Have you ever seen a knife juggler and wondered how they do that? We have. And being butchers, some days it can feel a little like juggling knives at work. Fortunately for our fingers and toes, we've found a few knives that really do it all, so there's a lot less reaching for the next blade throughout the day.
At home, you'll need just a couple of key knives. Sure, it's nice to have the fanciest, most expensive knife on the planet, but a good-quality butcher knife that holds an edge, sharpens easily, and is comfortable to use doesn't have to cost a fortune. We're going to share with you some of our most trusted butcher knives we actually use.
What is a Butcher Knife?
There are dozens of different types of kitchen knives in existence, and some of them have special purposes. A butcher knife, or butcher's knife, is just such a blade. The butcher knife is typically a large blade over 8" that is stout and inflexible. A curved blade and point or clip point is most common. The handle of a butcher knife is broad and provides lots of leverage to work through large pieces of meat.
A good-quality butcher knife can easily portion primal cuts and is also good for trimming and slicing. Butcher knives are made from a variety of materials including stainless steel, carbon steel, and special alloys. The various types of metal have differing properties including how well they take an edge, how long they stay sharp, and how easy they are to clean and keep clean.
Chef's Knife vs Butcher's Knife vs Cleaver
This is where a lot of people get confused about which knife is what and what it's used for. A chef's knife and a butcher's knife have similar shapes and sizes, and it seems they could be used interchangeably.
Chef's Knife: These are the most common kitchen knives, usually between 6" and 8" in length with a curved blade. It's best to use a chef's knife on a cutting board for chopping, slicing, dicing, and mincing meat and vegetables.
Butcher's knife: A butcher's knife tends to not work well on a cutting board due to the shape of the blade, but it's ideal for separating joints and cutting through heavy pieces of meat. It's usually a bigger knife with a blade over 8 inch in length. A butcher's knife usually has a thick handle.
Cleaver: A cleaver is useful for chopping large pieces of meat, but it is not a delicate tool. Most of the time, a cleaver is useful when cutting through meat and bone at once. Cleavers are heavy, broad bladed knives.
How to Use a Butcher's Knife
You should know the right way to use these knives before purchasing one. First, when you grip a butcher knife, make sure the handle is fully in your hand. Cut by pressing down and away, letting the weight of the blade do the work. A butcher's knife is usually strong enough to cut clean through smaller bones, but it shouldn't be used that way. That's the job of a cleaver. Instead, the butcher's knife is the proper shape and style for cutting between joints. You should never hack with a butcher's knife.
Our Favorite Butcher Knives
It shouldn't surprise you that the same knives we use in the shop are the ones we use at home. If you watch any of our YouTube videos, you'll notice that nearly every knife we use is a Victorinox. We've found these to be high-quality stainless steel knives that hold an edge well and are easy to sharpen. When you are ready to purchase a butcher's knife, there are a number of factors you'll want to consider.
Weight and Balance
When you pick up a knife for butchering, it needs to be sufficiently heavy to provide leverage and power, but it must also sit in the hand and feel balanced. A balanced butcher's knife might even be more important than most other knives since you'll likely be putting quite a bit of pressure on the tool. Good balance and weight make your cuts more stable and more effective.
When you shop for a chef's knife, you have dozens of blade grinds to choose between, but butcher's knives are not as varied. The key things you want to look for is a blade that has a deep belly and a smooth curving edge. The tip should come to a piercing point, either a clip point or drop point according to your preference, but you don't want it to be blunt.
We mentioned earlier that knives are made from a wide range of metals. Stainless steel blades don't stain or rust easily and take a sharp edge, but require more maintenance than other types of steel. Carbon steel rusts easily and is more challenging to sharpen, but takes an excellent edge that holds. Alloy metals strive to find a middle ground between the two. We prefer stainless blades for the convenience. Once you learn to use a truing iron, keeping an edge on a stainless blade is a breeze.
Handle Shape and Material
This one is subjective, everyone has a preference. We love the look of rosewood and antler handles, but for practicality in the kitchen, a synthetic handle provides more grip and less risk of losing control of the blade. Victorinox Fibrox handles are some of our favorites because they provide good grip and are comfortable in the hand even on really long days.
Our Most Trusted Butcher Knife
It's always interesting to know the tools of a professional. Around our shop and our kitchen, the Victorinox Swiss Army Boning Knife is the go-to. It's the most versatile knife on the market and we use it for everything.
It's got a 6" semi-stiff blade that can accurately and easily trim meat from bone. Paired with its rosewood handle, it's the ultimate combination of balance, comfort, and safety. The curved edge is perfect for making large cuts and the knife is very controllable even along bones. When it's time to sharpen, the Swiss-made high-carbon stainless steel takes a quick edge without any trouble.
The other knife we like a lot is the Victorinox 10" Breaking Knife. This one is a little like a combination of a boning knife and a butcher's knife. Its 10" blade and sweeping curve make it ideal for quickly working through large portions and removing bigger bones. It has a very similar shape and feel to the 10" boning knife, which makes switching from one to the other comfortable.
You may think we are just trying to sell knives here and that we don't actually use them, but that's not the case. Seriously, once you've purchased one of these knives, you'll see that we are being honest. The products we recommend are the ones we use ourselves.
Consider Your Options
There are lots of options out there for you to consider, but all butcher's knives must do one thing well – slice your steak. We like the feel and function of the Victorinox knives and we think you will find it to be an excellent choice when you are looking to purchase a great high-quality knife. We're sure you will enjoy the fit, function, and feel of these trusted butcher knives. We also recommend the Victorinox Handheld Knife Sharpener so you can quickly, easily and safely sharpen your favorite knives.
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