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Breaking down and serving large portions of meat can seem like quite the daunting task for a home cook. Worry not, it’s actually quite straightforward to slice and serve your centerpiece protein. With the right tools, you’ll be carving and slicing up your turkeys, pot roasts, and tenderloins in no time at all. You don’t need to be a professional in order to properly carve out your cuts like a butcher or chef.
Whether you need something for the end-of-year holidays (looking at you, Thanksgiving turkey and Christmas prime rib roast) or you need the right knife to step up your weekly roast chickens or grilled steaks, equipping your kitchen with a proper carving knife is the way to go. Before purchasing, you should consider blade sharpness, grip comfort, safety, maneuverability, and durability.
To help you determine which knives are best for your carving needs, we sent several to our expert tester to try out side by side. She evaluated their appearance and how they felt in the hand and then used them to carve turkeys, rating each one on design, size, performance, ease of cleaning, and value.
Here are our top picks for the best carving knives, according to our testing.
Best Overall: Messermeister Avanta 2-Piece Pakkawood Kullenschliff Carving Set
Includes a matching carving fork
Forged bolster with even weight distribution
Blade is durable, sharp
Blade on shorter side
The Messermeister Avanta two-piece carving knife and fork set earns our top spot for its quality and price. This carving and slicing knife was developed for one of the leading culinary schools in North America, Le Cordon Bleu, and it holds up well to daily wear and tear.
The knife's 8-inch blade is made from one piece of German stainless steel. Not only is it incredibly sharp with superior blade/edge retention, but it's also rust-resistant and easy to maintain. Its curved blade makes cutting meat on the bone easier, and because it's designed to decrease friction, you won't have to deal with food sticking to the blade when cutting large pieces of meat.
It also boasts a forged bolster, which gives it balance, even though the pieces feel a little heavy. During testing, that weight didn’t affect the comfort level, and the set did a fine job with the turkeys we carved and sliced.
The knife comes with a 7-inch, heavy-weight bolstered fork, and both have water-resistant handles made from pakkawood, an engineered wood that's particularly durable. They aren't dishwasher safe, but our tester found them easy enough to wash by hand and can see them lasting a long time—particularly if you only bring them out for big events.
Blade Length: 8 inches
"Since the knife has a sharp tip, it worked well for getting the breast meat off of the carcass." — Donna Currie, Product Tester
Best Budget: Mercer Culinary M23011 Millennia 11-Inch Granton Edge Slicer
Great for beginners
Granton edge helps food pull away
Not ideal for detail-oriented cuts
If you want an option that will go easy on your wallet yet still get the job done, you really can’t beat the price for this Mercer Culinary knife. If you aren’t carving and slicing a ton of protein, there’s no need to shell out a ton of money for a decorative knife set that you will rarely use. The 11-inch, high carbon steel blade boasts a Granton edge so that food will easily pull away from the blade as you’re slicing.
The polypropylene handle is ergonomic and comfortable, making this knife a great option for beginner cooks as it’s super easy to hold and use. The test blade was sharp upon arrival, but our tester felt it could use just a little extra honing for the best performance. This was good for slicing turkeys during testing, but because of the rounded tip it wasn’t as good for tasks like removing the breast meat from the carcass.
It's not dishwasher safe, but washing by hand was easy enough during testing. While our tester recommends sharpening upon arrival, this knife should hold its edge as well as other kitchen knives. Overall, our tester found this to be a great option for a budget carving knife.
Blade Length: 11 inches
"This is a rather long knife and has a rounded tip, so it wasn't great for turkey disassembly, like removing the breast or removing legs and wings. However, it was nice for slicing." — Donna Currie, Product Tester
Best Splurge: Shun DM-0720 Classic 9-Inch Hollow-Ground Knife
Granton edge helps food release
9-inch blade is super sharp and pointed
Pakkawood blade is stylish, comfortable, and durable
No carving fork included
For the best of the best, you can’t go wrong with Shun, a classic, top-of-the-line Japanese knife brand. This hollow ground, 9-inch blade is an absolute pro when it comes to navigating all different types of proteins and cuts. Its sleek look, unrivaled durability, and incredibly sharp blade make it a tool that you’re going to be excited to pull out for your next roasted bird or tenderloin.
The small dimples along the blade make it easy for food such as smoked salmon or brisket to pull away when slicing. The stylish pakkawood handle is designed for consistent and heavy use. It’s made from hardwood with resin to protect against unwanted water or moisture damage. It's not dishwasher safe, but based on other Shun knives our tester owns, we expect it to hold its edge well.
