What Is A Carving Knife? What Is It Used For?

Have you ever wondered how TV ads get the perfect slice of turkey?

Or were you able to witness a guy from the supermarket slice a pork leg ham using a plain-looking knife with such precision?

Or have you ever tried to create homemade honey-cured bacon slices, but it was too thick to get crispy when fried?

I bet you tried it with your plain kitchen knife at home – and ended up with thick and unproportionate slices.

Your usual kitchen knife might not be the perfect knife that you need for the task.

Aside from practice, the easiest way to get the best slices is by using a carving knife.

What does it look like?

A carving knife is also called a carver or slicer.

The usual one has narrow and thin blades with a sharp pointed tip.

Its spine (the opposite side of the knife’s cutting edge) is usually quite thin, in comparison to a chef’s knife which is a bit thicker.

It is usually mistaken as a chef’s knife, due to its similarities and widely used as the perfect substitute.

Having a narrower blade with a larger surface area reduces the resistance of the meat as it moves back and forth.

If you use a chef’s knife, it will be hard to get uniform and thin slices.

This kind of knife comes in different sizes, from 8 to 15 inches (approximately about 20 cm to 38 cm).

The size to be considered when buying is that it should be long enough to match the meat being sliced, like a ham or a turkey.

Getting the proper size will lessen the back and forth movement when slicing, which may result in uneven slices or even damaging the meat.

Most would recommend getting the longest one you can find.

The sharp and pointed tip has an important function too.

The tip helps in separating the meat and the joints when carving, especially with the poultry items such as roast turkey.

If you prefer cooking a lot of bone in roasts, buy it and it will the perfect slicing and serving companion.

Completing the carving experience

Some kitchen knife manufacturers would usually bundle it with a carving fork.

The fork is used to keep the meat being sliced in place which assists in having the perfect slice.

Aside from holding the meat securely, it also keeps the fingers and hands away from the knife when carving.

It also avoids food contamination by minimizing the need to use bare hands.

You might wonder why some carving forks have longer tines which sometimes look weird to ordinary cooks, but in reality, it will help keep the piece of meat being sliced in place.

Carving knives today

Long shallow dimples called “grantons” are usually found along the sides of a modern-day carving knife.

These indentations reduce the resistance between the meat being sliced and the knife, which will also assist in having thinner and even slices.

It also avoids the meat sticking into the metal surface of the knife for easier serving or when going to the next slice.

The flat surfaced carving knives are perfect for hams, or items that are more rigid and firm.

The fluted carving knives (the one with grantons) are preferred to be used with large fishes such as salmons or tuna where the meat will just fly through the knife surface.

There is also an Electric Carving Knife available in the market (usually called the electric meat slicer) but not recommended for personal use.

It is too bulky and can slice bones too.

It can be dangerous to put small chunks of meat due to the exposed rotating circular blades.

What is it used for?

As mentioned, carving knives are usually used for carving and slicing thin uniform slices.

It is usually used with cooked poultry (like turkey or chicken), large roasts of meat (such as beef and lamb), and can also be for filleting large fish such as Salmon and Tuna.

It is ideal to use this knife when you want a clean and precise cut.

It can give you the perfect paper-thin slices that you can use for a Chinese Hotpot or bacon for breakfast.

It can also give thick, juicy, and generous portions – just like when serving turkey on a Thanksgiving day.

How to use it

For beginners, they may need a guide to use this kind of knife safely and properly.

This can serve as an instruction manual on how to use this kind of knife without getting any injury.

1. Make sure that the carving knife you will be using is longer than the item that you would like to slice.

2. Like any other knife, sharpen it with your preferred sharpening tool.

It ensures sharpness and avoids waste by having ugly-looking cuts.

3. Hold the item using your hand (away from the area to be sliced but can still hold it in place) if you don’t have a carving fork.

It is recommended to use the fork to ensure safety.

4. Start slicing from top to bottom carefully, where the knife should be facing away from you.

You may also try slicing from top to middle then slowly going straight to the bottom of the meat.

Taking care of it

Like most knives, keeping the blade sharp uses the traditional methods of sharpening like Whetstone, Tabletop Sharpener, or a grinding wheel.

Most knives are made with Stainless Steel, which makes them easier to maintain.

For a better product guide, it is recommended to refer to the included care guide upon purchase.

Following the manufacturer’s instruction manual can prolong the life of your carving knife.

A carving knife may seem to be the same as other kitchen knives and may be used only on certain occasions.

Overall, owning this cutter is the best investment to show that you would like to give an effort during a celebration – or just appreciating a good and perfect slice of meat.

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My name is Andy Wang, and I'm a retired chef. I used to work at the City Vineyard restaurant in NYC. I also had a culinary degree from the Institute of Culinary Education in New York. And this blog is where I share my love for knives and cooking with people like you.