There’s something special about owning a high quality Butcher Knife. Imagine having the ability to take a beast and chop it into meal-sized cuts like you see in supermarkets. Butchery is a handy skill to have, but you’ll need the right knife to get the job done.
Whether you need a butcher’s knife for home or commercial use, you’re going to need a quality tool. When we think of butchers knives, we commonly think of a cleaver. In fact, a butcher uses a wide selection of different knives: cleaver, carving knife, butcher’s knife and more. Used together, they are capable of breaking down a large carcass into smaller portions.
The best butcher knives will combine ergonomic comfort with solid construction, extreme cutting power as well as a blade that can bend to work it’s way around or behind bones to get every last inch of meat off the carcass.
Cutting a lettuce has a fairly low risk factor. It’s easy to cut through and there’s no hidden obstacles. Cutting meat, on the other hand, is a different challenge thanks to hidden bone, sinew, cartilage and skin. Safety is a higher priority and using a quality butcher’s knife will make the task a lot safer. This is mainly thanks to a handle that is designed for purpose: comfortable to wield, yet sturdy and unlikely to slip from your grip when the going gets tough.
As you can see, there are a wide range of knives at the butcher’s disposal. Although they each have a purpose, two commonly used knives are the cleaver and the traditional butcher’s knife. Between these two utensils, there isn’t much that can’t be butchered to perfection. To keep this review manageable, we will focus on these two types of knives in this article.
Benefits of DIY butchery
Cutting your own meat offers significant benefits. As previously mentioned, that feeling you get from learning a trade that has existed since at least the 12th century is special.
There’s also money to be saved buying larger cuts. As you’d expect, there’s more labour involved in cutting up meat so the butcher will charge you more for smaller pieces of meat. Within a few months the average household would make there money back on the purchase of a butcher’s knife, simply by buying large cuts of meat.
Improved meat quality
Chopping up meat on the night you cook it will result in a better quality final product. There is less surface area exposed to the elements.
The Best Butcher’s Knife 2020
1 – Best Overall Knife: F. Dick Ergogrip 10”
Weight: 7.2 oz. Dimensions: 15x2x0.5 inches.
Here you’ll find German engineering at its best. Friedrick Dick have been producing knives since 1778 so they know their stuff. They produce a big range of knives; the Ergogrip range have a choice of blade lengths so if you think 10” is too much, then you can always downsize.
The F. Dick Ergogrip is a polished stainless steel knife that offers a very sharp, flexible blade which makes quick work of large cuts. This high-end product is used by industry professional in for butchering so it will be a fantastic servant for the at home butcher.
Make no mistake, this is a breaking knife that is extremely durable. It is NSF Certified which means it has been independently tested for commercial use, internationally. What does this mean? The knife gets inspected to ensure it is manufactured to a high benchmark. The facility that makes the knives is also inspected. In other words, you know you’re buying quality when you chose an F. Dick product.
- Large 10” blade makes easy work of butchering
- The entire knife is quality workmanship
- The knife retains its sharpness and rarely requires sharpening
- Easy to sharpen blade
- NSF certification
- Polyamide, textured handle provides comfort and control
- Higher priced than others on this list but still a bargain compared to many other knives
- The large blade may not be to everyone’s taste.
2 – Best Budget Knife: Winco Cleaver 8”
Weight: 1.08 pounds. Dimensions: 12.8 x 3.5 x 0.8 inches.
The Winco Cleaver is a beast in the kitchen, chopping slicing and smashing it’s way through meat, tough skinned fish and also small bones. This Chinese cleaver has an 8” blade (3.5” wide) with a wooden handle. This tool is built to last and it’s corrosion resistance is hard to match due to a high quality stainless steel material used in production.
You won’t cut through beef bones with this cleaver, but a well directed chop to a joint will certainly allow you to dissect a larger beast. Chicken and lamb bones can be chopped with this the Winco 8”.
The first thing you’ll notice about this knife is it’s super comfortable in the hand, even if you have large sausage like fingers.
A handy feature of this utensil is the small hole at the end of the blade which allows you to hang it during storage. It’s easy to access when you need it and there’s no chance of blunting the blade while it’s not in use.
