Updated April 2022
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Buying guide for Best carving knife sets

A carving knife set may not be an everyday cooking staple, but it’s a must-have in a well-appointed kitchen. Where other knives tear and shred tender meat, carving knives shine, cutting mouth-watering slices that are sure to please. Their slender, tapering blades cut meat effectively, and their pointed tips help you get the most from your roast, deftly cutting around bones and joints.

The accompanying carving fork is more than just a bonus accessory. It’s a vital tool that helps you keep the meat in place on the plate while you cut. A dinner fork’s tines are too short to stabilize thick slabs of meat, but a carving fork’s long tines can pierce most or all the way through.

You need a carving knife set if you’re you’re serving ham, roast, or turkey for an eager holiday crowd. They also make it easier to slice large squash varieties, melons, and cakes.

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Consider keeping the box, even if you’re not giving the set as a gift. Long-bladed knives are notoriously hard to store. A box can help keep your set in good shape and your fingers safe.

Key considerations

Type of steel

Most carving knife sets are made from high carbon steel or stainless steel. Both metals have advantages and disadvantages.

High carbon steel knife blades are usually sharper than stainless steel blades. They’re also harder and retain their edge longer without sharpening. High carbon steel is not as resistant to rust, though, and it chips more frequently than stainless steel.

Stainless steel knife blades are produced with chromium, which helps the metal resist rust and chipping. This same alloy makes the blade slightly softer, however, and requires more frequent sharpening.

Expert TIp
Keep your knives sharp. A finger cut made with a very sharp knife heals faster than one made with a jagged edge full of burrs.
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Knife blade construction

When looking at knives, you’ll find blades that are labeled as “stamped” and “forged.” Stamped blades are made by pressing a blade pattern into a sheet of metal. They are the less-expensive option even though they can be made from the same metal as forged blades. This manufacturing method does not achieve the same strength as forging a blade.

Forged blades are formed by pouring molten metal into a mold. Heating the metal makes the blade stronger, sharper, and more flexible. This is why you’ll often pay more for a knife with a forged blade.

Fork tines

The carving fork is usually secondary in importance to the knife, but don’t dismiss it as irrelevant. A quality fork should have two long, slender tines that can hold your meat still without poking gaping holes in it. Besides being unattractive, large holes can allow your roast’s natural juices to leak out, which affects taste and texture.

Forks typically have either curved or straight tines. Curved tines make it a little easier to use for transferring slices of meat from platter to plate. Straight tines are slightly better for keeping your meat still while carving.



Carving knives come in many blade lengths. It can be tempting to choose the longest knife you find, but this isn’t the best plan. A knife that’s too long will stick out of most items, leaving the blade exposed and making injury more likely. Your knife should have a blade at least as long as the item you’re cutting to avoid tearing the meat. You’ll get better use out of a moderately sized knife, between nine and 12 inches. Consider whether you’re more likely to be cutting smaller roasts and chickens or large holiday hams and turkeys.

Ice hardening

Ice hardening can further strengthen your knife blade. Ice-hardened blades are typically forged and then cooled to sub-zero temperatures. This process increases the blade’s cutting strength, but it also makes it more susceptible to chipping.

Riveted handles

Some knives have riveted handles, which physically connect the sides of the blade to the handles. Riveted handles are stronger than handles that have been glued together. The best knives have three rivets fastening the handle to the metal.


A full-tang knife is made from a single piece of steel that runs from the tip to the bottom of the handle. Full-tang knives are stronger and provide more leverage than those with a partial tang that stops where the handle begins.

Expert Tip
Never leave a sharp knife soaking in a sink full of soapy water. The knife handle could get damaged, and a helpful party guest might sweep the water with a hand to help wash and get sliced. Always keep the knife in your hand to rinse, scrub, rinse, then set aside to dry.
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Other features that may improve your carving and serving experience include:

  • Handles with texturing can help you keep a firmer grip on your knife.

  • Straight blades usually create cleaner slices than serrated blades, which tend to shred while they cut.

  • Many quality knives have grantons, or shallow dimples, along their blades. This helps prevent the meat from sticking to the blade.

  • Some knife sets come with a sheath to protect the blade and a cover to protect the fork tines — and your hands.

Carving knife set prices

Price tags for carving knife sets can vary greatly depending upon materials, quality, and construction.


You can find inexpensive carving sets priced from $25 to $30. Sets in this price range will be made from stainless steel. They will generally include a partial-tang knife with a stamped blade.


Carving knife sets that cost between $80 and $100 may be constructed from stainless or high carbon steel. They should have full-tang blades that are riveted for extra strength and security. They may come with extras, like sheaths and sharpening tools.

Expert Tip
Dishwashers ruin fine knives. Harsh soaps and high temperatures mess up the handles over time, and not only does knocking around in the dishwasher rack dull blades, but dishwasher racks can also get sliced. Best to hand-wash every time.
BestReviews Cooking and Baking Expert


If you’re paying between $130 to $150 for a set, the knife and fork should be made from high carbon steel with special treatments to strengthen them further. Knives should have riveted, textured handles with a full tang. They should include sharpening tools but should not require frequent sharpening.


  • Knives with significant finger guards can help keep your hands safe while cutting.

  • Preserve the life of your carving knife set by washing the utensils by hand, even if they are marked as dishwasher safe.

  • Knives with a full tang should be fully dried as well, to prevent damage to the handle.

  • If you’re giving a quality carving set as a gift, look for ones that come with a box for wrapping and storage.

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When your knives get dull, sharpen them with a honing rod or whetstone.


Q. How long should I wait before carving the meat?

A. Most chefs recommend letting your meat rest for several minutes before carving. While cooking, heat causes the meat’s natural juices to retreat to the center. Allowing the meat to sit away from heat for a few minutes lets the juices diffuse through the layers and re-absorb. Meat cut before this happens tends to be drier and less tender. The amount of time the meat needs to rest depends upon its size. A roast should rest for 10 to 20 minutes; steaks take just three to five minutes.

Q. What’s the difference between a slicing knife and a carving knife?

A. Both types of knives have long, slender blades, but slicing knives have rounded tips. You can use them to cut boneless meat, but bone-in pieces require a carving knife’s pointed edge to handle joints and bones. Slicers are a better choice for cutting bread, cakes, and thick vegetables — the last of which can dull a carving knife’s uber-sharp blade.

Q. Do electric carving knives come in a set?

A. You may find a few, but most do not. In manual carving sets, the carving fork is intended to help stabilize your meat while you slice through it. With an electric carving knife, the powered blade does much of the work, reducing the need for extra stabilization. Electric knives will not give you the same precision cut as manual knives, but there are some times when they’re necessary.

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