Blade Length: 9 inches
"This made very clean slices of the turkey and the sharp tip did a great job carving meat away from the bones to remove the breast and for working with the legs and wings. It was also really good for making super-thin slices of leftover, cold meat." — Donna Currie, Product Tester
Best for Turkey: Wüsthof Classic Two-Piece Hollow Edge Carving Set
Includes a fork
Hollowed edges for easy slicing
Blade is sharp and durable
If you’re simply in the market for a carving knife for the big day (Thanksgiving), this two-piece set that includes both a knife and a fork is going to make carving a breeze. The high carbon stainless steel blade is super-sharp, making it ideal for carving the toughest, hardest-to-reach meat off the bones of your Thanksgiving turkey. The 8-inch knife comes with a triple-riveted, synthetic handle for absolute firm support, balance, and comfort when carving deeply into a turkey. While it may not be as aesthetically pleasing as pakkawood, the classic black handle has its own charm.
The included 6-inch, two-pronged fork helps guide the carving knife away from your hands and efficiently slice large birds, and when serving, it's perfect for holding each piece in place. Our tester noted that the fork tines were much shorter than others, but it wasn’t a detriment—they were plenty long to hold the meat securely. In testing, the knife and fork worked really well together and felt well-balanced.
The set isn't dishwasher safe, although the fork would probably be fine, but our tester said as long as you're washing the knife by hand you might as well wash the fork, too. Based on other Wüsthof knives our tester owns, she expects the knife to hold its edge well and be easy to sharpen when the time comes.
Blade Length: 8 inches
"This felt good to use. I could see this set becoming an everyday set for chicken, pork, and beef roasts, and even for cutting pot roast or for slicing ribs into portions. It's not flashy or showy, but these two pieces work really well together." — Donna Currie, Product Tester
Best for Gifting: Hammer Stahl Carving Knife and Fork Set
Good for beginners
High-quality German carbon steel
Attractive pakkawood handle
No Granton edge on the blade
If you want to make a purchase that includes both a knife and fork, this set is a great option, and the box it comes in makes the set great for gifting. Opting for a knife and fork set is a great choice for beginners if you’re worried about your protein slipping or moving around while you’re trying to slice through it. Made with high-quality German carbon steel, this is a durable set of tools that will last you a long time.
The pakkawood handles are designed for comfort and longevity so that every time you pick up the knife, it’s comfortable and feels natural. Because of the way that the blade is forged, this knife is extremely durable and is sure to last you through many, many years of heavy usage.
Our tester thought the blade could have arrived sharper, but that’s certainly easy enough to fix. And let’s be honest here—some cooks don’t want a super-sharp knife. Another thing to note is that both the knife and fork are very heavy, giving them a feel of quality. In testing, we didn’t find the weight a detriment, but some users might prefer lighter utensils. It worked well slicing a turkey but wasn't quite as smooth as some of the sharper knives we tested. If you're giving this as a gift, our tester definitely recommends sharpening beforehand. The elegant design and quality feel, though, will ensure a happy recipient.
Like the other options on this list, the set isn't dishwasher safe but that should be expected. The knife will require the same sharpening maintenance as other knives you own but it's a durable set that should last for years.
Blade Length: 9 inches
"My first impression was that this set would probably make a nice gift. It looks impressive, the weight makes it seem heavy-duty, and the handle design is pretty. If I was gifting it, though, I'd sharpen it first." — Donna Currie, Product Tester
Best Long Blade: Kessaku 12-Inch Slicing Carving Knife
Blade is durable and sharp
Food pulls away easily
Not ideal for beginner cooks
The advantage of a Granton edge is that the small dimples along the side of the blade are proficient in releasing food from the blade so that nothing sticks to the knife and everything pulls away clean and intact. The sleek pakkawood handle on this knife is comfortable and effortlessly stylish. The knife also comes with a blade guard for added protection when your knife is not in use, so it can be stored safely in a drawer rather than taking space in the knife block. The high carbon stainless steel blade is unrivaled for its sharpness and durability, and our tester thought it looked way nicer than its price would suggest.
While the blade is certainly on the longer side, it’s great for large cuts, like brisket, ham, or a large turkey breast. For smaller, more precise cuts, like a roast chicken, this might be too much blade. The knife comes with a lifetime warranty, and the way that it’s constructed is intended for a lifetime of heavy use.
In testing, we liked it best for slicing turkey breast and for cutting a turducken neatly in half. Because of the rounded front, it was less successful at cutting around bones, but the slight point helped somewhat. Washing by hand is easy, and since this is somewhat of a specialty knife and it's unlikely someone would bring it out to cut vegetables, this probably won't need sharpening very often.
Blade Length: 12 inches
"I'm not sure I would use this for turkey, specifically, but it would be great for slicing things like roast beef, roast pork, ham, rolled turkey breasts, and other large cuts of meat where the long blade would come in handy." — Donna Currie, Product Tester
Best for Barbecue: TUO Meat & Carving Forks Knife
This knife is certainly unique with a fork tip for serving or moving meat, a serrated edge toward the tip, and a straight edge toward the handle. Speaking of handles, this one is comfortable to hold, and it’s attractive. During testing, it took a little time to get used to the knife’s features, but our reviewer came to appreciate the different edges, and liked using the fork tip to stab slices to move them to a serving plate.