After you’ve finished the job of chopping up a carcass, the last thing you feel like doing is the dishes. You’ll be pleased to know that the Winco is dishwasher safe so that’s one less utensil to clean.
- Dishwasher safe
- A blade that just keeps on cutting
- Quality stainless steel that’s highly corrosion resistant
- Easy to sharpen the blade
- Very affordable option
- In some cases, the handle will come loose after prolonged use
3 – Best Premium Knife: Dalstrong Cleaver 9”
Weight: 2.69 pounds. Dimensions: 19 x 5.2 x 1.7 inches.
The Dalstrong Cleaver is a state of the art chopping machine that is capable of chopping its way through virtually anything that gets in its way. This tool is more than a knife, it is artwork. With it’s hand polished steel, slender lines and incredibly sharp blade, it will become a proud showpiece in the kitchen.
For those that know their knives, once you pick up this knife you’ll immediately be drawn to the blade which is razor sharp (14-16 degrees per side), full tang and is made from high-carbon German steel.
The pakkawood handle looks impressive and feels extremely robust in the hand. Solidly attached by three rivets, this handle won’t come loose.
- Height of blade provides excellent knuckle clearance
- Extremely sharp blade
- Quality materials and design
- Lifetime warranty against defects
- Looks impressive
- Includes a sheath
- Excellent balance
- It’s big, and may be too much knife for some
4 – Tuo Cutlery Vegetable Meat Cleaver 7”
Weight: 10.4 ounces. Dimensions: 12 x 3 x 0.1 inches.
The TUO Cutlery Vegetable Meat Cleaver is part of the Fiery Phoenix series, renowned for quality and selected as one of the worlds best kitchen knives. You’ll immediately notice the ergonomically designed, full tang pakkawood handle that looks great and offers excellent comfort and control. The use of wood isn’t just about aesthetics – it provides a natural anti-bacterial defence which is a bonus when working with meat.
The blade is high quality. Boasting German made tempered steel with a hardness reach of HRC56 and hand polished edges of 18 degrees per side, this knife will cut through any protein. This blade holds its edge for a long time, even with frequent use.
- Impressive looking pakkawood handle
- Quality blade made from German steel
- Unique looking knife that draws attention
- High carbon steel offers durability
- The balance of the knife is a little hard to get used to
5 – Rada Cutlery Old Fashioned
Weight: 4.2 ounces. Dimensions: 16 x 2.8 x 0.5 inches
The Rada Cutlery Old Fashioned butchers knife is a solid contender on this list. If you like a knife that’s basic, without all the flashy bells and whistles then this is a good option. The Rada Cutlery is a stripping, splitting, dicing and chopping machine – its 7 1/2” blade is manufactured with surgical grade carbon steel that is very sharp. The butcher’s skinning tip is a helpful feature that you’re likely to use often.
The Rada is a traditional butchers knife offering a thinner blade than many of the other cleavers on this list. This offers the benefit of easier manoeuvrability, as well as doubling as an excellent vegetable slicer. The long blade is ideal for cutting long think strips of meat such as jerky.
The stainless steel resin handle is light, offers comfort as well as safety thanks to a finger guard. Unlike some knives that don’t handle the dishwasher well, this handle offers excellent tolerance to the abrasive nature of the dishwasher.
- Dishwasher safe
- Hand sharpened surgical steel
- Finger guard for added safety
- Hollow ground blade offers maximum edge retention
- Made in USA, lifetime warranty
- Hand sharpened, extra sharp blade
- The blade is a little thinner than others on this list (some may view this as a positive though).
6 – Dexter-Russell Butcher Knife 8”
Weight: 4.0 ounces. Dimensions: 14.6 x 3.4 x 0.2 inches
The Dexter-Russell 8″ butcher knife is a traditional looking knife with an 8” blade that is designed to make easy work of any meat you throw its way. The high-carbon steel blade is super sharp straight out of the box thanks to an individually hand ground and honed edge.
The handle is made from Grip-Tex which means slip free cutting. Water, oil, meat juices – whatever ends up on the handle won’t cause your hands to slip. The blade is attached to the handle with an impervious seal which means there’s nowhere for bacteria to hide, washing up is easier, and over time the blade won’t come loose.
