Carving Knife vs Chef’s Knife – What’s the Difference?

Identifying the many types of kitchen knives can be challenging. If you don’t know what they do, choosing the right one is impossible. This is specifically true with cutlery like carving and chef knives. Carving knives are good slicers, but chef knives can do that, too. So, which one to pick? Is there any difference between a carving knife and a chef’s knife at all? Well, there is more than one difference.

The biggest differences between carving knife vs chef knife are their designs and applications. A carving knife is larger and narrower to slice cooked meat thinly, whereas a chef’s knife is smaller and broader. The thin blade profile of carving knives allows you to cut large pieces of beef, turkey, and poultry. On the other hand, the sturdier chef knife can slice smaller meat cuts while allowing you to chop vegetables, mince herbs, peel fruits, and much more.

Let’s explore the differences between a chef knife vs carving knife to determine which one you need.

Differences Between Carving Knife and Chef Knife 

A carving knife is not the same as a chef’s knife. The design and purpose of each knife are different, making them good for specific kitchen tasks.

 Carving KnifeChef Knife
SizeBetween 8 and 12 inches on average. However, some can be as large as 14 inches.Normally 8 inches long. Sizes vary between 6 and 10 inches.
ThicknessBetween 1 and 1.5 inches in width.Between 1.5 and 2 inches.
Grip StyleHammer Grip StyleHammer Grip Style, Pinch Grip Style, and Others
Cutting ActionBack-and-forth sawing cutting motion.Back-and-forth sawing, chopping, dicing, mincing, cutting and more.
Intended UseSlicing cooked meat like lamb, beef, poultry, pork, turkey, and large meat cuts.Almost any cutting task in the kitchen. A chef’s knife can chop veggies, slice small meat cuts, cut poultry, smash garlic, and peel fruits, among many more.
VariationsSlicing Knife, Sujihiki Japanese KnifeGyuto Knife, French & German Chef Knives


Carving knives are lengthier than chef knives, usually between 8 and 12 inches long. They resemble an elongated paring knife or the more common utility knives. The longer size allows you to cut large turkeys and beef in a single and smooth stroke. However, larger knives require more space to operate. Using a large carving knife in a small kitchen may cause you to bump into appliances or other people. Additionally, big cutlery can be a problem if the countertop is small. 

Chef knives are smaller than carving knives, often between 6 and 8 inches in length. The most common chef knife size found in households is the 8-inch. This blade length is compatible with kitchens of all sizes and is suitable for other tasks like chopping or dicing. Also, handling a smaller chef knife is more comfortable whether you’re a small or tall person.


Most carving knives are 1 or 1.5 inches in width. This level of thickness makes the carving knife blades slim, and they also have a smaller surface area. Thus, you experience less friction while slicing and tearing into the flesh. As long as the knife is sharp, carving meat like lamb and beef requires less effort.

The most used chef’s knife is the 8-inch model, which is 2 inches in width. Chef knives are not as narrow as carving knives, and the slices are not as thin. Nonetheless, the broader blade is sturdier and can slice small meat pieces decently while allowing you to perform other tasks. A slimmer carving knife is ideal for slicing only, but the sturdier chef knife can slice chop, dice, and more.

Grip Style

A hammer grip is the recommended style to hold a carving knife. With all your fingers around the handle, you get more control over the blade. This grip style allows you to bring the entire length of the cutting edge back and forth over big meat pieces. As a result, your cutting technique will be more consistent.

You can use a variety of grip styles to hold a chef’s knife, including the hammer and pinch grip. Using a hammer grip style with a chef’s knife allows you to slice boneless meat and mince herbs. Alternatively, a pinch grip lets you apply more force to chop through veggies like carrots and potatoes.  

Cutting Action

Normally, you must use the carving knife to slice back and forth. This technique keeps the blade from hitting the cutting board. Furthermore, a carving fork may be necessary to hold the meat piece steady while slicing. Using carving knives this way is the only efficient method to slice meat, but it limits the number of things you can do with the knife.

You can use the chef’s knife in a myriad of ways, including back-and-forth cutting, forward cutting, chopping, and more. This cutting action versatility makes chef knives more capable than carving knives. Plus, it’s easier to use a chef knife than a carving knife if you don’t have experience.

Intended Use

The carving knife is for cutting cooked meat like poultry, beef, pork, turkey, and lamb into thin slices. This type of knife has a long, narrow blade that creates fine slices of meat while preserving its juices. Additionally, carving knives can be flexible enough to separate meat close to the bones, like a boning knife. This application requires extreme caution, as you should not use the blade to cut through bones.

A chef’s knife is more versatile, and you can use it for chopping and dicing vegetables, crushing garlic, cleaving boneless meat, and cutting raw poultry. Other applications for this knife type include cutting pie or peeling fruits like watermelons, pineapples, and more. Overall, chef knives are general-purpose cutlery, whereas carving knives are primarily for slicing meat. 


The slicing knife and Sujihiki are popular variations of the carving knife. Nonetheless, these two knives have slight differences compared to the carving knife. 

A slicing knife has a straight blade with a rounded tip, and the width is more consistent. Additionally, slicing knives are more flexible, allowing you to cut thinner slices of meat, fish, and fruit. On the other hand, the Sujihiki is a Japanese carving knife. It has a narrower blade and a straighter edge than the Western carving knife.

The Japanese Gyuto is a popular variation of the Western Chef’s knife. Both knife styles are similar, but Gyuto blades are usually thinner and lighter. This is because the steel used is different. While most Western knives feature stainless steel, Gyuto and other Japanese knives use high-carbon steel.

German and French chef’s knives are other variations of this knife type. The French chef knife is usually longer, between 9 and 10 inches long. On the other hand, German chef knives are bulkier, heavier, and rounder than the French style.

Which One to Buy?

Choosing a carving knife or chef knife heavily depends on your cooking habits. 

You should only consider buying a carving knife if you often prepare large pieces of poultry, pork, turkey, or lamb. Carving knives allow you to process large cuts of meat faster and with less effort. Enough workspace is also necessary to handle and store knives like this one. If you don’t work with these types of meat frequently, buying a carving knife will not be worth it. 

If you don’t handle large meats frequently, you should buy a chef’s knife over a carving knife. While they cannot replace a bread knife, chef knives can do most kitchen tasks perfectly. Use them for chopping vegetables, cutting fruits, mincing herbs, and more. Chef knives can also slice meat just as well while consuming less space. 

When choosing a chef knife or carving knife, the decision is easy. Chef knives simplify most kitchen tasks in a single cutlery piece, making them the better option overall.

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About Tom Hammaker

Tom Hammaker is a freelance copywriter with a specialty in advertorial blog posts. He’s worked with small local business owners and taken on larger projects with clients like Proctor and Gamble. He wrote his first direct marketing piece when he was a jobless teenager back in high school. It was a flyer for a landscaping business he was trying to start. The result? The mailing absolutely BOMBED! When he is not working, he's either out on the water fishing or playing golf. You can find him here on LinkedIn or his personal website

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