The Best Butcher Knives to Slice Your Favorite Meats, According to Experts

With a razor-sharp edge, the Victorinox Curved Cimeter 10" can handle everything from steaks to turkeys to roasts, making it an easy choice for home chefs.

In This Article

We independently research, test, review, and recommend the best products—learn more about our process. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.

Butcher knives available from Amazon
Amazon

Would you use a bread knife to cut strawberries? Probably not. So, why use anything but a butcher knife to cut meat? Nothing compares to the precision of 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.

Butcher knives allow smooth slicing, no matter how tough the meat is. The blade should be ultra-strong, built to break down and strip the meat off large pieces of bone, from slicing a lamb roast to quartering a chicken. The goal is to slice meat and fish efficiently, leaving you with the highest yield and the cleanest cuts.

As with any kitchen tool, there are many butcher knives to evaluate. The best ones share a few similarities: a reliable, sharp blade, a slip-resistant handle, overall durability, and a full tang (the blade's steel should extend fully through the handle) for ultimate balance. Though butcher knives range in length between six to 14 inches, home chefs are best suited for those between five to 10 inches, which are portable, 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 celebrity 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."

"Balance is definitely the key to a good knife," adds Pawan Pinisetti, executive chef of Serevene in Miami, Florida, and winner of Food Network's Chopped. "A well-balanced knife will be critical to how well you can perform with it."

Need help choosing the right butcher knife for your cooking needs? We turned to the experts to point us in the right direction and found the best overall choice is the Victorinox Curved Cimeter 10-Inch Blade. Read on for more of the best butcher knives.

Best Overall: Victorinox Fibrox Curved Cimeter Knife

long knife on cutting board with ribs

Victorinox

Pros: This is one of the most versatile knives on the market, offering durability, ease of use, and flexibility.

Cons: This knife is more expensive compared to other picks.

This butcher knife is as versatile as the protein you'll be slicing. It features a sturdy handle that allows zero loss of control, with a blade that's rigid enough to draw a straight cut but flexible enough to remove any waste with precision. With a razor-sharp edge, this knife can handle everything from steaks to turkeys to roasts, making it an easy choice for home chefs.

Plus, 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, explains chef Judy Joo. A knife made with high carbon stainless steel or galvanized steel is great for cutting meat as well.

"When I do use a butcher's knife, the one I use is this 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."

Chef Cesar Zapata of Phuc Yea in Miami, Florida, agrees. "I love it because it maintains its sharpness, has a comfortable handle and grip, and the blade is flexible to give you better control when cutting and slicing. The price is also great!"

  • Knife type: Curved cimeter
  • Handle material: Fibrox handle
  • Dishwasher-safe: Yes

Best Value: Victorinox Fibrox Curved Boning Knife

boning knife

Victorinox

Pros: Beyond its versatility, this knife is among the most affordable.

Cons: Because this knife is on the smaller side, you may need to pair it with a larger butcher knife to round out your kitchen.

Arguably the most important knife in a butcher's knife roll is the boning knife. The Victorinox Swiss Army Boning Knife features a semi-flexible blade essential for removing meat from the bone, leaving no wasted product behind. This tool is also a butcher's go-to for removing inedible silver skin, sinew, and hard fat.

"This is an excellent, mass-produced, economical knife," says chef Rusty Bowers, a whole-animal butcher and owner of Atlanta butcher shops, Pine Street Market and Chop Shop. "Made by the company that makes Swiss Army Knives, this has a high quality, machine-stamped, stainless steel blade that maintains a good edge and has an easy-to-grip handle."

Seasoned butcher Heather Marold Thomason of Primal Supply Meats, who started her career in butchery nearly a decade ago, swears by this knife, too.

"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 butchers. 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."

The blade is easy to sharpen and maintain an edge. It's also affordable, making it easy to replace when the time comes. "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, this knife is inexpensive enough to replace!"

  • Knife type: Curved boning
  • Handle material: Fibrox handle
  • Dishwasher-safe: Yes

Best Splurge: Dalstrong Butcher's Breaking Cimitar Knife - Gladiator Series 10-Inch Slicer

dalstrong cimitar knife

Dalstrong

Pros: This knife gives home chefs the ability to take their butchering to the next level, with high-quality steel and durability.

Cons: Other knives can get the job done for a more affordable price, and it's not dishwasher-safe.

Product Description: This cimitar-style breaking knife is ideal for home chefs looking to take their butchering and cooking to the next level. This knife is an absolute workhorse, featuring a full tang where the blade's steel runs through the handle's edge. It can be used for anything from breaking sides of beef from the hook to cutting steaks from the sub-primal with precision.

It's also made from high-carbon German steel with a hand-polished edge and a military-grade handle that is triple riveted, prioritizing comfort and control.

"This samurai sword-like butcher's knife is forged from German steel with layers of folded steel, making it very durable and stain resistant," Cesar Zapata 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."

  • Knife type: Breaking
  • Handle material: Garolite handle
  • Dishwasher-safe: No

Best Lightweight: Victorinox 8-Inch Curved Breaking Knife with Rosewood Handle

Victorinox 8-Inch Curved Breaking Knife with Rosewood Handle

Victorinox

Pros: This knife is one of the most stylish, featuring a durable, ergonomic rosewood handle.

Cons: This knife should be hand-washed and might be too lightweight for some cooks' preferences.

Product Description: Look at this butcher knife, and you'll immediately notice its curved edge. Beyond the surface, this knife is one of the best lightweight, ergonomic, and balanced options available.

Here's why: When butchering, you need to be able to "work" a piece of meat, which is why the balance between the knife, blade, and handle is critical, as is the knife's ergonomic dynamic. When a knife is properly balanced with a comfortable grip fitting your hand, you can easily work through any type of meat.

