For years my passion has been cooking meat. I'll marinate it for days, get up before dawn and rub it, mop it, inject it with flavors. I'll smoke, roast, grill any kind of meat from prime ribs to brisket, pork butts and baby back ribs, from turkeys to chickens to geese, even wild game. Hell, I'd even give grizzly bear a whirl, if someone else took care of the procuring. But the one thing I never featured was cutting it up afterwards.
That was before a 10.6-pound, 100-watt bundle of meat-carving joy called the Chef's Choice Gourmet VaraTilt Electric Food Slicer Model 632 came into my life. This little baby has changed the way I view post-roasting meat preparation. Give me a huge ham, I'll gladly slice it to whatever your specifications, from wafer thin to tubby slabs. Now, I slaver to take apart a feisty fowl and reduce its breast to sandwich-size pieces.
This isn't the first home meat slicer I've encountered either. I did battle with a flimsier, plastic-preponderant model and finally despaired thinking I would either have to learn to carve better or graduate to a professional model like the the hand-cranked Berkel jobs that restaurateurs swear by. But this sturdy Chef's Choice cutter, with all of its structural components made of cast aluminum and stainless steel, makes it possible for me to operate in a more normal-size kitchen without much footprint.
The cantilever design is especially handy as the cutting area looms a few inches above the food tray so you needn't clear it as often. When you throw it into VariTilt mode-tipping the whole slicing apparatus as much as 30 degrees—it really starts to hum as gravity helps you hold the meat in place for cutting and drops the slices onto the tray.
The thickness control-operated by a numbered knob-lets you choose from relative slabs of 5/8 inches to deli-thin pieces that you can almost see through. And slicing, I've discovered, doesn't end with just meat. You can make short work of fruits, vegetables and fish and create assortment trays for entertaining. I was particularly impressed by the ease of cleanup. Many pieces, like the blade and food carriage, detach easily and the nooks and crannies of the main assembly are fairly accessible with a sponge or cloth.
One caveat: this a serious machine with a sharp blade, so be careful. Your thumb shouldn't be part of the menu.