Guide to Carving and Slicing Knives

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Carving and slicing knives may look similar but they do have different purposes when it comes to cutting meat. Choosing the right blade for the meat you are cutting is vital, as blades that are too flexible will not be tough enough to cut comfortably through the meat and will make ragged cuts, while blades that are too stiff can be difficult to control.

Both types of knife have blades of at least 15cm to provide enough room to work with —  with shorter blades, cuts must be made up to the bolster, making longer strokes very difficult. Both types of knife need to be extremely sharp to avoid employing undue pressure when cutting, as this can produce uneven slices as well as tear the meat, making it tougher to eat.

Carving and slicing knives facts box

The following table outlines some of the features specific to carving and slicing knives, including the uses to which they are put:

Knife Type

Size

Style

Flexibility

Uses

Carving Knife

Around 20cm

Thicker, ridged blade with a curved pointed tip for disjointing and cutting meat away from the bone.

Ridged blade for more control when carving.

Carving roasts and poultry.

Slicing Knife

15cm – 25cm

Long and very narrow with a straight edge for cutting against a board and slicing large chunks of meat with few bones. Can have a pointed or blunt tip.

More flexible blade for cutting thinner slices of roast.

Slicing large roasts, pork, venison and fish. Can also be used for slicing fruit and vegetables.

Price guide

Carving and slicing knives vary in price from less than £10 to well over £100. It’s important to bear in mind that when buying one of these knives you may also need to purchase a carving fork which, again, vary in price from less than £10 to around £50. These types of knives need sharpening regularly but blades with fluted or scalloped edges generally hold their edge for much longer than straight blades so are a good low maintenance option.

Best carving and slicing knives

Below is a range of the best carving and slicing knives available for your kitchen:

Image

Knife

Description

Cost

Granton Beef Slicing Knife 25cm

 

The scalloping of the Granton Edge creates air pockets between the blade and the meat which reduces friction and minimises the risk of tearing, allowing the meat to fall away from the knife. The scalloping also helps to maintain the sharpness of the edge.

£11.54

Masterclass Forged Carving Knife 22cm

 

One of the best options for a budget carving knife which doesn’t compromise on quality. This carving knife costs less than £10 and is made from fully forged full tang stainless steel, making it highly durable.

£9.50

Sabatier Slicer/Carving Knife Pointed 25cm

 

A great mid-range Japanese-style knife made from a single piece of hot drop forged stainless. The thin blade makes easy work of both meat and fish, while the pointed end is excellent for working around bone.

£40.51

Global SAI Series SAI - 02 Carving Knife 21cm

 

At the top end of the price range is this beautiful carving knife from Global’s SAI series. The solid core of the blade is covered by layers of stainless steel which extends to the handle, making this knife super strong. The blade is hammer finished to create small air pockets which prevent food from sticking to the blade.

£124.96

* Ex VAT

Sets

Carving and slicing knives can be very expensive as they perform such a specialist job in the kitchen and need to stand up to being honed regularly. For these reasons, knife sets containing these knives tend to cost more than basic sets. However, sets with these knives often also contain carving forks and honing steels so are a superb investment for a full carving kit.

How to perfectly carve a roast

Meat being carved by a professional

A roast dinner is a customer favourite in pubs, restaurants and carveries. Many chefs have their own tricks and tips on how to make the perfect roast, with much pride and satisfaction taken in the quality of the final outcome. But all that effort can be undone in the final carving process if care is not taken.

Below are some tips on the best way to portion out your cooked meat:

  • Let the meat stand for up to 20 minutes. This lets the juices redistribute throughout the meat and prevents less juice from spilling out as the meat is cut, keeping it moist.
  • Slice, don’t saw. Use the full length of the knife with each stroke, travelling in a single direction.
  • Cut against the grain of the meat. The grain is the direction in which the muscle and tissue fibres align. Cutting through the fibres shortens them, making the meat less tough.
  • After the meat has been cut into slices, immediately move them to a warmed plate, spooning any of the juices that have run out over the slices to keep the meat moist.
  • Avoid serrated blades, these tend to tear the meat. This does not hold true for Granton Edge blades, which feature scallops that reduce surface friction and make slicing easier.
  • When carving poultry breast, start at the wing end and work back.

Carving and slicing knives FAQs

Here are some popular questions around the subject of carving and slicing knives:

  1. Do I need a carving knife?
  2. What is the best knife for carving meat?
  3. How do you sharpen a carving knife?
  4. What is the difference between a chef’s knife and a carving knife?
  5. Should I use an electric carving knife?

1. Do I need a carving knife?

If you really had to, you could operate in the kitchen with just one knife. However, this would be difficult and time-consuming. Specialised knives have been developed to speed up time when preparing and serving food — time that is crucial in a professional kitchen.

The long thin design of most carvings knives also allows for greater precision sectioning the meat, which greatly impacts on the presentation of the plate and how it is received by customers. The thinner blades also produce less drag on the meat, keeping it intact.

2. What is the best knife for carving meat?

Different types of meat and the cuts you can use all have their own unique properties. You should consider the following points before choosing a carving or slicing knife:

  • Will you need to carve around bone?
  • Do you need to produce thin, even slices?
  • How wide is the cut of meat you are slicing?
  • How tender is the meat you are using?

The following guide will give you an idea about which type of knife is best for which occasion:

Blade type

Image

Uses

Round-tipped slicer

Excellent for carving a large roast ham, turkey breast or boneless beef joint. Allows for long, measured slices.

Round-tipped slicer with scalloped edge

The scallops allow cold, moist meats such as ham to more easily fall off the blade after cutting.

Fluted salmon knife

Like the scallops above, the flutes on this knife combined with a thin blade make it easier to keep portions intact when slicing salmon and other fish. The thin blade reduces drag and allows for manoeuvrability around difficult fish bones.

Pointed-tip carving knife

The strong, firm blade makes easy work of cuts containing difficult connective tissue, while the pointed tip is perfect for separating meat from bone on joints of beef, lamb and poultry.

Pointed-tip slicing knife

Based on Japanese sashimi knife design traditionally used for delicately slicing portions of fish. The European influence of a double bevelled blade makes it good for red meat, fowl and fish.

3. How do you sharpen a carving knife?

Like all blades, carving knives perform best when they are kept as sharp as possible. Honing before use is always recommended before carving. The blade itself can be sharpened using any of the traditional methods:

  • Whetstone
  • Tabletop sharpener
  • Grinding wheel

4. What is the difference between a chef knife and a carving knife?

The blade of a carving knife is both thinning in width and in the thickness of the metal itself, producing thinner slices than a chef’s knife. The point at the end of a carving knife is designed to get into difficult areas around a joint to help separate meat from bone. Carving knife blades are also more flexible to make this task easier.

5. Should I use an electric carving knife?

Electric carving knives have no place in a professional kitchen. Their size and serrated blade can rip and tear food, while their bulk makes it difficult to perform delicate cuts. When working around bone, a handheld knife is the best option. For large pieces of boneless meat, a meat slicer is easy to use, leaves less waste and will produce thin, even slices with none of the drawbacks of an electric knife.

Check out our other knife guides here:

17 June 2016

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