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A while back, I had a conversation with a purveyor of knives. I asked her to recommend two knives; a general purpose knife and something to use to carve a turkey, steak etc. Both her recommendations surprised me; one was a 175 mm Santoku, the other was a 150 mm universal knife (this one: http://shop.skjerp-deg.no/index.php?route=product/product&path=59_60_80&product_id=100)

The reason I was surprised at the second, was that I was expecting her to recommend something at least 180 mm long.

So, to my question: what are the relative advantages of using a long carving knife, as opposed to a short one?

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2 Answers

up vote 2 down vote accepted

A very long blade is only useful in specialty situations, such as cutting very thin slices from wide cuts like an entire top round, or a full sized ham where there is no bone to be negotiated around (in the ham, the slice is only down through half, until the bone is reached).

Otherwise, for more typical home carving purposes, extra length just gets in the way, especially for oddly shaped meats like an actual turkey. I find that a traditional chef's knife or my santuko are the best tools for most home carving jobs—and they are also useful for many other purposes.

I have a 10 inch (25 cm) granton ham slicer, but I never use it for carving: it is reserved for slicing layer cakes in half horizontally in one pass.

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She was attempting to suggest a Japanese-style "petty" knife (small version of a gyuto) in place of a European-style carving knife. The carving knife is generally longer than 20cm, and while thinner than a chef's knife to aid in slicing, is still robust enough to tackle the joints of cooked poultry, aided by its pointed tip. A slicer is longer still, and designed only for cutting slices from a roast: it may not even have a point at the tip. It will be long - this is because back-and-forth sawing required by shorter knives can pull apart tender meat and easily leave the initial plane of the cut as you saw, leaving you with rough-looking and uneven slices.

If you're looking for a pure slicer in a Japanese style for elegant slices of turkey breast or steak fajitas, a yanagi or sujihiki would serve you better than a petty - the santoku should be fine for jointing a cooked bird or rack of ribs. (American celebrity chef Rachael Ray uses hers for this purpose all the time on her TV show.)

She may have suggested the petty due to the thinness of the blade... or she may not have had a proper slicer in stock at the time.

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(Links are to a forum where informed participants respond to questions about the knife types - english language articles not from retailers or manufacturers are difficult to come by for Japanese style cutlery.) –  RI Swamp Yankee Sep 17 '13 at 12:54
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