The Best Carving and Slicing Knives for Large Roasts

Our top picks are the Wüsthof Classic Carving Knife and TUO Slicing Knife.

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a hand using a slicing knife to cut a piece off of a prime rib roast situated on a wooden cutting board

Serious Eats / Taylor Murray

Straight to the Point

Our favorite carving knife is the Wüsthof Classic Carving Knife. It's super sharp and comfortable to hold. As far as slicing knives go, we like think the Tuo Slicing Knife is a fantastic buy and is reasonably priced.

You don't need to invite that one embarrassing uncle over to your New Year's Eve bash each year (we'll never forget the spaghetti incident of '93), but it can sure make the party more fun. Similarly, you don't need a good slicing or carving knife in your arsenal, but they're nice to have around during the holidays, when those big roasts make their way onto the table. Thinner and longer than a typical chef's knife, these knives are designed for carving and serving large roasts. I tested the best-rated knives in a few price ranges to come up with my picks.

Editor's Note

Our favorite slicing knife, the TUO B&W Series Slicing Knife, has been discontinued. We recently tested the newer version of this knife, the TUO Slicing Knife, as well as a couple of other notable models from Victorinox and Mairico. We think this newer TUO is just as good as its discontinued sibling and have named it our favorite slicing knife. You can find our thoughts on the other two models towards the bottom of this page.

The Winners, at a Glance

The Best Carving Knife: Wüsthof Classic Carving Knife

carving knife

Also available at Williams Sonoma.

This beautiful, well-balanced, pricey knife is undeniably excellent at carving. It carves through roasts like butter.

The Best-Buy Carving Knife: Mercer Culinary Genesis Carving Knife

mercer culinary carving knife

Also available at Walmart.

Razor-sharp and long-lasting, this knife features a grippy, textured handle. If you want a great carving knife, but don't want to spend a ton, this is an excellent choice.

The Best Slicing Knife: TUO Slicing Knife

tuo knife

Featuring an ergonomic, rounded handle and capable of producing razor-thin slices of prime rib, the TUO knife is a great pick at an excellent price.

The Best Slicing Knife Runner-Up: Mercer Culinary Renaissance 11-Inch Granton Edge Slicing Knife

Mercer Culinary Renaissance Granton Edge Slicing Knife, 11-Inch

Also available at Walmart.

Sharp enough out of the box and flexible enough to take meat off the bone, this knife is priced extremely reasonably, at about $32.

Why Do I Need a Carving or Slicing Knife, and Which Should I Get?

four slicing knives on a marble surface

Serious Eats / Taylor Murray

A carving knife has a long, narrow blade that tapers to a sharp point. It's used mainly for carving poultry or bone-in roasts, like a leg of lamb or a ham. If you're really adept with your chef's knife, you might not need a separate carving knife—I went for many years without owning one, but now that I have a little extra space in the knife drawer, it makes for a welcome addition. I find it useful mainly because its thinner blade and extra length make it easier to maneuver around bones and cartilage. Carving the Thanksgiving turkey with a good carving knife is a joy.

A slicing knife has a similarly long and narrow blade, but rather than tapering to a point, it has an even width all along its depth, with a rounded, bullnose tip. Its long, straight edge allows you to make even slices in the very largest roasts, like a prime rib or a boneless leg of lamb. I also use my slicing knife to slice very delicate things, like soft terrines or foie gras. Its length offers the capacity for tons of horizontal motion, which minimizes the need for downward pressure as you slice. Virtually every modern slicing knife will have a Granton edge, featuring shallow divots in the face of the blade, which keeps slices of meat from adhering to the knife.

The nomenclature for slicing and carving knives is not completely agreed upon, so you might occasionally see these labels swapped around.

The Criteria: What We Look for In a Carving or Slicing Knife

A hand using a slicing knife to thinly slice a prime rib

Serious Eats / Taylor Murray

The sharpness and thinness of the blade are the most important qualities in either type of knife. For the cleanest appearance when serving, your goal is to make long, thin slices with as few strokes as possible. A blade that's too dull or too fat along the spine can make it difficult to move the knife through the meat without sawing. Flexibility is also important—a little give allows you to follow the contour of a turkey carcass or the curve of a prime rib bone. Comfort in the hand is another key quality. Does your hand feel natural when gripping the handle? Does the blade feel balanced with minimal work? Does the handle give you good control over the blade tip?

