A well-stocked knife block or drawer proves essential to high-quality cooking whether you're a sometimes-home cook or whip up a new meal every night. And if you plan to serve roasted meats or host holiday meals, then you’ll want to invest in a carving knife.
These tools are famously used for Thanksgiving turkeys, but their sharp, precise blades can achieve a clean and polished slice on everything from roast beef to whole fish to fruits and vegetables. Made from stainless steel or carbon steel, this is definitely a knife where you need to feel as comfortable as possible wielding it. The bolster should be comfortable for your grip, the balance should feel symmetric in your hand, and the length should be sufficient for the cuts you want.
It also helps a lot if the knife comes with a carving fork to hold the meat in place. (Though our commerce editor Siobhan Wallace, who's regularly called upon to carve up the turkey, has been known to use a large serving fork instead.) Whether you have a full set or not, a carving knife has a place in any fully stocked kitchen.
These are the best carving knives to have in your knife block, according to professional chefs and knife experts.
Dalstrong Spanish-Style 12-Inch Slicing & Carving Knife
What We Love: High-quality; easy to maintain; sharp, well-calibrated blade
What We Don't Love: Length may be too unwieldy for some
Fashioned from 67 layers of high-carbon stainless steel and a core of Japanese AUS-10V “super steel,” the Dalstrong Spanish-Style Slicing & Carving Knife is built for durability and high-quality performance, even when faced with a larger carving task, like slicing your holiday roast. The ergonomic handle allows you to exert focused control over the 12-inch blade’s movements, and the blade’s edge is fine enough to slice through fruits and vegetables without any bruising.
"I have many knives from all over the world, but Japanese knives are the best of the best right now," says Franco Moiso of The Sunday Grill. The Dallas-based grill expert is proud to call himself a Dalstrong super fan with this knife being his go-to. "This knife is high quality and very well-balanced, and just by feeling it, you know that it’s made to last. It’s probably the closest thing to a sword you can find for your kitchen. I use mine to cut meat between 3 and 4 times a week, and it feels like I just pulled it out of the box [every time]."
When you need to sharpen the blade, Dalstrong recommends using whatever method can help you maintain its 8 to 12-degree blade. In between uses, the included sheath can help protect the knife so you'll never have to use the lifetime warranty.
Material: Stainless steel | Pieces Included: 1 | Blade Length: 12 inches
Messermeister Avanta 2-Piece Pakkawood Kullenschliff Carving Set
What We Love: Made with German steel; specifically designed for culinary-school students; pakkawood handle has a nice density and an easy grip
What We Don't Love: It might be difficult to get very thin slices
If you’re in the market for a high-performance carving knife but want to stay within your budget, then this forged-steel set from Messermeister is an excellent option. While this is an affordable option, it still has high-quality features like a full tang, the portion that attaches the blade to the handle and is popularly considered the “backbone” of any knife. The 8-inch blade also comes with a 7-inch carving fork to easily serve your holiday ham.
These German-engineered tools come highly recommended by Jessica Randhawa, the chef and recipe developer behind The Forked Spoon. "In my opinion, the Messermeister Avanta Pakkawood 2-Piece Kullenschliff Carving Knife and Fork Set is easily the best mass-produced carving knife set on the market at a reasonable price," she says. "Any chef who is passionate about knives knows that a well-balanced knife needs to have a full tang. The Messermeister Carving Knife provides that full tang experience on the knife as well as the accompanying fork."
Material: Stainless steel | Pieces Included: 2 (one knife, one fork) | Blade Length: 8 inches
Kamikoto 13-Inch Yanagiba
What We Love: Made with extra-hard Honshu steel, can be used as your everyday knife, lifetime guarantee
What We Don't Love: Requires maintenance
Many chefs believe that a top-notch knife warrants a higher level of financial investment, and while the Kamikoto 13-inch Yanagiba costs a pretty penny, Junya Watanabe executive chef of Rakiraki Ramen, The Yasai, and Matsuoka in San Diego insists that it’s well worth its price. "Crafted the traditional way, this knife is made with hard Japanese steel, which keeps the edge sharp for longer," he says. "The knife is great for pretty much all cuts of various meats, as well as for everyday kitchen use. If you are cutting for precision with ingredients like sashimi and vegetables, this knife will cover those needs."
If you're not familiar with different Japanese steels, this one is made from Honshu steel, which is heated to more than 3092 degrees during production. Expert craftsman, with generations of passed-on knowledge, then form and sharpen the blades to a 10-degree bevel, all by hand. While the blade will stay sharp through many uses, this knife does require some upkeep though. "It is a bit hard to bring [the knife back] to its original form in the long run, so maintaining the knife after each use is a must," says Watanabe.
Material: Honshu steel | Pieces Included: 1 | Blade Length: 13 inches
Related: The Best Steak Knives
Wüsthof Classic Two-Piece Hollow Edge Carving Set
What We Love: Made from high-carbon stainless steel, blade stays sharp through many uses, riveted handle provides grip support and stability.
