What features to look for in a butcher’s knife
A butcher’s knife tends to get used frequently so reliability is hugely important. The blade needs to maintain a sharp edge even after prolonged use. Cutting meat, sinew, fish skin and small bones with a blunt knife is frustrating and also a safety concern. Of course, a blade can be sharpened but it’d be much easier to simply have a knife that keeps on cutting.
Look for knives manufactured from high carbon steel if you want a reliable, durable blade which can withstand the rough treatment often dished out by an at-home butcher.
Look for a full tang knife for added strength. This is where the knife is one solid piece with the handle pinned onto the blade.
Butchering can get messy. Blood, fat and juices will often end up on the handle – it’s hard to avoid. This can become a safety concern due to slippage. To reduce this danger, look for a handle that has a textured surface or some kind of material that reduces slipping. Nylon is particularly effective at assisting with a non-slip grip.
Comfort is also an important factor when looking at the handle. Choose a knife that offers an ergonomic design or that looks comfortable. If your hands are small, consider a lighter handle that won’t wear you down after a few minutes.
Knives with a pakka handle are a good option: they look impressive but, more importantly, they contain anti-bacterial properties, reducing the chance of food contamination.
A butcher’s knife isn’t designed to cut soft vegetable, although some of them can certainly perform this task. They’re designed to get the job done when cutting meat, as well as more demanding sinew, cartilage, tough skin, small bones and more.
It is not the job of a butcher’s knife to chop through larger bones such as beef or deer bones. Instead, you’re better off with a saw for this task. You may be able to cut larger bones with a cleaver, but the bone will often chip which is undesirable. You’ll also put undue stress on the knife.
To get excellent cutting performance, look for knives that have a blade made from steel.
Whilst not essential, it’s a good idea use a cleaver and traditional butcher’s knife if you want to effectively butcher large cuts. The cleaver excels at chopping with brute force through tough sections of the cut or small bones. On the other hand, traditional straight knives with a stamped blade offer flexibility. This is very handy when you need to bend around the bone and get into hard to reach spots. Ever tried to cut a tomahawk steak before? You’ll need to keep some of the meat on the bone so you can’t simply chop the bone off.
Don’t underestimate the maintenance required to keep your knife in optimum condition. You will find that some knives keep their edge, even after frequent rigorous usage. Others will require frequent sharpening. Stainless steel blades tend to lose their edge relatively quickly – some will require sharpening before each use. Carbon steel, on the other hand, may last several months without the need for sharpening.
Looks are important. If you’re going to shell out good money for a quality knife, you need to be happy with it’s visual appearance. This is a personal preference and it is hard to offer too much advice here.
It’s important that your knife retains its good looks long after purchase. Check to make sure your knife is stain and rust free.
For added peace of mind, look for a butcher’s knife that approved by the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF). This approval isn’t easy to get; knives that conform to NSF standards have been rigorously tested for proficiency and safety as well as meeting health specifications. Knives that meet the standard are marked to show they conform.
Butchery Knife Brands
In the United States there are a range of brands that have stood the test of time. They are synonymous with producing quality knives that do the job they’re designed for. Look for brands like F. Dick, Dexter-Russell, Rada and Victorinox. They supply meat processing plants with their tools and if they work at commercial scale, they’ll certainly be a loyal servant to the home butcher.
Buying a butcher’s knife that lasts the distance is an important consideration. The addition of chromium to the blade can make all the difference to the knife’s resilience to corrosion from dishwasher detergents. If you prefer to wash you favorite utensils by hand then this won’t be such an issue.
Things don’t always go to plan. It’s reassuring to know that your knife is covered by warranty. This is usually a signal that the manufacturer is confident in their product performing over the long term. But no brand gets it right 100% of the time; with a warranty you can return it, trouble free for a replacement.
Multi purpose knives
Do you only want one knife for multiple uses including vegetable preparation? Most of the cleavers aren’t ideal for this purpose so you may want to look for a traditional straight butcher’s knife. Ideally though, look to buy a range of knives to cover different uses.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you use a butcher’s knife to cut bones?
A butcher’s knife is suited to cutting meat, cartilage, sinew, tough skin and small bones. Although some cleavers can hack through larger bones, we recommend using a saw for this task to avoid chipping the bone or damaging the knife. A traditional straight butcher’s knife is capable of cutting between between the bones, allowing you to slice large cuts into more manageable pieces.
How do I sharpen a knife?
There are a variety of options. A simple option is a knife sharpener. The preferred method is using a whetstone: hold the blade at a 10-15 degree angle to the stone and push the knife backwards and forwards about 5 times. Water wheels and Rodas and Steel are other options for sharpening a knife.
Do these knives come with sheaths?
Out of the above list, only the Dalstrong Cleaver 9” includes a sheath. For the other knives, check with the manufacturer as some offer them as separate products.
How long is a butcher’s knife?
They can vary greatly depending on the style and brand. They can range from smaller 5” blades up to 12” and longer. Choose a length that suits your needs, size and strength.
Can you place knives in the dishwasher?
If it is a carbon steel knife you should hand wash it, stainless steel knives are dishwasher safe.
What is full tang?
This is where the knife is one solid piece with the handle pinned onto the blade. This is a desirable feature adding durability to the knife.
If you want to cut your own meat, then you’ll need a Butcher’s Knife that can do the job, maybe two if you really want to get serious. Chopping your own meat not only give a sense of satisfaction, it saves money and allows for freshly cut meat which always tastes better. If you want the best, then it’s hard to go past the Dalstrom Cleaver for cutting power, blade quality and design quality. If price is a major consideration then the F. Dick Ergogrip is hard to beat for overall blade sharpness, durability and price.
If your budget allows it, you’d do well to add a cleaver and a traditional butcher’s knife to your arsenal. When combined, there’s not much they can’t take care of in the kitchen. If not, choose your preferred type of knife and go for it. Whether it’s for home butchery or commercial use, these knives won’t let you down in the kitchen.