When cutting long slices of turkey, our tester would have preferred a completely straight edge, but when making the first cuts through turkey skin, the serrated part of the blade “bit” in and made a good cut without tearing the skin. It would be even better for barbecue, using the serrated portion to get through the bark, and the straight part of the blade to finish the cuts. There's definitely a bit of a learning curve with this knife and it might not be for everyone, but if you do a lot of smoking, you'll find it useful.
This doesn’t include a carving fork, but one is available if a matched set is desired. Our tester hand-washed this easily, but she did warn that sharpening will be a bit tricky due to the two different edges. You'll definitely want to sharpen by hand as opposed to using an electric sharpener because of the serrated edges.
Blade Length: 8 inches
"I like this knife because it's unique and I can see how it could serve a purpose for people who do a lot of smoking and other low-and-slow cooking." — Donna Currie, Product Tester
The Messermeister Avanta 2-Piece Pakkawood Kullenschliff Carving Set (view at Amazon) is durable and affordable and will tackle most cuts of meat with ease. If your main mission is carving the Thanksgiving turkey and you're willing to spend a little more, we recommend the Wüsthof Classic Two-Piece Carving Set (view at Amazon).
How We Tested
After thorough research, we sent these top-rated carving knives to our at-home tester, who rated them on design, size, performance, ease of cleaning, and overall value. She tested each knife or knife set by slicing turkey and also evaluated their ability to slice other cuts of meat. Then, she provided additional insights into each knife's strengths and weaknesses so we could determine which carving tool stands out in a variety of categories.
What to Look for in Carving Knives
Handle and Grip
When it comes to grip comfort, this is mostly up to personal preference. It’s always helpful to hold the knife in your hand to get a better idea of how it feels, if the grip feels natural, and if the size and weight works well with your hand size. You want something that is easy and comfortable to hold onto so that it doesn’t slip out of your (likely greasy) hands while you’re carving a large piece of meat.
“When using a carving knife, always allow the carving knife blade shape to work for you. There is typically a slight recurve to the cutting edge, and this is to help carving on contoured surfaces, like a turkey breast, as well as around round joints and bones. The blade tip is also usually very upswept, which allows for detailed slicing in tight areas with the tip of the blade, without digging into the meat. The most important step in selecting any piece of cutlery is to make sure it feels right to you in your hand.” - Matt Matsushima, Director of Operations, Shun Cutlery
Carving knives typically range from 8 to 14 inches in length, and the ideal length largely depends on personal preference. The smaller and shorter the blade, the more control you’ll have, but a longer blade is oftentimes more adept at making longer cuts and getting into harder-to-reach places. A longer blade also helps avoid any sawing-like motions, which can damage the meat.
You may notice that some carving knives have santoku blades, which means that there are Grantons along the blade. These small dimples are helpful when slicing meat because they help the meat to pull away from the blade as you’re slicing. The dimples cut down on any resistance and make it much easier to slice through the protein.
According to Matt Matsushima, Director of Operations at Shun Cutlery, what makes a carving knife blade different from that of a chef’s knife is that “the narrow blade width on a carving knife...causes less drag when slicing thick portions. The pronounced tip sweep makes the blade shape very different from a chef's knife."
Matsushima says, “If you carve a lot of turkey, blade length and tip sweep may be more important than if you are frequently carving whole chickens. Besides the recurve and upsweep of the tip, blade thickness and blade rigidity are important if you are going to be using it on other proteins.” Always consider the types of protein that you’ll be carving before purchasing a new knife.
Are carving knives serrated?
Generally speaking, carving knives are not serrated because the jagged edges can be rough on tender cuts of meat. Serrated blades make for ideal bread knives, not carving knives. Carving knife blades are toothless and typically straight or slightly curved. The long, pointed blade makes it easier to cut even slices and maneuver around bones or cartilage.
What is the difference between a slicing knife and a carving knife?
Slicing knives and carving knives are the same and the names can be used interchangeably. Both are ideal for carving large portions of meat or poultry.
How do you sharpen a carving knife?
Carving knives are sharpened like you would sharpen any chef’s knife. They should be regularly honed to keep the blade straight, and when the blade begins to dull, it should be sharpened on a whetstone until the blade is fresh and pointy.
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
Sara Tane has written nearly a dozen buying guides for The Spruce Eats, understanding what consumers and cooks need to consider before making a new purchase for their culinary adventures. She is a professionally trained chef and has worked in restaurants and test kitchens. After researching different carving knives and their designs, she can help you find the best carving knife for all of your poultry and meat slicing needs. She also interviewed Matt Matsushima, Director of Operations for Shun Cutlery, for additional research and insight into carving knives.
Donna Currie, who has tested over 100 products for The Spruce Eats, personally tested all of the carving knives on this list. She also tested carving boards and mail order turkeys, so she knows how to stock your kitchen for Thanksgiving meals and much more.