What We Don't Love: Pricey, doesn’t cut cleanly through all types of meat
Carving knives that come with accompanying forks offer everything you need for a proper slicing experience, and according to food writer and recipe developer Marisel Salazar, the 2-piece set offered by German knife dynamos Wüsthof is the best version on the market. "This super-sharp, high-carbon stainless steel knife from Wüsthof is ideal for carving the toughest meat off the bones of poultry, beef or brisket, and deboning fish," she says. "Knives with high-carbon stainless steel can be honed to a very sharp edge and are more wear-resistant than stainless aka your knife-edge won’t dull quickly. High-carbon stainless steel knives have the stamina for daily, regular and tough use and are resistant to rust or staining."
The 8-inch knife features a full bolster and finger guard, for deep cuts into meat, as well as a full tang that's triple-riveted to the handle. Rivets help you control your knife, among other things. "Rivets provide knife sturdiness, durability, and a comfortable hand feel of the handle — which helps to keep you safe," says Salazar. "The included 6-inch, two-pronged fork helps guide the carving knife away from your hands and efficiently slice large proteins, and when serving, it's perfect for holding each piece in place.”
Material: Stainless steel | Pieces Included: 2 (one knife, one fork) | Blade Length: 8 inches
Related: The Best Knife Sets
Best Boning Knife
Shun Cutlery Classic Gokujo 6-Inch Boning and Fillet Knife
What We Love: Sharp and precise; comfortable handle; excellent balance.
What We Don't Love: The blade may prove too short for some uses
Carving knives do a thorough job of cutting meat and produce, but if you need the precision required to remove the bones from fish or poultry, then a boning knife will suit your needs well. These are knives where the thin blades narrow down to a very sharp point, often curved upwards.
The Shun Classic 6-Inch Boning and Fillet Knife features a curved blade, which helps you follow the lines of the bones and keep your cuts as clean as possible. The Damascus-clad blade has incredibly great balance while the D-shaped handle will prevent any accidents. It also works equally well for right-handed and left-handed users. The 6-inch blade though may be too short for bigger cuts.
Material: VG-Max steel | Pieces Included: 1 | Blade Length: 6 inches
Related: The Best Knife Sharpeners
If you're looking for the last carving knife you'll ever need, one that could be passed on to the next generation, pick up the Dalstrong Spanish-Style 12-Inch Slicing & Carving Knife (view at Amazon). If this is your first time carving up the holiday beast, stick with the Messermeister Avanta 2-Piece Pakkawood Kullenschliff Carving Set (view at Amazon).
What To Look for When Buying a Carving Knife
A useful carving knife must include a durable blade that can stay sharp for extended periods of time. Therefore, a blade made from steel tends to be the right choice for these tools. The most popular types of carving knife steel are stainless steel and carbon steel.
Stainless is a type of steel blended with chromium and is universally popular for kitchen equipment thanks to its reliability. The addition of chromium to the steel slows oxidation, which reduces the likelihood that the blade will rust, corrode, and otherwise degrade.
Carbon steel features a higher carbon content making a metal that’s strong, hard, and powerful. Those who prefer a more substantial weight to their knives tend to favor carbon steel blades. However, carbon steel does rust more quickly than other types, so you’ll want to take care to keep these blades as moisture-free as possible.
Carving knives can use a fairly wide range of blade lengths. Some are as short as 6 inches, while others extend all the way to 13 inches. The blade length that’s right for you depends on your knife-related needs. If you plan to use your carving knife for larger-scale meat slicing, a longer blade will expedite the process. However, if you need to get tight precision with your angles, especially if you’re carving along a bone, a shorter blade can give you greater control. Holding a few carving knives of different blade lengths in your hand will help you figure out which makes the most sense for your kitchen pursuits.
When dealing with any type of steel knife, you’ll want to avoid washing it in the dishwasher at all costs. Instead, hand washing with gentle dish soap will keep your knives in top working order.
It’s also sensible to regularly sharpen your blades. By doing so, you’ll both maintain your knife’s sharpness and will also protect yourself from injury as duller knives tend to result in a higher frequency of kitchen knife wounds. Some carving knives can be sharpened with an electric sharpener, but when working with these high-value tools, you’re generally better off using a classic manual whetstone sharpener.
What’s the difference between a carving knife and a slicing knife?
Many home cooks assume that carving knives and slicing knives can be used interchangeably and, in some cases, they’re right about that. However, a carving knife is typically formulated to deal with large cuts of cooked meats, so it features a narrower blade than a slicing knife so that it can closely cut along a bone.
Which types of meat should be carved?
In the simplest terms, there’s no limit to the types of meat (and produce) that can be cut with a carving knife. That said, these knives were developed for roasted meats, so they’re especially useful if you work with turkey, roast beef, whole chickens. brisket, and whole fish.
Why Trust Simply Recipes?
Taylor Tobin is an Austin, Texas-based freelance journalist who specializes in recipe testing and deep-dives into popular dishes, drinks, ingredients, and pieces of kitchen equipment. She treasures her own set of Japanese steel knives, but she also looks forward to adding the Wüsthof carving set to her collection in the very near future.
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