Standing at the head of the table and soaking in the hungry, expectant gazes of your friends and extended family is just not the time to discover that your chef’s knife simply isn’t up to the task of carving that perfectly roasted bird. Prepare in advance by selecting a high-quality carving set, and you’ll be turning those hungry looks into satisfied belches in no time.
A carving set belongs in every cook’s arsenal—get a good one, and you’ll find plenty of reasons to use it for more than one meal a year. Prime rib and Sunday roast chicken come to mind. There are good options available at within different price ranges (like this and this and this) so it should be easy to find one that works for you.
The basic carving set has two components: a slicing knife and a carving fork. While they come in several different shapes and sizes, there are a few key things to keep in mind when purchasing.
First, the knife should feature a long, narrow blade designed for slicing. A long knife allows you to make long, steady cuts without sawing or tearing and is essential for clean-looking, uniform slices. A straight edge is generally preferable to serrations (and is much easier to care for), and while it’s not strictly necessary, a hollow-ground edge can help keep slices from sticking to the blade.
As always, the best knife is the one that you’re comfortable holding and using. Pay attention to reviews and ratings, but you shouldn’t feel like you’re doing something wrong if you just don’t like the balance or blade geometry of a highly rated knife. Go with what works for you.
The ideal carving fork should feature two long, narrow tines—you want something that will hold the meat securely without leaving huge holes in the slices—and a sturdy, comfortable handle. The fork is important because it lets you hold the meat steady without touching it directly, and it’s also great for getting those juicy slices to your guests’ plates.
Carving forks are either curved or straight—which option you should choose comes down to personal preference rather than a rule. I find curved forks make plating slightly easier, and straight forks better for steadying meat while slicing.
Either way, don’t worry too much about losing juices by piercing the meat—if you haven’t overcooked the meat and have let it rest properly, the small amount of juice loss caused by the fork isn’t going to matter.
Now that you’ve got an idea of what to look for in a carving set, make sure you check out our handy how-to carving guide for tips and tricks.
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