Ultimate Boy Toy

Meat slicers might seem like brutish deli counter appliances, but they’re often the secret behind many a perfect cut in restaurant kitchens. They’re used to make things like tissue-thin slices of prosciutto, gossamer veils of melon, custom-cut slices of slab bacon, and delicate sheets of country bread that drape dramatically across an entire plate.

Why not experiment with these cuts at home? If you have the extra 2 1/2 feet of counter space, the best home meat slicer is only a little more than the price of a good knife. Or you could go luxe, in which case your meat slicer doubles as a piece of art.

Chef’sChoice International VariTilt Slicer #632
14 by 12 by 11 inches; 10.6 pounds
Chef’sChoice, $249.95

The best brand in home slicers introduces the first model that can be used either in the familiar vertical position or in what professionals call “gravity feed”—that is, at an incline (in this case 30 degrees). In gravity feed mode, food slides downhill into the blade, then falls away cleanly. This is great when slicing inexpensive items you want to work through quickly, like fruits, vegetables, bread, and cheaper hams. With pricier foods, you’ll want to handle each piece in the vertical position to keep control of your slice to the millimeter.

With this appliance you’ll need to buy a nonserrated blade, sold separately, that will allow you to cut paper-thin slices of any material. (Serrated is fine for breads and fibrous foods like pineapple.)

Manual Fly Wheel Slicer
11 by 7.75 by 7.75 inches; 140 pounds
Berkel, $9,450; available from Don Walters Company, Inc., (714) 892-0275

Berkel, based in the Midwest, has a cultlike legion of international fans who believe it’s the Ferrari of meat slicers. The company’s classic flywheel model even shares the car’s signature red color, sensuous curved lines, addictive precision operation, and jaw-dropping sticker shock. It’s manual, too—hand cranked, no less.

Many believe this slicer is the only tool that should be used to slice fine cured meats. When you use it, you’ll see why. A vertical clamp holds your food in place. One smooth turn of the hand crank at the rear of the machine sets the whole thing into synchronized motion: Your food’s automatically nudged against the blade, the blade effortlessly strokes through your food, and then a slice as fine as you desire floats down. You will find yourself grabbing anything and everything you can slice, simply to see and feel the action again and again.

Although the slicer works beautifully and securely when set on a table or countertop, you might consider picking up the matching red Berkel stand, sold separately.