Growing up; there was a kitchen appliance that piqued our interest twice each year. Every Thanksgiving and Christmas the electric carving knife made an appearance in our home like some kind of sacred ceremonial cutting tool. Was it so good that we could only use it on special occasions? Or was it just that our family bought one because it was a trend at the time… and for everyday use an electric knife is completely useless.
We decided to dig deep and settle this age old argument. The first thing we did; research popular electric carving knives and create a guide to narrow down our options. We landed on the Cuisinart CEK-40. It has a ton of great reviews, its affordable (but not cheap), and it doesn’t looks ridiculous. Seriously, a lot of these knives look terrible.
Anyway, we bought the knife… tested it out on all kinds of things… then sat down and wrote this review. Is it the best thing since sliced bread? Nope. Would we recommend buying one? Maybe.. but only in a few scenarios. Finally, is it just a turkey slicing holiday-specific one trick pony? Let’s take a closer look.
Contents & Shortcuts
First, let’s get the specs and details out of the way. And, since this is more kitchen appliance than fine piece of cutlery…. there isn’t much to cover. And, even if there were most of these are pretty similar in terms of materials and weight so there isn’t a lot to compare.
|Blades Included||Carving / Bread|
|Blade Material||Undisclosed Stainless|
|Cord Length||4 Feet|
|Stand||Yes, wood and plastic stand included|
CEK-30 vs CEK-40 vs CEK-50
Cuisinart offers three electric carving knives. The CEK-50 is their flagship model that offers cordless convenience. The CEK-40 (the model we’re reviewing here) sits in the middle of the Cuisinart range. It provides great looks and a similar build quality to the cordless CEK-50, but requires a cord and nearby electrical outlet to operate.
At the bottom of the carving knife range sits the CEK-30. It’s less refined by almost every measure and is not that much more affordable than the CEK-40. It also only comes with one blade set… so it really isn’t something we’d even consider. For the price of an additional blade you’re budget is about the same as you’d pay for the CEK-40.
For us, the CEK-40 is the obvious choice. Sure it doesn’t have the convenience of cordless operation, but it is roughly half the price. And, we aren’t huge fans of cordless everything. In our opinion a corded carving knife is a great place to forego another battery that will likely end up in a landfill.
The CEK-40 comes out of the box with two blades. A carving blade for meat, fruit, melons, etc. and a bread blade for slicing those fresh baguettes, rolls, and bagels.
Both the carving and bread blades are similar in size and general appearance. But there are some minor differences. The bread knife setup is taller in profile and sports a tip similar to a sheep’s foot knife. We presume the taller blade helps keep the blade in line while cutting slices of bread, thus maintaining an even slice.
The carving blade sports a rounded tip and a much, much shorter profile. We assume that’s to help reduce friction and allow sliced meat to fall away from the blade when cut.
Both sets of blades feature indistinguishable serrations from the other. And they are both made from an unknown stainless steel. Which is not uncommon among kitchen appliances or low end kitchen knives.
Build Quality / Fit & Finish
The CEK-40 offers a very passable fit and finish if you’re comparing it to other kitchen appliances. It’s plastic is a little on the cheap side in some areas, but in others it’s actually pretty nice. We were pleasantly surprised how well the handle is built. It’s comparable to the plastics you’ll see in fairly nice kitchen appliances (coffee grinders, food processors, etc.).
However, the silver pieces of plastic are a little on the cheesy side. Up close you can see that it’s similar to the swirly silver and grey plastic they used on cheaper toys back in the 80’s. That’s when we grew up… so that’s our point of reference. If you’ve ever compared a Transformer to a Go Bot or GI Joe Vehicles to their off brand brethren… you’ll know wheat we’re getting at. For some reason cheaper toys in the 80’s and 90’s seemed to use a lot of this janky looking swirly plastic. For some reason Cuisinart decided to spec it on a number of parts on the CEK-40. Maybe they got a deal or something.
Beyond the contrasting plastic quality there are other hits and misses throughout. Oddly enough, we were very impressed by the cord management system (sort of a nice reusable zip tie thing). And, the cord it manages is also nice quality. We hate to see crappy cords that scream fire hazard every time you push it into a wall outlet. The CEK-40’s cord assures you that they didn’t scrimp on the cord / plug.
At the other end, the business end as some might call it, you’ll find two reciprocating blades. They are well assembled and plated. But, nothing about them says “I’m in this of r the long haul.” They don’t look bad, but they also cannot be sharpened (a least without a ton if frustration). Overall, looking at the blades you won’t feel ripped off. But, it is a bit of a bummer to think that they’re a consumable item. Fortunately Cuisinart sells replacements on their website.
How it Cuts
Not as easy as one might imagine… this isn’t quite like a power tool you’d find in a woodworking shop. It takes a bit of effort to keep things moving with an electric carving knife.
This knife is pretty purpose built. And unlike traditional cutlery you can’t really get by using it like you shouldn’t. For example the first thing we tried to cut was a block of Tillamook Medium Cheddar. We were making sandwiches and oddly enough “we” were using a Japanese vegetable knife with passable results. That changed when we plugged in the new electric knife and set the blades into motion.
We both expected that the knife might power through making a bit of a mess, but would create a nice slice of cheddar. Nope. We were wrong. The knife barely made a mark in the semi soft yellow hunk of Oregonian cheese.
As far as electric knives are concerned… cleanup is pretty reasonable. But there are a lot of nooks and crannies to attend to when you’re cutting something even a little messy. And, trust us… try not to get the handle or part where the blade goes into the handle dirty. You’ll consider throwing this straight in the trash if you have to clean these bits.
The blades are okay to clean other than the part where they connect, and when you realize that you’re actually cleaning two knives when you could be cleaning just one. But, if you’re set on an electric knife its all par for the course.