The Dexter-Russell knife is NSF Certified which means it has been independently tested for commercial use, internationally. What does this mean? The knife gets inspected to ensure it is manufactured to a high benchmark. The facility that makes the knives is also inspected. In other words, you know you’re buying quality.
- Textured, slip free handle
- Very sharp, hand ground blade
- Finger guard for added safety
- NSF certified
- The blade is thin and won’t chop through small bones like other knives on this list.
7 – Victorinox Cutlery 10” Granton Edge Butcher Knife
Weight: 6.4 ounces. Dimensions: 17 x 3.8 x 1.5 inches
Victorinox is a brand that’s recognised worldwide for its Swiss Army knives, synonymous with quality. However, they also have a long history of cutlery production, dating back to 1884. Since that time they have built a solid reputation for manufacturing premium quality knives – this includes gaining NSF accreditation.
The Victorinox Butcher Straight Granton features a stamped blade which results in a lighter, narrower blade. This will certainly appeal to those that get fatigued when wielding a larger, thicker knife.
Another useful feature of the Victorinox is that the blade has innovative grooves edged into its sides. Why is this useful you ask? As you slice, the meat juices and fat fill the grooves which results in perfect thin, even slices without any tearing.
The handle is contoured and feels comfortable and secure when cutting. The textured Fibrox material used on the handle means there’s no slipping, even when there is a lot of meat juice and fat involved.
- Non slip Fibrox handle offers comfort and safety
- Durable, stamped blade that is very sharp and easy to sharpen
- Excellent balance
- Requires more frequent sharpening that other knives on this list.
8 – Ontario Knife 7025 Old Hickory 7”
Weight: 5 ounces. Dimensions: 11.8 x 1 x 0.8 inches
The Ontario Knife 7025 lacks some of the finesse of other knives on this list, but don’t let looks fool you. This is a knife that performs surprisingly well considering it’s price tag. Featuring a comfortable wooden handle that looks as at home in the kitchen as it does out hunting.
The 7” blade is made from high carbon steel, offering durability and a very hard blade.
- Traditionalists will love this old-school looking knife
- The wooden handle is comfortable and easy to grip when cutting
- Very affordable
- Regular sharpening is needed to keep the blade at its best
- Wooden handle is not anti-bacterial so thorough cleaning is required
- No finger guard or anti-slip properties
9 – Zelite Infinity Cleaver Knife 7”
Weight: 14.2 ounces. Dimensions: 11.8 x 1 x 3.4 inches.
The Zelite Infinity Cleaver Knife is a visually impressive kitchen tool that us suited to the home kitchen or for commercial use. This 7” Chinese style cleaver makes quick work of chopping, slicing, de boning as well as cutting through small bones.
Made from high carbon, German steel, this blade is extremely durable with excellent edge retention.
- 15 year warranty
- Very good balance (blade heavy)
- Stain and rust resistant
- Full tang handle
- Looks stylish
- May be too heavy for some
- Heavy use of logo on the knife detracts from the knifes aesthetics
10 – Utopia Kitchen 7”
Weight: 14.1 ounces. Dimensions: 12.4 x 4.6 x 0.9 inches.
The Utopia Kitchen is a stainless steel cleaver with fantastic chopping ability. It will easily cut through meat, tough skinned fish and small bones thanks to an uber-sharp edge.
A stand-out feature of this butcher’s knife is the ABS 430 handle which offers easy grip and superior ease of motion.
The blade is shorter than the top 3 knives mentioned above; however, it is still a very thick blade and offers excellent balance. Once this knife is in your hand, it feels like you could cut through virtually anything. Even if you sue this utensil daily, the stainless steel blade holds an edge and continues to chop its way through meat with ease. When it does come time to sharpen it, it’s a quick and easy job than a novice could pull off.
- Corrosion and rust resistant
- Quality blade that holds an edge
- ABS 430 handle for easy handling
- Dishwasher safe
- Tarnish and rust resistant
- The blade needs to be sharpened out of the box
- There can be issues with the handle cracking
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, a cleaver and a traditional butcher’s knife are recommended 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 a butcher’s knife be used 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, a saw is recommended 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 knives be placed in the dishwasher?
Carbon steel knives should be hand washed whereas stainless steel 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.