If you’ve ever waited impatiently for prime rib at a charity dinner gala or stopped by a roadside BBQ shack in the South, you may have noticed the server using a long, round-ended carving knife.
With their bulbous noses, these carving or slicing knives look anything but sharp at first glance, but nothing could be further from the truth. They can be honed razor sharp and are great for slicing hams, turkey, brisket, prime rib, fish and even vegetables.
Note, there is another segment within carving knives. These more “German style,” heavier knives with sharp, pointed ends are especially well suited as raw meat carving knives. We will cover these in-depth in a separate article.
Carving Knife Characteristics
Typically, the best carving knives are 10 to 14 inches in length and are very light for their length. Two reasons for the light weight are that most of these knives have hollow divots in the blade known as “grantons” or “kullens” and the blades are usually no deeper than one inch.
In addition to keeping these long knives from being top heavy, grantons reduce friction when cutting and prevent meat from sticking to the edge of the blade. This construction makes for safer and easier cutting.
Bevel angles on the blades usually range between 10% and 20%. A lower percentage angle means a sharper blade. To put that in perspective, ordinary kitchen knives range from 20% to 25%, while razor blades are ~8%.
Carving Knife Tips
Because carving knives are a bit different in the hand, they do require more care and practice than your average utility kitchen knife.
Here are some quick tips that everyone should follow.
- Keep your carving knife sharp. This is certainly true for all kitchen knives, but doubly so for carving knives due to their longer length and semi-flexible blades. A dull knife requires more pressure, increasing the chances of the blade slipping out of place and injuring either the person doing the cutting or anyone standing too close.
- Hone your knife after every 2-3 uses.
- Always use a carving fork to hold the meat steady while cutting. This improves safety by keeping your “holding hand” further away from the carving knife lowering the risk of an accidental cut.
- Invest in a solid cutting board or butcher block that will not move when knife pressure is applied. Good wooden cutting boards can weigh 8 to 20+ pounds and some even have rubber feet for further stability. In a pinch, put a cloth under your board to help prevent slippage.
- Always make sure your hands are dry to improve grip strength and safety.
- Take steady, sure strokes using the entire length of the blade. This action helps ensure even, similarly sized slices.
- Do not apply too much pressure to your cutting strokes as it will tend to mash and crush the meat, ruining the visual appeal.
Best Carving Knives of 2019
Carving knives are a “buyers’ market” in the sense that there are several options for consumers that are extremely high quality and very well reviewed. We’ve picked a few that meet all budgets for your consideration.
You cannot go wrong with any of these selections.
Wusthof Classic 10-Inch Carving Knife
Wusthof has been making knives since 1814. Their knives are known for their minimalist looks, high-quality materials and precision engineering…classics in every sense of the word. The Wusthof carving knife has a granton blade for maximum cutting performance.
It’s a full tang knife, meaning it is constructed from one solid piece of steel from “tip to grip” which prevents wobbly handles. The blade is made from a high-carbon stainless steel with a Rockwell hardness rating of 58. It won’t rust and will maintain its edge for a long time.
- Premium brand, arguably the most famous kitchen knife company in the world
- Excellent quality steel and edge retention
- Triple-riveted, full tang handle
- Highly durable Polyoxymethylene synthetic handle that prevents fading
- Dishwasher safe (although we recommend hand washing)
- Mail in sharpening service available (four dollars per blade)
- Great customer service
- Limited lifetime warranty
- Premium brand but a premium price to match
Wusthof carving forks are available to complement this amazing knife.
Victorinox Fibrox Pro Slicing Knife
Compared to Wusthof, this classic Swiss company is a relative “newcomer” as it’s only been in business for 134 years!
Their Fibrox Pro carving knife is excellent and has won “best overall” awards from both cooking and review organizations. It’s a 12-inch knife with a granton blade and uses the same X50CrMoV15 high-carbon stainless steel as the Wusthof Classic (obviously how the steel is engineered varies, and Wusthof claims a sharper edge).
Victorinox carving knives are functional, affordable and a clear market leader in this segment. A matching Victorinox carving fork is available.
- Great price point and overall value
- 5 choices for length and style
- Massive seller with great reviews
- Pronounced finger guard
- Excellent quality steel
- Lifetime warranty against defects and workmanship
- Less stylish, more basic look
Mercer Culinary Renaissance Slicing Knife
The Mercer Culinary Renaissance gets our vote for best affordable carving knife. It’s an 11-inch knife with a practical, utilitarian look. However, other options are available including one with rosewood handles.
The main thing that stands about the Mercer Culinary Slicing Knife is that for the price it’s not missing anything: high quality steel (check), full tang (check), stamped blade (check), good warranty (check), great reviews (check).
It is simply an excellent value for the money.
- Outstanding price point for the quality
- German stainless steel
- Full tang, stamped blade/handles similar to higher-priced competitors
- Multiple models available with exotic wood handles
- Limited lifetime warranty
- Less stylish, more basic look
- Carving fork costly relative to the cost of the knife
Dalstrong Shogun Carving Knife
It’s hard to have a roundup of kitchen knives these days without including Dalstrong. Their knives are made in Yangjiang China, and any manufacturing savings seem to be poured back into added features.
The Dalstrong Shogun 12-Inch carving knife is like virtually all of their other Shogun knives – aggressive styling, premium Japanese steel with category-leading hardness and fantastic reviews.
Customer service is great, and the packaging materials are top notch with some nice little touches like included microfiber cloths, branded pins, etc.
For me personally, it all comes down to the styling, which can be polarizing. Damascus steel engraved blades and a shiny fit and finish make for a very distinctive look that the “classic” crowd may find too busy. That said, these knives are extremely popular.
For those that want a more traditional look, the Gladiator series may be the ticket. They’re roughly half the price and made out of a different, slightly softer steel.
- AUS-10 V steel with segment leading hardness (Rockwell 62)
- Premium handle materials to prevent fading
- 8%-12% bevel edge for excellent sharpness out of the box
- Good ergonomics and “feel in the hand”
- Highly styled (Damascus blade, lion engraved handle)
- Extremely well reviewed
- Money back guarantee and lifetime warranty
- Aggressive look can be polarizing
- No separate carving fork
Carving knives are somewhat forgotten in the kitchen as many people get by using their traditional chef knives. If you’re one of these folks, you are definitely missing out.
Having a fit-for-purpose knife is immediately noticeable when carving the latest brisket or salmon creation. With all the excellent, affordable knives on the market, it’s a great time to buy.