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After learning several months ago that immersion blenders and many other kitchen gadgets/appliances have foodservice equivalents that are usually much more powerful and durable than the consumer equivalents, I've been on the lookout for a "foodservice-grade" electric knife.

However, after scouring several of my usual physical and online restaurant supply sources, it would appear that I'm chasing a ghost. "Electric [carving] knife" is a foreign concept. It's possible that they just go by another name (e.g. foodservice immersion blenders are often called "power mixers" or just "mixers") but I don't think so.

So for those who've worked at one: Are electric knives ever seen in professional kitchens? If so, do they just use the cheap consumer products or is there a commercial equivalent? And if not, then why not - is it deemed impractical over a good-quality "manual" carving knife or is there some other reason why they seem to be shunned?

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4 Answers

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I would consider the professional equivalent of the electric carving knife to be the meat slicer, i.e. the rotating blade device most often seen behind the deli counter.

At home, to break down a roast bird, take the meat off of a lamb-leg, etc., a good manual knife is most likely the proper tool.

If, on the other hand, I have a large ham (cooked or cold), or some other chunk of boneless meat that I want to slice more-or-less uniformly, then I will break out my electric knife. For the home user, it is a fairly practical device, not taking up too much space, etc.

But its uniformity and speed cannot compare to the slicer. As to a professional kitchen, you may or may not find one there. Certainly in deli-type restaurants you would have them. In a more traditional restaurant they are not as concerned with quick production of sliced meat, so any slicing is probably done by hand.

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Meat slicer is definitely the keyword I was looking for - never really thought about before but I'm sure I've seen those at just about every deli. I've also only seen them used for hard deli meats (as far as I can remember) - are they supposed to work as well for (slicing of) softer, cooked meats, like a roast beef/chicken/turkey? –  Aaronut Dec 23 '11 at 16:35
    
Pretty much anything boneless should work pretty well. Definitely seen them used for hot pastrami/brisket which is soft-ish. –  sdg Dec 23 '11 at 16:43
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A wonderful tool, but I loathe them. I swear cleaning one is the easiest way to get cut in the kitchen short of outright negligence. –  dmckee Dec 24 '11 at 22:09
    
@Aaronut: Never used one myself, but I've seen delis around here do roast beef and chicken slices on one. And cheese, too. –  derobert Dec 27 '11 at 14:40
    
Alton Brown loves his electric knife! –  milesmeow Jan 5 '12 at 17:47
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I've been worked in the restaurant equipment and supply industry for 12 years, and have had many customers ask for these commercial electric knives. No such thing...why? Simple...electric knives are not NSF (National Sanitation Foundation) approved. All equipment and supplies used in a commercial food service application must comply with NSF standards. Hope this helps!

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That makes some sense. Only seen them as a domestic item. But some sandwich places use domestic ones on commercial premises... –  TFD Apr 28 '12 at 21:09
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I once worked int the kitchen at a chain bar-n-grill joint in the US. They specified electric knives for carving sandwiches: supposedly they made a neater cut and didn't mush the bread so much.

Certainly it was hard to keep the main knives sharp enough to do a good job: cheap junk that you couldn't pay me to use in my kitchen. But teens on their second summer job don't have a lot of swing.

As far as I could tell the electric knifes supplied for the task were the same ones you'd use at home.

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Yeah I doubt you would find any chef with a modicum of self respect that would even suggest it was OK to use an electric knife in a professional service. Professional knifes actually cut easier and better in my opinion than an electric knife anyway. –  Chad Dec 22 '11 at 20:31
    
@Chad: Better perhaps, but not easier in the opinions of many. Electric knives, as cheap and low-quality as they tend to be, wouldn't exist if people didn't mind the idea of slicing up an entire 20 lb turkey manually. –  Aaronut Dec 23 '11 at 16:40
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I don't think they caught on here at all, professional kitchen or amateur. The closest thing you get here is the meat slicer at delis which sdg mentioned.

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Where is 'here'? –  Mien Mar 29 '12 at 6:47
    
UK, haven't seen them anywhere in Europe. They seem to be just a US/Canada thing. –  Inverted Llama Apr 6 '12 at 12:16
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I live in Belgium and we have one. –  Mien Apr 6 '12 at 14:00
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