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What is a Carving Knife and What is It Used for?

A carving knife is used for carving roasts, poultry, hams, and cooked meats. The blade of this knife is long, usually between 8 and 14 inches in length. Additionally, the blade is thinner and more flexible than a chef’s knife. Flexible and thin blade allow the carving knife to cut around cartilage and bones of meat, ham, and poultry with ease.

Carving knives share similarities with slicing knives, like long and narrow blades. However, a carving knife is more suitable for sectioning denser meat, whereas a slicing knife is better for slicing roast in thinner slices.

Many cooks don’t consider carving knives as an essential kitchen knife. Nonetheless, a quality carving knife and the right technique make a huge difference while preparing cooked meats.

In this article, we will cover all about these knives, including their usual features and how they can benefit you. Plus, you will learn how to identify a good carving knife.

What is a Carving Knife and What Does it Look Like?

A carving knife is a large kitchen knife, usually between 8 and 15 inches in length. The blade of a carving knife is long and narrow, with some flexibility to follow the carcasses of crown roast, turkey, and other poultry. This type of knife has a pointed tip, ideal for separating the meat around the bones with minimal effort. Some carving knives have scalloped or Granton Edges. The indentations above the cutting edge create air pockets between the blade and meat to release the food without tearing it.

Carving knives are similar to slicing knives in many ways. The blades of both knives can be straight or serrated, and the tips are often rounded and blunt.

However, a slicer is generally longer, narrower, and more flexible than a carving knife. These differences indicate the applications for each knife. Thinner slicing knife blades will slice meat, fish, fruits, and vegetables in super-thin layers. The thicker blade of a carving knife is more suitable for denser and larger cooked meats like roasts, poultry, and hams.

The carving knife is thicker than a slicing knife but thinner than a chef’s knife. With less spine thickness, carving knives are much better to carve uniform slices of meat with more precision. These are the benefits of carving knife compared to other common kitchen knives.

Electric Carving Knives — Are They Worth It?

Electric carving knives have reciprocating serrated blades. These blades move in a back-and-forth cutting motion, similar to a saw. You have to put less effort when using these electric knives, allowing you to carve large turkeys faster. Fast work is the only reason to get an electric knife.

An electric carving knife lacks the precision and delicacy of a manual carving knife. When you use an electric knife for carving meat, you’re more likely to tear or shred the meat. If you want to save meat around the bones, you need a manual carving knife. An electric carving knife is not good for prepping boneless meat either.

Consider using an electric carving knife if you prefer carving turkeys and similar sized poultry quicker. However, remember that the cuts won’t be clean.

What is the Use of Carving Knives?

Common carving knife uses include the following.

  1. Carving Meat. The main use of a carving knife is to carve meat. This knife has a rigid blade that slices through dense meat without going off course. It will cut uniform portions of roast beef, brisket, turkey, lamb, pork, and other cooked meat.
  2. Disjointing Poultry. The curved pointed tip of a carving knife can disjoint chicken and remove the meat close to the bones.
  3. Slicing Ham. Carving knives have thinner blades than chef’s knives, allowing you to slice delicate meats like ham.
  4. Cutting Connective Tissue. A carving knife blade is sturdy and will cut through the connective tissue of meat and poultry with ease.
  5. General Slicing Tasks. You can use the carving knife to slice fruits and vegetables if you don’t have proper slicing knives or paring knives.

How to Use a Carving Knife?

After explaining what is the use of a carving knife, now we will cover how to use one. Fortunately, using a carving knife to carve cuts of meat like roasts is an effortless task. Here’s an overall briefing on how to use a carving knife to carve meat.

Preparations

Place the meat over a cutting board, and let it rest for 20 to 30 minutes. This minor step allows the juices to distribute across the meat for a tastier flavor.

Holding the Knife

Grab the carving knife in a full pinch grip or hammer grip. If you use a carving fork, place it over the denser chunk of meat for more leverage while cutting.

Use a Slicing Cutting Motion

Take advantage of the carving knife’s lengthy cutting edge to slice the meat in long strokes. Avoid sawing, or you could tear the slices of meat or spill the juices all around.

If you carve poultry breast, start cutting at the poultry’s wing end. Then, work your way back.

Slice Against the Grain of the Roast

Check the alignment of fibers and muscles to cut against the grain. Otherwise, the meat will lose consistency, and the slices will not be clean.

Transfer the Sliced Portions to the Plate

Use the curved tip to scoop out the slices of meat and their juices. Place the sliced roast on a plate for serving.

What Makes a Good Carving Knife?

