A carving knife is a special knife used for carving roasts (typically chicken, turkey, beef, ham and
pork). It is not the most essential kind of knife for cooking
— that honour would belong to the chef's knife — but it is
extremely useful when serving large chunks of meat or poultry.
When selecting a carving knife, the following attributes should be
A good carving knife's blade will be somewhere between 25cm and 35cm
long. The optimal length depends upon the cutter's style — if
possible, try borrowing a few knives of varying lengths before buying.
A carving knife should be thinner than a chef's knife. This will
allow far finer cuts of meat. Although it is possible to use a chef's knife
for carving, thicker blades can lead to the meat tearing into
Most carving accidents are caused by blunt knives. A blunt knife can
still easily slice a finger off or take a large chunk out of a wrist, and it
is also far more likely to slip than a very sharp knife. The harder one has
to press on the knife, the less control one has.
- The point
A general purpose carving knife will have a sharp point. There are
some carving knives with a blunt end; these are designed specifically for
carving roast beef, which will not require the same degree of poking
around as, say, chicken or turkey. Unless you plan to acquire several
carving knives, select a knife with a point.
Some knives have nearly straight edges up to the last five or six
centimetres followed by a point. This style is arguably the best of both
worlds; however, this does remove several centimetres from the effective
slicing length of the blade.
- Serrated edges
Some carving knives will have lightly serrated edges. On a good knife,
these will help cutting. On a badly made cheap knife, they are often there
simply to disguise bluntness. Heavily serrated edges should be avoided.
Some carving knives have a series of hollow recesses (known as
scallops) perpendicular to the cutting edge. These help prevent meat from
sticking to the blade, allowing thinner slices to be made.
The most important consideration when selecting a carving knife is
the tang. The tang is the part of the blade which carries on through into
the handle. A carving knife whose tang goes less than two thirds of the way
through the handle is a bad idea — not only will the balance feel
wrong, it will also be far more liable to break.
Most carving knives are made from some kind of stainless steel, often with a high carbon content.
There are very few ceramic carving knives — ceramics are not well
suited for carving.
The knife's handle should be comfortable for the user. Hands come in
a huge variety of shapes and sizes, and a one size fits all handle is
rarely the best fit.
A carving knife will need sharpening occasionally (yes, even the ones that
say "never needs sharpening!" on the packet). Unless you are confident that you
know exactly what you are doing, it may be better to get this done
A note on prices — the price tag is not a particularly good indicator
of quality. Whilst a cheap knife will almost certainly be awful, an expensive
knife may simply carry a high price tag because it is in a
designer style. Also, prices for the same knife can vary wildly
between sellers. A carving knife which cost me £30 from a specialist
restaurant supplier (I am not a professional chef, but I will quite happily
pretend to be one to get cheap kitchen goods) is on sale for £95 at a
local department store.
Some carving knives are sold with carving prongs (two long thin parallel
rods with sharpened edges that are connected to a handle). These are far more
effective than a fork or skewer for holding a large piece of meat still
whilst carving it.