Carving Knives: The Basics
A carving knife is designed for the purpose of cutting thin slices of meat. It is a large knife, generally between eight and 15 inches long, but it is typically thinner than a chef’s knife. This allows the carving knife to make thinner slices than chef’s or slicing knives. Carving knives are generally used for cutting pork, poultry, roasts, ham, beef, or other large cooked meats.
Carving knives can be constructed of various metals. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages. Carbon steel is commonly used in the blades of carving knives. Carbon steel is an iron and carbon alloy that is relatively inexpensive and holds its edge nicely. It is preferable to stainless steel in that it is easier to sharpen, but carbon steel is also more susceptible to rust.
Stainless steel is an iron alloy that contains ten to 15 percent chromium and sometimes other metals, such as nickel. It contains very little carbon. Most stainless steel knives are made from a low-end alloy called 420 stainless, which may become dull quickly. Stainless is, however, highly resistant to rust and corrosion. High carbon stainless steel is also sometimes used in the construction of carving knives. This is a harder alloy that needs to be sharpened much less frequently than it’s high-chromium counterpart.
Titanium is a light-weight, metal that takes a less sharp edge than steel. However, it is flexible and does not lend any flavor to food, making it a quite popular metal in the manufacture of cutlery.
Some knives are made from laminated steel, which simply means a combination of hard, but easily damaged steel and a softer steel that is less susceptible to chipping. The hard steel is laminated between layers of softer steels, providing the advantages of both materials.
The materials used in the manufacture of kitchen knives affects their pricing as well as their effectiveness. When shopping for carving knives, both factors must be taken into consideration. Experts generally consider high-carbon stainless steel knives to be the most desirable. Forged knives are preferable, but stamped knives are acceptable and can often be purchased for significantly less.
Carving knives come with several different types of blades that are meant for different jobs. They vary in width, shape of the tip, and flexibility of the blade. Wide blades are generally intended for cutting large, hot roasts while thinner blades are meant for hams, fish, and other more dry or compact meats. Sharp tips are designed for removing meat from the bone and should always be employed for bone-in meats. Round-tip knives are intended for boneless roasts or other cuts of meat or fish. A flexible blade is preferable for poultry while a rigid blade is ideal for hot, roasted meats.
Smooth or beveled edges are preferable in carving knives. Serrated edges are not generally appropriate for cutting meat. Smooth edges will cut cleanly through meat and provide thin slices. Beveled edges have a series of ovals ground into each side of the blade, creating the thinnest edge possible. Beveled edges also create air pockets as meat is cut, preventing meat from sticking to the blade and allowing for extremely thin, precise slices.
When taking these factors into consideration, it is important to shop for value and functionality in carving knives. Generally, a knife that is well constructed and that meets one’s carving needs will be quite satisfactory. One need not break the bank to find a reliable, high-carbon steel carving knife to suit his meat cutting needs.