However, compared to a good ‘ol traditional carving knife; this thing is a nightmare to clean. Okay that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but it is difficult if you make a mess. Just keep things as clean as possible and you be okay.
Pros / What we like
We like how affordable this knife is and how much “stuff” you get for the low price. And, it’s all pretty well made considering how little you paid.
We also love how well it cuts bread. We’ve tested some really nice bread knives and this does a better job cutting through things like seeds and crust without crushing the surrounding sponge. If you cut a lot of bread at home… consider getting one of these for your kitchen.
We also do like the way it cuts meat. Although that might be because it brings back nice holiday memories. In all honesty, a nicely sharpened knife will do just as well if not better when it comes to carving a roast or bird. However, with that said… it will do much much better than most of the neglected knives we see in the homes of friends and family. Even a nice knife will suck at cutting if not properly maintained. Trust us we know people who buy really expensive knives and then fail to keep them even a little sharp.
We do like that this knife combines sharp serrations, a motor, and affordable replacement blades in a single product. If you don’t like to maintain knives and use The CEK-40 once or twice a year to prepare a holiday meal; you’ll love it.
Cons / What we don’t like
We’re not huge fans of electric carving knives in general so understand that the following may be a little biased.
Pretty much anything you can do with the CEK-40 can be done with a standard-fare kitchen knife. From carving to slicing… there aren’t a ton of advantages to electric-powered knives.
First and foremost is that the CEK-40 and its siblings / cousins are more difficult to clean. There are two blades to remove, then you need to make sure the cracks and crevices are also free of grease and meat. And if you get grease or gunk on the handle… now you are left carefully cleaning cracks and crevices without the help of water and soap.
If instead you decided to use a traditional knife to carve the turkey you just quickly wash and dry and place it back it the drawer or block. There are probably no intricate cracks, there’s only one blade, and the handle itself will not stop working because you got it wet.
Beyond all of that… and specifically talking about the CEK-40 we purchased to review; there are some things we dislike. First is that the promotional photos and those not he box show the knife with the handle and blade (trim plastic thing) showing a very small gap. In reality the knife cannot sit that way due to its oscillating operation. There will always be a gap on one side of the knife. We get it Cuisinart, it looks nicer without the gap. But… it’s a little misleading to show it show it so tight and clean. When we first inserted the blades we thought we were doing something wrong. No matter what we did there was no way we could achieve that tight gap depicted in the product photos.
Buy it if…
You should buy the CEK-40 if you’re looking for the best value in electric carving knives. It does a great job of focusing on performance while omitting unnecessary features. It also looks great. And, if you’re using it a few times a month to a few times per year it should last a very, very long time.
Part of the reason we are confident in saying that it will last is that it uses a corded motor instead of one powered by a rechargeable battery. Cordless is nice in many products, but if you’re looking for something that will last a long time always opt for a cord. We have a drill from the 60’s laying around here somewhere and it’s as good as the day it was picked up from Sears. We also have a nice Dewalt Cordless drill we bought a few years ago. They both drill holes and use the same bits, but we can guarantee that those batteries will eventually lose their ability to hold a charge. And, if recent cordless tool history is any indicator… we won’t be able to buy replacement batteries.
So… that means if you care about the environment and preventing obsolescence you should definitely buy the CEK-40. As long as nothing breaks, you’ll be carving roasts and slicing loaves well into your golden years.
Which brings us to our final point and reason to buy. If you’re not quite able to use a traditional knife as easily as you could 30-40 years ago; an electric knife is a wonderful way to slice things with minimal effort.
Bottom line… get this knife if you’re slicing bread regularly, struggle with traditional carving knives, or just don’t like to sharpen your knives regularly.
Skip it if…
If you’re into knives and don’t slice your own bread… the CEK-40 (or any electric knife) isn’t for you. For a similar price you can pick up a pretty respectable knife, and for double the price you can find something you can pass on to your kids.
That’s one of the biggest upsides to well made traditional cutlery. It can theoretically last forever. Knives and swords that are hundreds (or maybe thousands) of years old still exist. And, they probably cut almost as well as the day they were made. There aren’t many possessions with that kind of longevity.
Another reason to skip the CEK-40 is if you really need a cordless carving knife. For most of us slicing a fresh loaf of bread or carving the occasional Thanksgiving bird does not require much mobility. A four foot cord will work just fine. But, if you’re imagining cutting brisket in a park, or slicing a roast in camp… you’ll need to choose between cordless and traditional cutlery.
Overall, the CEK-40 has a limited scope when it comes to use. But, it does come in handy when the cutting task falls within that scope. If you’re looking to buy an electric knife the CEK-40 is probably the best. But, you should probably skip it if you’re a knife nerd on a tight budget. You’re not going to get as much out of this knife as you would out of a traditional blade that’s well made and honed to perfection.
So we started out with the question “is an electric knife good for everyday use?” After testing and using this knife for a few months we can say with certainty that the answer is… “it depends.”
Is it convenient compared to a “real” knife. Not really, you have to put the blades into the handle, plug it in, take it apart, wash and dry. It’s not easier by any stretch.
However, if you have trouble using a traditional knife or buy bread that isn’t sliced, the CEK-40 could be a great tool for daily use. It’s slices with little effort, and it cuts some things much better than a traditional knife.
Overall, we think our parents and grandparents were following a trend when they bought their electric knives back in the 70s, 80s and 90’s. The knives were not a solution that made sense day in and day out. But, the fact that we used them on special occasions did add a little magic to some very special memories. So trend or not, we’re glad that our parents took the time to pull out that special electric carving knife twice a year. And, to be honest.. we might continue that tradition now that we have an electric carving knife of our own.