Electric knives are convenient, but there are drawbacks, experts say. In the best professional review we found for electric knives, a 2009 test at Cook's Illustrated magazine, editors did not find any of the tested knives superior to a regular carving knife. However, the Cuisinart CEK-40 Electric Knife (*Est. $50) gets more consistently positive reviews than most. It is one of two electric knives recommended by Good Housekeeping, which says it can not only "dissect your bird like a professional" at Thanksgiving but also make "perfectly thin slices of roast beef or tomatoes" year-round.
The Cuisinart comes with two separate blades, one for meat and one for bread. User reviews indicate that these specialized blades do a better job with both tasks than the multiuse blades sold with most knives. We found more than 400 individual reviews from owners at Amazon.com, Cooking.com and other retail sites, and most owners say this knife cuts very smoothly through both bread and meat. Its comfortable handle, dishwasher-safe blades and solid-wood holder are also popular features.
However, we also found quite a few negative reviews for the Cuisinart knife, most concerning durability. Many users track these problems down to a single gear within the motor that's made of nylon, rather than metal, and that can become stripped after only a few uses. Others complain that the motor burned out after a few uses. Overheating appears to be another common problem.
Cuisinart offers a three-year warranty on this knife, but several unhappy owners say dealing with customer service is a big hassle. Some examples: One Williams-Sonoma user never got a response, while another was told the barely-used knife was out of warranty. One Amazon.com owner did get a response but had to pay for the shipping and handling costs to return the knife to Cuisinart.
The other major drawback of the Cuisinart knife is its relatively high price, which may not be justifiable if you only expect to use your knife at the Thanksgiving table. If you just need an electric knife for the occasional meal, the Hamilton Beach Carve 'n Set Electric Knife 74250 (*Est. $20) might be a better buy. Unlike the Cuisinart, the Hamilton Beach knife has just one blade, and its performance appears to suffer as a result.
Owners posting reviews at retail sites such as Amazon.com and Cooking.com say the Hamilton Beach Carve 'n Set Electric Knife 74250 cuts both meat and bread quickly and evenly. But we read several complaints that it has a tendency to shred meat instead of cleanly slicing it, and a few owners say it will barely go through bread. Several users also complain that the blade feels flimsy and can bend with pressure. However, the biggest problem with this knife appears to be the handle -- users with both large and small hands complain that the knife is hard to grasp, especially when it gets greasy. Also, the trigger must be held down continuously while carving, and many users say its position makes this very difficult to do. On the plus side, we did not see any durability complaints about this knife, despite its low price.