As you know, I love to cook and can get “foodie” level obsessed with kitchen gear. My own cooking journey has included trying to make sense of all of the professional chef jargon out there to try to figure out what I need to know to do the best cooking from home.
One of the most important items in your kitchen is your knives. A good set of knives goes a long way to making sure that both prepping and serving food goes smoothly, with as little frustration as possible.
In this article, I want to take a little time to explain the difference between a slicing knife and a carving knife.
First of all, it is not uncommon for these knives to be talked about interchangeably as if they are referring to the same thing. This is probably why I was confused about the difference for a long time. I had a good carving knife and figured I pretty much had my meat slicing needs covered.
Second, the only time I had ever seen a slicing knife was at one of those fancy brunches where the chef’s stand and carve paper-thin slices of country ham for guests getting tipsy on free mimosas and bloody marys. I just did not think it was something that would have much use in the home.
Let’s look at the difference between a slicing knife and a carving knife in more detail so you can decide for yourself if you can make do with a carving knife, or want to have both on hand.
Shaped like a narrower version of a chef’s knife, the carving knife is designed to make perfect slices of cooked meats such as poultry, ham and beef. It has a very sharp straight edge that can and should be regularly sharpened.
Generally, the length is 8-10,” and the curve of the blade goes from wide at the handle to a narrow point at the tip. The shape allows for more precise slicing on smaller cuts of meat or those that require careful turning of the blade to get around tight spots like bones and gristle.
In a way, the carving knife is a hybrid between a chef’s knife and a boning knife. It has enough width on the blade to ensure even thickness on your slices, while the narrow tip allows you to pivot to move around obstructions while slicing cooked meats on the bone.
It is also possible to get electric carving knives which will make your job about 10 times easier.
Best Uses for a Carving Knife
For years I used the carving knife that came included with my very first set of Chicago Cutlery knives. I have used it for all kinds of meat slicing, but have found it especially helpful for carving turkey, chicken, pork roasts, and bone-in ham.
Use a carving knife over a slicing knife when your priority is to get medium thick slices from cooked meat that is still on the bone.
Examples of Quality Carving Knives:
On the other hand, a slicing knife is longer than a carving knife. It is usually 12-14” in length and has consistent width along the length of the blade (usually around 1”). In addition, a slicing blade often has a blunt rather than a pointed tip.
The long and consistently wide blade of this knife helps to make sure that slices are perfectly even across the width of the cut and gives you the ability to make very thin, consistent slices.
Most slicing knives also feature what is called a “Granton” edge, which simply means there are small indentations along the blade to help the slices release more easily from the blade. This can be critical, especially if you are trying to get paper thin cuts for sandwiches.
Best Uses for a Slicing Knife:
I will be honest; I did a lot of cooking for many years without even being aware of slicing knives. However, I do find that now that I have one, it comes in handy.
The main thing I use it for is to make very thin slices from roast chicken, turkey, pork tenderloin or boneless beef roasts. It does made for the best sandwiches!
Store bought cold cuts are expensive and full of preservatives. When I find larger whole meats on sale, I buy a few roasts and put the extras in my freezer. Each week I do a full roast, and I am ready for the week with thin sliced roasted meat for tasty lunches for the whole family at just a fraction of the cost.
You can also use a slicing knife for better results with meats such as prosciutto, country ham, and other cured meats such as salami, pepperoni and other charcuteries.
Examples of Quality Slicing Knives: