Best Carving Knives

Updated September 2021
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How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

59 Models Considered
28 Hours Researched
2 Experts Interviewed
141 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best carving knives

A carving knife may not be an everyday kitchen staple, but when the time comes, you really need yours to work. No one wants to delay Thanksgiving dinner because of a dull, uncooperative knife.

Carving knives have slender blades and tapered tips that make them ideal for slicing large pieces of meat. They’re essential for serving turkey, ham, roast, chicken, and other large meat items.

Some people may try to use a chef’s knife in a pinch, but the thin blade of a carving knife works better for slicing thin pieces of meat. Unlike a chef’s knife, a carving knife has a pointed tip to navigate and maneuver joints and bones.

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A quality carving knife can be expensive, but if you’re investing in a pricey piece of meat, you’ll want to prepare it well so you get the most out of your dining experience.

Types

Standard vs. electric carving knives

Carving knives come in two main styles: standard knives, which cut using your own strength, and electric knives, which are powered by electricity.

There are some cases in which an electric knife is preferable. Those who suffer from arthritis or nerve pain probably don’t want to have to muster the strength to carve an entire bird by hand — and then spend the rest of the day in pain. Generally speaking, though, many people prefer a standard carving knife when it comes to texture and presentation. A hand-guided blade can cut slices more precisely and uniformly, whereas an electric blade is more prone to sawing or hacking the meat apart.

Stamped vs. forged carving knives

If you opt for a manual carving knife, you’ll need to decide whether you want a stamped or forged blade. Manufacturers that stamp knife blades essentially press knife-shaped cookie cutters into a long sheet of metal. Stamped blades are often less costly than forged blades, although many are made of the same high-quality, anti-corrosive steel as forged blades. However, stamping cannot duplicate the strength of a forged blade.

Forged blades are made of molten steel that’s poured into a cast mold. The heat increases the forged blade’s strength and sharpness over that of a stamped blade. This is why forged blades usually have more tensile strength (they can bend without breaking) than stamped blades.

Features

Blade length

Most carving knives measure between eight and 14 inches long. Generally, chefs say you should use a blade that’s at least as long as the item you plan to cut. This lets you slice without sawing, which can tear the meat and affect its texture and moisture.

A blade that’s too long, however, puts you at risk for accidents. If you will mostly be cutting smaller items like roast and chicken, opt for a shorter knife. If you will be using your knife mostly for larger items like turkey, brisket, and ham, choose a longer knife.

Knife tang

A knife’s tang is the metal part that extends below the blade into the handle. In a partial-tang knife, the metal of the blade simply inserts into the handle. These knives are cheaper and more prone to breaking under pressure.

In a full-tang knife, the metal extends all the way to the bottom of the knife. This provides more leverage and makes the blade less likely to snap. Some full-tang knives allow the metal to show along the sides of the handle. Others have a hidden tang that is encased completely within the handle. Whether hidden or not, many of the best carving knives have a full tang.

Knife handle

A knife is useless without a good handle. Knife handles can be made of plastic, polymer, wood, steel, or composite formulas. Chefs differ on their favorite handle materials, but a good handle should never be slippery; rubber or another form of texturing can help keep the knife from slipping in the hand. A pronounced finger guard can help protect against accidents.

Carving knife prices

Inexpensive carving knives usually cost between $20 and $30. Knives at this price usually have stamped blades made of stainless steel. Most have partial tangs that are glued into the handle.

If you spend a bit more, between $30 and $50, you can find carving knives with blades of stainless steel or carbon steel. In this price range, knives should have a full tang with riveted handles.

Top-shelf carving knives start around $50, but the upper end of the range can be much higher. Knives that cost this much usually have a blade and tang forged from a single piece of carbon steel, as well as a riveted handle with ergonomic grips. Some may have undergone special treatments to make the blade even stronger.

Tips

  • A blade with little flex in it is best for carving boneless meat. When carving bone-in meat, however, it’s better to use a carving knife with a more flexible blade.

  • Never put a carving knife in the dishwasher. Always wash it by hand with hot, soapy water, and dry it immediately.

  • If you have a full-tang knife, make sure you fully dry the handle. Failing to do so could make it vulnerable to corrosion.
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When carving a piece of meat, try to keep the slices between a quarter inch and a half inch thick. This thickness keeps pieces tender and manageable while providing the best flavor.

FAQ

Q. How often should I sharpen a carving knife?

A. Some experts recommend sharpening carving knives after each use. This definitely holds true after you’ve carved an entire turkey. If you’re not sure whether your knife is dull, try testing it on a tomato. If you can cut the fruit without squashing it, your blade is fine. If the tomato squirts, it’s time to sharpen the blade.

Q. What should I use to sharpen my knife blade?

A. There are many items on the market for sharpening: honers, manual sharpeners, electric sharpeners, and whetstones. In reality, honers — the metal rods that come with many knives — guide your blade back into its original alignment rather than sharpening the blade. True sharpening requires a knife sharpener. Manual sharpeners take more time and effort but remove less metal than electric sharpeners. They can’t restore heavily damaged blades like an electric sharpener can. Whetstones, also known as sharpening stones, are not an amateur tool and are best used by those with experience.

Q. What’s the best size of carving knife to buy?

A. When you picture a scenario in which you need a carving knife, you might imagine a table set with a monster Thanksgiving turkey that feeds 25 guests. But in reality, most of the meats you’ll be carving will likely be much smaller than that. It can be tempting to take the “one-and-done” route and buy an oversized knife, but a moderately sized knife may be a better choice. A blade that’s too long puts you at risk for accidents. Most chefs recommend knives in the nine- to twelve-inch range because they’re the most versatile.

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