A carving knife with the following characteristics will serve you well in many areas, whether you carve meat, chicken, ham, lamb, or more.

  1. Blade Material. High-carbon stainless steel is the better option for blades. This material is sharp, strong, and resistant to moisture. It will make the knife last longer by resisting the moisture of meat juices or ham coldness.
  2. Blade Size. Any blade between 8 and 11 inches in length is comfortable and highly functional for a carving knife. Larger blades may be a problem if you don’t have enough workspace to make full cutting motions.
  3. Curved Pointed Tip. Carving knives with curved pointed tips are more convenient. Pointed tip will reduce puncturing risks and allow you to transfer the slices of meat to the plate.
  4. Handle Material. Polypropylene handles are often the best for carving knives. This material is comfortable to hold with an ergonomic design and is non-slip to reduce accident risks. Pakkawood handles are better-looking alternatives if you have the time to care for them regularly.
  5. Blade Thickness. Choose knives between 0.35mm and 0.45 in thickness. This thickness level makes for sturdier carving knives while maintaining thin blades. Thus, you can still use the knife to slice fruits or veggies.
  6. Granton Edge. A Granton Edge or scalloped blade makes it easier to release slices of meat after cutting them.
  7. Carving Fork. Consider getting a carving fork to hold the roast beef or chicken in place while carving it.
  8. Reputable Knifemaker. Buy your cutlery from an established brand to avoid poor-quality knives. Some of the most popular knifemakers offer quality carving knives at reasonable prices. Particularly, we recommend products like the Wusthof Hollow Edge Carving Set ($191), Mercer Culinary M23011 ($24), or the Shun DM-0720 Ground Knife ($180).

FAQs

Should a Carving Knife Be Serrated?

Carving knives should not have serrated edges. Instead, this type of knife benefits the most from a straight-edged blade. A straight carving knife will carve meat and poultry without damaging the meat. Using a serrated carving knife is likely to shred or tear the meat. A serrated cutting edge style is most common in electric carving knives.

Can I Use a Serrated Bread Knife Instead of a Carving or Slicing Knife?

You should not use serrated bread knives instead of a carving or slicing knife. Serrated edge is better for cutting food with rougher exteriors like bread (baguettes, sourdough, fluffy loaves, etc.). Using a serrated bread knife on roast beef or poultry will tear or shred the meat. Instead, you should use a sharp slicing knife to slice.

What is the Difference Between a Carving Knife and Slicing Knife?

Carving knives usually have more rigid blades, whereas slicing knives are larger, thinner, and more flexible. A flexible blade allows the slicing knife to cut roast, pork, venison, and fish into super thin slices. On the other hand, a rigid blade is easier to control while carving denser meat like roasts and poultry.

Can You Use a Chef’s Knife as a Carving Knife?

A chef knife will not provide the same precise cuts as a carving knife. The carving knife has a thinner blade with less thickness than the chef’s knife to produce thin meat slices. The point of carving knives can also reach into intricate joint areas, whereas the chef’s knife cannot do the same. Lastly, carving knives have more flexible blades that make it easier to separate the meat from the bones.

Why Are Carving Knives Rounded?

Rounded tips add more weight to the blade, increasing cutting power to slice through meat effortlessly. This tip style also reduces usage risks by eliminating a penetrating point and serves as a spatula to pick up food. Another purpose of a rounded tip is to improve cuts made in a rocking motion. The tip rests on the cutting board and is easier to lift the blade’s heel to start cutting. Some people also use the broad and round tip to pry lids while cooking, which would be impossible with a sharper point. Lastly, carving knives have rounded tips because they only use the length of the cutting edge for carving.

What is a Japanese Carving Knife Called?

The name of the Japanese carving knife is Sujihiki. A Sujihiki knife features a long and narrow blade between 8” (210mm) and 14” (360mm long). The blade has an acute angle, requiring less effort for cutting. Additionally, the sharp edge slices food without meat damage. This way, you can use the Sujihiki as a filleting knife to prepare raw fish while preserving the flavor and texture of the fish. Overall, Sujihiki knives can fillet, trim, and slice fish or meat in thin layers.

Brian Casey
About Brian M. Casey

As a food lover, Brian M. Casey developed a fascination for cooking at an early age. He soon realized that not only the ingredients matter but also the knives and the accessories used to turn those ingredients into a delicious dish. This way, Brian began his journey on the magnificent world of kitchen knives, outdoor knives, knife accessories, and much more. After years of experience with many ups and downs, Brian now wants to share everything he’s learned during his journey as an avid knife collector, a well-seasoned knife maker, and an all-around knives enthusiast.

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