While you can get away using the ever-versatile chef knife for most of your kitchen slicing tasks, it is not the recommended option. The knife's design means, at best, you will end up with thicker slices of meat or, at worse, torn or crushed pieces which affects taste and presentation. Besides the quality of the cuts, you will also lack the comfort and efficiency of a specialist knife, like the slicing knife. This guide looks at the role of slicing knives, the best options in the market, and how to pick the right one.
What are slicing knives?
Slicing knives are specialist knives for making thin slices of raw and cooked meat and other soft food items. You can distinguish a slicing knife by its long and narrow blade, and almost all modern slicing knives feature a scalloped or Granton edge. The length and thin profile allow you to cut thin slices with little knife movement, preventing crushing and tearing of the fibers.
Uses of a slicing knife
A slicing knife primarily cuts raw and cooked meat from roasted beef to cooked poultry and fish. It is also versatile enough to support other functions. Typical uses include;
- Making thin slices of pork, ham, venison, fish, and poultry
- Preparing vegetables
- Cutting soft fruits like terrine and foie gras
- Preparing salads
- Cutting bread that does not have hard crusts
The slicing knife is, however, not ideal for tasks such as mincing and peeling. It is also too delicate for cleaving meat from bones. Using the knife for the proper purposes will ensure you get quality results and protect your knife from damage. It also protects you from accidental cuts in the kitchen.
Types of a slicing knife
There are various slicing knives with manufacturers working from different influences and looking to cater to different needs. The three main kinds of slicing knives you will find in the market are;
The round-tipped slicer
This kind of slicer relies on its length and straight edge, making it excellent for making long measures slices. You can use it on large harm roasts, boneless beef joints, and turkey breasts.
The round-tipped slicer with a scalloped edge
This slicer is similar to the first one, with the scallops being the only difference. The scallops allow moist and cold meats like ham to fall off the blade and not get stuck on it while cutting.
Pointed tip slicing knife
This pointed design is based on the traditional Japanese sashimi knife whose function was slicing fish portions. The knife then gets a double bevel edge, unlike its traditional influence. These traits give it versatility making it excellent for fish, poultry, and red meat.
Difference between carving and slicing knives
Slicing knives are very similar to carving knives, and in some cases, the terms are used interchangeably. They often have identical lengths and are generally narrow. The main difference is that carving knives always have a curved pointed tip which helps them cut around bones. On the other hand, Slicing knives have rounded tips for the western style, but more manufacturers are making Japanese-inspired versions that have pointed tips.
Another difference is that the carving knives have more rigid blades to get more control when carving, while slicing knives have more flexible blades, which allows for thinner slices and less downward pressure avoiding squashing the dishes. Finally, slicing knives are the more versatile of the two, cutting a wider range of meats and cutting vegetables and fruits.
How to choose the best slicing knives
There may not be so many slicing knives options as you may find for more common knives like the chef knife. Still, choosing the best one is not as simple as selecting the first one you get. Here are some essentials to consider.
You want a blade that is made from high carbon stainless steel. That way, you get a knife that can keep its sharp edge longer, is easy to maintain, and is less susceptible to wear and tear. As for the handle, look for heavy-duty synthetic composites or natural hardwood. Keep off cheap, lightweight plastics. Finally, you want a knife with full tang construction, which adds to its strength and durability.
Besides looking for a handle that uses durable material in its construction, look for one that has a comfortable and ergonomic grip. If you are purchasing online, you may not get a chance to feel it in your hands, but you can tell how its shape and size will fit in your hand from the picture. The handle should also balance the rest of the knife and not be heavy to be cumbersome to operate.
The blade does the most work of all parts of a knife. So, you want to pay as much attention to the details as possible. Any slight differences between models can change the functioning and suitability of the knife for your purpose.
First, consider the length of the blade. As a blade that is too long will be hard to manoeuvre, and a blade too short will not make smooth cuts as you will require repeated strokes. The ideal length is between 10-15 inches, with the rule being to match the longest food item you will be preparing.
Next, you should consider the blade's thickness which determines the ease with which the knife moves and the thickness of the slices it will make. The narrower your knife, the easier it will move, and the thinner the slices you can cut. You also should consider the blade’s flexibility. A more flexible blade is best as it allows you to have enough dexterity without using force as you make the cuts.
Another attribute to consider when using the blade is its weight and balance. The blade’s weight should offset that of the handle and bolster. The right balance gives you sufficient control and increases safety and efficiency.
The main feature of the edge is the presence or absence of indentations. They could be small dimples or scallops like a Granton edge. They help reduce friction along the sides of the blade, which prevents food from sticking on the blade when cutting.
There is a significant gap in the prices of the knives that you may hardly find a reliable average. The amount you spend, however, often decides the quality you get. However, you can afford to look for budget options for the slicing knife since it is a specialized knife meaning you will use it less often.
It is not like a chef knife that you use daily, so you do not have to break the bank for extra features. A quality high carbon stainless steel will still give you the professional quality you are after.
The best slicing knives
This Shun Kai slicing knife ensures you never have to worry about losing juices from your meat which can affect the flavor. It makes narrow cuts that keep the juices within the meat. You one need one stroke for each slice, thanks to its length and the side indentations.
ZWILLING J.A. Henckels Pure Slicing Knife
This option from Zwilling brings all the excellent features from the brand. At 20cm, it is long enough for all your kitchen needs. The handle offers excellent grip, and the blade comes with a razor-sharp edge that it holds for longer. The blade is also ice-hardened, adding to its durability, and it can resist corrosion, chipping, and staining.
The F Dick Pro-Dynamic Slicing Knife Kullenschliff achieves all you would want in a slicing knife. Its special steel gives you maximum sharpness, robustness, and longer edge retention. You also have a non-slip handle ergonomically designed and hygienically joining the rest of the knife. At 30cm, it is perfect for all your large roasts and ham.
The Due Cigni 1896 Walnut Handle Slicing Knife stands out thanks to its unique design, a characteristic of the brand. Its curved pointed tip makes it look like a carving knife, but the high flexibility perfectly suits slicing. The knife measures 20cm, with the blade made from stainless steel 4116 X50CrMoV15 and the handle from walnut wood. It makes for a comfortable feel, especially for people with small hands.
This knife is combined sophistication and high precision, and it is undoubtedly pleasing to look at. It offers you the perfect balance and extreme sharpness, all held under a core of FC61 Fine Carbide steel surrounded by 48 layers of Damascus steel. It is a full tang knife, and the handle perfectly joins the blade leaving no gaps for proper hygiene.
Where to buy the best slicing knives
You can get all the above slicing knives and more from our online store at House of Knives. We stock the most comprehensive range of knives and knife accessories from the best brands locally. We have knives from both western and Japanese traditions and hybrids too. We stock all the kitchen knives, including chef knives, slicing knives, paring knives, carving knives, and more. The accessories options include knife blocks, sharpeners, magnetic boards, and more.