There are few things more delicious than a beautifully roasted whole chicken, but I didn’t always enjoy carving them. It’s a fundamental kitchen task, one that most cooks should know how to do. But breaking down a whole roasted chicken took me a surprisingly long time to master, until I realized why I was having so much trouble: my knife was too big.
I love our winning 8-inch chef’s knife as much as the next person. It’s durable, affordable, comfortable to hold, and it maintains its sharp edge for an impressively long time. Plenty of people love it for carving roast chickens; we even use it in our step-by-step guide. But for me, using it to break down a bird feels unwieldy and imprecise, mostly because of how big it is.
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Carving is all about finding the natural points of separation, cutting through joints, and hewing close to bones without cutting into them. It’s instinctual and tactile, something to be learned through doing rather than watching. With an 8-inch chef’s knife, I can’t nimbly navigate the carcass, finding those gaps and natural breaks. And the cuts I make are too large. It’s just not precise enough for me.
If you’re like me, you may benefit from using a smaller utility knife instead. My colleague Miye Bromberg reviewed them, and I bought the model she recommended for large-handed cooks, the Zwilling Pro 5.5-inch Ultimate Prep Knife. The blade is quite sharp, and its 5.5-inch medium length allows for more finesse and nimbleness than a larger chef’s knife. With it, I can easily remove a chicken breast from a breastplate and ribcage, making small, accurate cuts that leave each desired piece intact. It’s perfect for all my chicken-carving needs.
The Best Petty and Utility KnivesWith a blade that’s halfway between that of a chef’s knife and that of a paring knife, a petty knife or utility knife is the perfect blade for medium-size kitchen prep tasks. Which is best?
In fact, my utility knife has quickly become one of my favorite kitchen tools. I use it to chop vegetables, slice cheese and cured meats, mince herbs, and even break down raw chickens. It’s versatile and dependable, and though it can’t cut through bones, it has increased my confidence in the kitchen. Give it a try; it just might solve your chicken carving woes (and, indeed, much more).