Blade length is also a factor. The shortest knife I tested was eight inches, which is too short for some bigger jobs. I recommend a minimum of nine inches for a carving knife and 10 inches for a slicer.

Steel quality and relative hardness and robustness can make a difference for knives that you use, abuse, and sharpen regularly, but they matter far less for a slicing or carving knife that gets pulled out only a few times a year and is used for only a few strokes each time. You're not really going to be using it often enough to dull it very fast. Luckily, because of their length and straightness, carving and slicing knives are also among the easiest knives to sharpen yourself if you ever have the need. Three of the four winning knives (the Wüsthof and both Mercers) are made of X50 Cr MoV 15 steel, which is a mid-range German carbon steel (marketers may call it "high-carbon," but its carbon level is pretty middling, at 0.5%) with good stainless properties. The TUO is made with 440A, a similar mid-range steel with a slightly higher carbon content (0.65%). All of the knives are good at stain resistance and come razor-sharp out of the box.

The Testing

a prime rib roast sitting on a wooden carving board

Serious Eats / Taylor Murray

To test the carving knives, I carved whole turkeys and chickens, as well as bone-in lamb legs, into serving slices. For the slicing knives, I carved bone-in prime rib from the bone, then sliced it into serving slices. I also sliced lobes of foie gras into medallions.

The Best Carving Knife: Wüsthof Classic Carving Knife

carving knife

Also available at Williams Sonoma.

What we liked: The Wüsthof Classic Carving Knife was my favorite carving knife. I'm reluctant to recommend a $170 knife that you're going to be using only a few times a year, but it was simply the best of the bunch—it features an extremely sharp edge; a well-balanced, comfortable handle; and plenty of flexibility. It carves through roast turkey like butter, leaving very little meat stuck to the bones. It has a composite handle and a full tang to offer balance and support, with a bolster that is lightly angled and slim enough to make gripping the blade easy.

If you do a lot of roasting and have a bit of cash to spare (and/or are looking for a special gift for a very close friend or relative), this is the knife for you.

What we didn't like: Again, this knife has a pretty high price tag.

Price at time of publish: $170.

Key Specs

  • Length: 9 inches
  • Handle: Composite
  • Steel type: X50 Cr MoV 15 
  • Flexibility: Moderate 
  • Sharpness: Very high
Wusthof carving knife

Serious Eats / J. Kenji López-Alt

The Best-Buy Carving Knife: Mercer Culinary Genesis Carving Knife

mercer culinary carving knife

Also available at Walmart.

What we liked: The Mercer Culinary Genesis Carving Knife is a great bargain knife. It uses the exact same steel as the pricier Wüsthof, which means that it's capable of getting just as sharp and retaining that edge just as long (though, out of the box, it's not quite as razor-like). The handle is textured soft plastic that's easy to grip. For the price, this knife is sharp, made of high-quality materials, and will do its job just fine.

What we didn't like: The large bolster makes it uncomfortable to grip the blade with your thumb and forefinger (a.k.a. the "blade grip," which is the best one if you're after precise control). The blade is also pretty stiff, which means it can take a bit of work to get all of the meat off of a turkey.

Price at time of publish: $35.

Key Specs

  • Length: 10 inches
  • Handle: Textured plastic
  • Steel type: X50 Cr MoV 15 
  • Flexibility: Low
  • Sharpness: High
mercer culinary carving knife

Serious Eats / J. Kenji López-Alt

The Best Slicing Knife: TUO Slicing Knife

tuo knife

What we liked: This TUO slicing knife is a new version of our old favorite, the TUO B&W Series (which has since been discontinued). After slicing into a juicy prime rib, it became obvious that the updated model is just as great as the one it replaced. The old version had a unique handle shape that flattened out and widened  towards the base. This new model features more of a rounded, ergonomic design and the bolster is angled for easy grip.

