Risking fingers and grease stains to determine the most capable blade for your bird
As someone who camps, kayaks, and skis all the time, I have an almost unhealthy obsession with finding the perfect everyday carry knife that can do anything I need it to in any situation. While it continues to elude me, around Thanksgiving my search turns to a different kind of blade: an everyday accessible meat-carving knife that excels at dicing up turkey.
Let’s be honest: It’s not often that you’ll be slicing up a whole bird, and splurging on a full carving knife set is likely overkill. So I wanted to find a single knife that could get the entire job done. I narrowed the search to three blades around $50: the Mercer Genesis Collection 10-Inch Granton Carving Knife, the Victorinox Fibrox Carving Knife, and the Tiktaalik Chef’s Knife.
I chose these knives because they’re more accessible than an (admittedly rad) $200 pro chef’s knife. (The Tiktaalik Chef’s Knife comes in around $150, but that’s because it’s part of a three-piece set—it used to be sold on its own.) Fifty bucks hits the sweet spot—especially if you know how to sharpen it properly—and we wouldn’t suggest trusting one of the most important meals of the year to a cheapo $10 blade. While a pro chef will use different knives to cut the individual parts of a turkey, the size and shape of our picks make them utility players that you can actually use for every part of the process.
I also disregarded the electric variety. Those only belong as torture devices in Eli Roth movies, not delicately cutting perfect pieces of delicious poultry for Grandma at family get-togethers.
First, I checked in with Tom Fallon, who has been working in sales for the tool- and knife-sharpening industry for more than 20 years at companies like France-based Tivoly. He has an obsessive knowledge of sharpeners and keen blades. “There are so many ways to define sharp, and some knives are practical, while some aren’t,” Fallon says. “Matching the blade to the project is the challenge.” The best knife in the world doesn’t exist unless you have a specific use in mind. A hyper-sharp, single-beveled sushi knife would be a nightmare for cutting a turkey. But for the purposes of this test, and keeping cost in mind, we wanted to find the single knife that could do everything required for carving a turkey well.
Fallon and I performed some interesting tests to assess cutting ability—like running the knives over our fingernails (a keen knife should skim the fingernail smoothly without catching) and shaving our arm hair with them.
After thoroughly washing the knives to rid them of stray skin cells and arm hairs, I set about dismantling my 11.5-pound turkey. I began by removing each leg and thigh from the main bird and separating the leg from the thigh at the bone before cutting the thighs into quarter-inch slices off the bone. Then I removed each breast from the body at the chest bone as large pieces and cut them into eighth- and quarter-inch slices. Finally, I removed the remaining bits and pieces and minced them up for soups and chili. I used each knife for every step to determine how they performed in the larger, grittier parts of carving a bird (like working around the bones) to the finer parts (like making perfectly aesthetic, uniform cuts) while taking into account sharpness and the feel of the blade in my hand.
#1: Mercer Genesis Collection 10-Inch Granton Carving Knife ($37)
Sharpness: “This is the second sharpest of the three, has a real nice grip, and was obviously designed to excel when cutting cooked meat,” Fallon said. That’s thanks to the Mercer’s thick Granton cutting edge, which takes up more of the blade than on the other two knives and has spherical dimples that allowed large cuts of turkey to slough off effortlessly.
Ergonomics: The dense rubber handle didn’t get slippery in my hands, despite all the turkey grease flying everywhere, and I felt like I could really lay into this knife—even though I didn’t need to. The Mercer had a nice balance to it because of the similarly hefty blade and handle.
Bird-Carving Prowess: The Mercer was by far the most efficient for the large cuts—like removing the entire breast from the bone or separating the leg and thigh from the body. Credit that Granton edge and long, thin blade.
The Takeaway: The most feature-rich knife in this test performed all the tasks required for carving the bird best and will be what I use this Thursday. While it didn’t make precision cuts as well as the Victorinox Fibrox or trim the smaller bits of meat from bones as well as the Tiktaalik, the ergonomics of the handle and blade made me feel like a surgeon. It doesn’t hurt that it’s also the least expensive knife here.
#2: Victorinox Fibrox Carving Knife ($55)
Sharpness: “Not as sharp as the others, but it will be easy to resharpen,” Fallon said. The Fibrox’s combination of high-carbon stainless steel and thin edge help with that.
Ergonomics: The handle was the most substantial, and the 9.8-inch blade also had the most surface area. Surprisingly, this beefy knife was better at the more delicate parts of carving than the others we tested because of that thin edge.
Bird-Carving Prowess: The Fibrox was clearly built to make perfect precision cuts on meat like the solid cooked breast. I thought it would be a tighter contest, but the thin, long, high-carbon steel blade was far and above the best here for uniform cuts.
The Takeaway: If you want chef-quality cuts in an unpretentious dishwasher-safe package, this is your best bet.
#3: Tiktaalik Field Knife Compact Chef’s Knife ($149 for the Set)
Sharpness: The Compact Chef’s Knife, with its hardy stainless-steel blade, was definitely the keenest of the bunch. Fallon used it to shave the hair off about an inch of his arm. “Whoa! It’s unusual to have a knife that comes this sharp unless it is surgical,” he said. “You want to be really careful with this one. A light touch could send you to the emergency room.”
Ergonomics: The Tiktaalik’s blade turns directly into the thin, naked stainless-steel handle, making this minimalist knife look so damn clean but costs it some grip. Holding onto it became disconcertingly difficult as my hands became increasingly covered in grease. Despite that slipperiness toward the end of the test, the Tiktaalik was well-balanced.
Bird-Carving Prowess: The short, extra-sharp blade was the best for prying the smallest bits of meat off the carcass, but then the handle got in the way again. Its short length and thin profile made it tougher to crank into the bigger cuts on the bird.
The Takeaway: I’ve been using an older version of this knife in my kitchen for more than a year and a half now. There are plenty of other things it does better than cutting turkey. It is, however, the most versatile knife on this list and would be my suggestion for anyone looking for a multipurpose carving knife that you can bust out more often than just Thanksgiving.