Want perfect slices at your holiday table? Lose the chef’s knife.
Published Oct. 1, 2015. Appears in Cook's Country TV Season 9: Biting into the Big Easy
There you are at the head of the table, with family and friends arrayed expectantly on either side. You’ve got a carving fork in one hand and a chef’s knife in the other. It doesn’t end well: Before long, the rosy roast is reduced to a pitiful pile of slabs and shaggy slivers.
If you’re spending time and money on a special meal, it’s worth getting the right tool to serve it. Unlike shorter chef’s knives and pointed, flexible carving knives, slicing knives are long and straight for smooth, even slicing. They have rounded tips so as to be less threatening for tableside serving.
For years, when we wanted perfect slices, we turned to a nearly $55 12-inch slicing knife from Victorinox. To see if it’s still the best, we retested it against seven new knives, priced from roughly $28 to $118, by slicing more than 150 pounds of turkey breast and roast beef and rating each knife on its handle, blade, sharpness, and agility.
Comfortable, grippy handles were imperative, as was the right degree of flexibility: Bendy blades bailed out midcut, leaving behind ragged slices. Stiff blades went where they wanted, not where we asked. Subtle but present flexibility allowed for control and strength.
Length mattered, too. We had to insert shorter blades to the hilt to get a full slice, causing our knuckles to brush against the meat; longer blades gave us more room to work. We also liked taller blades because they put more distance between our fingers and the sharpened edge. Called a bevel, this edge tapers to a point like a V and ranged from 14 to 20 degrees wide on either side, depending on the knife. As in our chef’s knife evaluations, we preferred narrower blades because they’re sharper.
Lastly, when it came to those scalloped divots called Grantons that dot the side of many knives, we preferred blades with them. And we spoke to N. Brian Huegel, knife expert and owner of Country Knives Inc., in Intercourse, Pennsylvania, to understand why. According to Huegel, Grantons break up the resistance on the blade, and the reduced friction makes it easier to cut even slices, thick or thin.
In the end, our old favorite wowed us all over again. “I feel like I can do anything with this knife,” said one tester. It was long, tall, sharp, and just flexible enough to give us utter control and perfect slices.
The mission of America’s Test Kitchen Reviews is to find the best equipment and ingredients for the home cook through rigorous, hands-on testing. We stand behind our winners so much that we even put our seal of approval on them.