Would you use a bread knife to cut a strawberry? Probably not. So, why use anything but a butcher knife to cut meat? Nothing compares to its power and precision: With a super-sharp, curved blade and a durable handle, cutting with a butcher knife takes your cooking to the next level, especially when handling beef, chicken, and other meats.
The right butcher knife allows for smooth slicing, no matter how tough the meat is. The blade is ultra-strong, built for the sole purpose of breaking down and stripping meat off large pieces of bone, from slicing a lamb roast to quartering a chicken.
As with any kitchen tool, there are many butcher knives to choose from, but the best ones share a few similarities: a thick, sturdy blade, slip-resistant handle, and generous size. Though butcher knifes range in length between six to 14 inches, home chefs are best suited for those between eight to 10 inches, which are portable in nature, small enough to get around bone, and big enough to handle tough cuts of meat.
"When buying a good knife, you want to be cognizant of a few things," says chef Judy Joo. "First, you want to make sure it feels good in your hands when you hold it. The ergonomic design of the knife and the balance are both important as well, and the best knives are the ones where you can actually see the metal blade going down through the handle."
Need help choosing the right butcher knife for your cooking needs? We turned to some of our favorite chefs to point us in the right direction.
Read on for the best butcher knives, according to chefs.
“For knife size, it really depends on what you’re using it for, but because I personally do not buy huge cuts of meat for myself, I find that you don’t really need a super long knife,” says chef Judy Joo. “My knives generally range from six to 12 inches or so.”
For those who want to butcher a lot of meat at home, a cimeter knife is great [because] it has a curved blade and almost looks like a little machete, says Joo. A knife made with high carbon stainless steels or galvanized steels are great for cutting meat as well.
“When I do use a butcher’s knife, the one I use is a basic Victorinox knife,” she says. “These knives are good for if you’re really cutting into a ton of meat because they help break through all that tough skin.”
Miami chef Cesar Zapata agrees. “I love it because it maintains its sharpness, has a comfortable handle and grip, the blade is flexible to give you better control when cutting and slicing. The price is also great!”
Buy: $45, amazon.com
Seasoned butcher Heather Marold Thomason, who started her career in butchery nearly a decade ago, swears by the Victorinox 6-Inch Curved Boning Knife.
"If I had just one, this would be it,” she says. “It’s always in my scabbard, and it’s the knife I give to any starting butcher. The handle is ergonomic and comfortable and allows you to choke up with a firm grip when needed. I recommend the fibrox handle specifically for this reason, but the rosewood handle is a nice upgrade for a home cook who might not ever buy one.”
The blade is easy to sharpen and maintain an edge on. It’s also affordable, making it easy to replace when the time comes, she says. “When your knife dulls from cutting through pork skin or scraping on bones, and you have to sharpen it so many times that you grind the blade down to a shiv, the knife is inexpensive enough to replace!"
Buy it: $27, amazon.com
Miami chef Cesar Zapata prefers the Dalstrong Butcher’s Breaking Cimitar Knife, which he uses at his restaurant, Phuc Yea.
"This samurai sword-like butcher’s knife is forged from a single piece of Japanese super-steel with 66 layers of folded steel, making it very durable and stain resistant,” he says. "I love it because it maintains its sharpness, slices through meat effortlessly, and removes fat in one long slice without tearing. It has a comfortable grip, and the blade is wide and curved enough to cut closely against bone.”
Buy: $70, amazon.com
Chicago chef Ryan McCaskey is a fan of the Masanobu Santoku knife, made with a cobalt stain-resistant steel blade. Cobalt blades are one of the highest quality steels used in knife production.
“The cobalt blade has an excellent edge retention, which I like because having to sharpen your knives constantly can be a hassle,” he says. "It’s a great all-purpose knife.”
Buy: $124, amazon.com
In New Orleans, Isaac Toups of Toups’ Meatery is yet another acclaimed chef who uses a Victorinox-made butcher knife. He prefers the 8-inch version.
“My favorite butcher knife is the Victorinox 8” Breaking Knife, [made by] the creators of the Swiss Army Knife,” he says. “This knife is lightweight with a rubber [or wooden] handle and very affordable. I use it for almost all my butchery. A hidden gem of a knife.”
Buy: $55, amazon.com