The TUO is able to slice razor-thin slices of prime rib with no difficulty and the flexible blade maneuvers around bones easily. The blade has a uniform thickness from tip to tang, which means you can get perfectly even slices with minimal sawing. And the super-narrow width produces less drag when slicing, while the dimples prevent anything from sticking to the blade. 

As an added bonus, this knife comes with a nice storage box, something especially handy for anyone planning to only bust this knife out on holidays and special occasions—or if you’re considering giving it as a gift.

What we didn't like: The 440A steel is on the softer side, which means it may lose its edge faster than some harder steels. This also means that it's easier to get that sharp edge back when it comes time to sharpen. Even though it’s advertised as a carving knife, it’s really a slicer (it’s too long for carving).

Price at time of publish: $41.

Key Specs

  • Length: 12 inches
  • Handle: Pakkawood
  • Steel type: 440A
  • Flexibility: High
  • Sharpness: High
a slicing knife sitting on a marble countertop

Serious Eats / Taylor Murray

The Best Slicing Knife Runner-Up: Mercer Culinary Renaissance 11-Inch Granton Edge Slicing Knife

Mercer Culinary Renaissance Granton Edge Slicing Knife, 11-Inch

Also available at Walmart.

What we liked: Another good budget option from Mercer, the Culinary Renaissance 11-Inch Granton Edge Slicing Knife is also the runner-up in Cook's Illustrated's knife testing. (Cook's Illustrated's winning knife is far too wide and clumsy for my taste.) Unlike its carving knife, Mercer's slicer has plenty of flexibility to make taking the bones off of a prime rib simple. The knife is sharp enough out of the box, though it's not as sharp as the TUO.

What we didn't like: The big downside of the Mercer is the handle design. It has exaggerated curves that make it impossible to grip other than in a fist on the handle—forget about the blade grip here. The half-length tang also pushes the balance slightly off. Both of these are minor drawbacks, though, given the decent-quality steel and great price.

Price at time of publish: $32.

Key Specs

  • Length: 11 inches
  • Handle: Textured plastic
  • Steel type: X50 Cr MoV 15 
  • Flexibility: Moderate
  • Sharpness: Very high
the mercer slicing knife on a marble surface

Serious Eats / Taylor Murray

The Competition

  • Victorinox Fibrox Pro Slicing Knife: The Victorinox is a sharp knife with a comfortable handle, but ultimately the TUO and the Mercer produce the same results at a fraction of the price. This option could be great for beginners who don’t mind splurging on a good slicer. 
  • Mairico 11-Inch Stainless Steel Carving Knife: This slicer is a bargain at $25, but the sharpness just isn’t there. For basic slicing, it can work, but it isn't capable of razon-thin slices. The handle could be a bit more comfortable to hold as well. 

FAQs

Are carving knives worth it?

This is one of those questions with a pesky “it depends” answer. If you’re comfortable with a chef’s knife and you only carve roasts or poultry a few times a year, you probably don’t need to prioritize the purchase of a carving knife. But if you love working with a purpose-built tool, if you regularly roast chicken or legs of lamb, or you just want to impress dinner party guests by wielding a long, sharp knife—then yes, a carving knife is probably worth it.

Are electric carving knives any good?

While an electric carving knife may lend whimsical, retro flair to your dinner table, these tools aren’t actually all that great. Electric knives are imprecise and unforgiving—realize you’ve placed the blade where you didn’t mean to and, oops, it’s too late to course correct. You’re better off sharpening your knife skills (no pun intended) and leaving the motor behind.

Can I used a serrated bread knife in place of a carving or slicing knife?

Technically, you could take a serrated bread knife to your lovely roast instead of a proper carving or slicing knife—but you probably won’t want to. The serrated edges of a bread knife aren’t designed to deftly slice through skin and flesh, so you’re more likely to end up with shaggy cuts of meat rather than clean, presentation-ready slices.

Additional research by Summer Brons Rylander