not found in its competitors. Regardless, make sure that any included carving fork is stainless steel, or it is not worth its addition.
This is another nice feature and likely one that deserves more attention than the fork. Since electric knives often come in pieces—especially the blades—and the items on our list are corded, this can make retrieving and keeping track of the item much easier. All of our “prize winning” entries include some type of carrying case, with only the budget left without. Moreover, the Cuisinart goes on step further and incorporates a cutting board that can be set up on the counter or laid flat in a drawer.
Conclusion (Wrapping it up)
Electric knives can be an excellent convenience, especially for those who are not skilled in the kitchen. The take a lot of the guesswork out of cutting and can make it much easier for those who have strength issues or physiological difficulties like arthritis. Of course, not all electric knives are equal in this respect, and all of them require getting over an initial learning curve. If you are not careful, you may very well break your electric knife before you ever get much use out of it. However, if you take your time and learn how to use it properly, an electric knife can provide a great advantage in the kitchen whether prepping or serving—especially with meat or bread.
Discussion and comments
We want to know what you think. Do you own any of the products we discussed? Which did you buy and how did it work out for you?
Do you know of an even better product?
- Electric Knives Buying Guide, BHG.com
- A Guide for Buying an Electric Knife, Buzzle.com
- Ronnie Dauber, The History of the Electric Knife, eHow.com
- Electric knife, Wikipedia.org
- Cuisinart, Cuisinart Electric Knife (CEK-40) Demo Video, Youtube, April 17, 2012
- Electric Knife with Storage Case (74375N), HamiltonBeach.com
- Electric Knife (Black) [EK-570B], Maxi-Matic.com