In New Orleans, Isaac Toups of Toups' Meatery, is yet another chef who prefers a Victorinox-made butcher knife. "This knife is lightweight with a wooden handle and very affordable. I use it for almost all my butchery. A hidden gem of a knife."

The Victorinox 8" Classic Fillet is a great lightweight option, too. "They're cheap enough that I can get a few, keep them all sharp, and do just about anything with them," says chef Victor King of The Essential in Birmingham, Alabama.

  • Knife type: Curved breaking
  • Handle material: Rosewood
  • Dishwasher-safe: No

Best Cleaver Knife: Messermeister Four Seasons Pro Series 6-Inch Heavy Meat Cleaver

Messermeister Four Seasons Pro Series 6-Inch Heavy Meat Cleaver

Amazon

Pros: Compared to other butcher knives, cleavers are the best for cutting through bone.

Cons: This knife is large, which may make storing difficult.

The cleaver is a modern version of the traditional "beef splitter," a giant two-handed version of the clever designed to split whole cow carcasses down the middle by hand. With the advent of modern techniques, this tool was eventually scaled-down to become the cleaver we know today, typically used for butterflying whole hogs, breaking through bones, or, more safely, cutting proteins.

With the Messermeister Four Seasons Pro Series 6-Inch Heavy Meat Cleaver, you can easily chop your way through large pieces of meat, poultry, tough vegetables, and even bone. Cleavers are great for heavy-duty work because of their balance and weight, though the blade edge is also delicate enough to mince herbs.

  • Knife type: Cleaver
  • Handle material: Polypropylene
  • Dishwasher-safe: No

Conclusion

Finding the right butcher knife is one of the most personal choices you can make for your kitchen. No matter which knife you choose, they can all get the job done of cutting, slicing, and chopping through various meats and fish. That's why it all comes down to the feel — because every knife feels a bit different once it's in hand. The versatile and durable Victorinox Curved Cimeter 10-Inch Blade is the best overall butcher knife.

Best practice is to ensure the butcher knife you choose has a heft to the weight — not too heavy as that will tire your wrist, and not too light as that will likely slip from your hand. The handle should have a grip to your skin, wooden or textured rubber, so it will not slip or roll as you use it. The knife should not feel bulky or too long either. Like any good tool, it needs to feel like an extension of your hand. You also want the tang to go through the handle so it has more maneuverability and greater control.

Remember that knives for professional butchers and knives for at-home use are completely different. For at-home use, only two types of knives are really needed for meat and seafood: a large, heavier knife with a long blade for slicing large cuts like roasts, turkey breast, or pork loins and a smaller knife with a thin blade for slicing steaks, chops, chicken breast, and smaller cuts.

Factors to Consider

Tasks

Five types of butcher knives should be on your radar, each used for varying tasks. First is the boning knife (5-7 inches), arguably the most popular knife type among butchers and chefs. A small, pointed, and stiff blade is used for deboning and trimming the silver skin, fat, and sinew from the meat. This knife can slice small steaks, dice meat, and cut delicate portions. If you only purchase one butcher's knife, most chefs agree this should be the one. Look out for a 6-inch semi-stiff boning knife for butchering meat or a 6-inch flexible boning knife for fish.

The breaker knife (8-12 inches) is similar to the boning knife but slightly larger. This knife is used professionally to trim larger cuts, subprimals, excess fat, silver skin, and sinew. Get one of these if you are trimming large cuts into roasts and steaks regularly.

The chef's knife (8-12 inches) is every kitchen's multi-tool. Most butchers can get by with a boning knife and a chef's knife—this knife slices, dices, and portions meat. While the thin, pointy boning knife is good for smaller tasks and works tightly against the bone, the tapered triangular blade on a chef's knife takes care of the larger tasks. Get an 8-inch version if you want tighter control with your larger cuts for tasks like breaking down a chicken or a 10 to 12-inch version if you are cutting large roasts or splitting lobsters.

The cimeter (10-12 inches) is used like the breaker knife but also handles cutting and portioning larger steaks, like a ribeye or New York strip. This knife has a taller blade that can perform more exact, even cuts through the thicker muscles. Add this knife to your list if you routinely portion large subprimals like strip loins or chuck rolls.

The meat cleaver is the large rectangle knife often seen in photoshoots, horror movies, or hanging in the background of a decorative kitchen. This knife is used for less accurate splitting of thick bones in place of a medium-size hatchet. Get this knife to use with a mallet to butcher beef bones or split hogs.

Price

The pricing of butcher knives varies. The good news is you can find a strong, powerful option for well under $50. Our chefs recommend asking yourself how often you envision yourself using the knife and what you plan on using it for (smaller, more straightforward tasks like slicing steak versus deboning and trimming large chunks of meat). Depending on your answers, you may want to invest in the knife instead of opting for the least expensive pick.

Balance

The knife's balance refers to placing the knife across the pointer finger of your dominant hand and letting the knife teeter-totter find the point where it levels flat. This spot should be around where the base of the blade meets the handle. The balancing point is where you should base your grip on the knife for accurate control of the blade and to avoid wrist fatigue.

A well-balanced blade can make all the difference in the ease of smooth, even cuts. In addition, it takes the work out of your hand and wrist and can greatly reduce fatigue. In other words, you want the knife to feel natural in your hand.

Handle

The handle of a good knife should be made of wood or textured rubber. A slick handle will allow the knife to slip from or roll within your hand, causing the blade to turn and possibly cut you. Lighter wooden handles shaped to grip the fingers are often preferred; however, some prefer rubber handles as they are easier to maintain and more economical.

The Research

After extensively researching this topic, we consulted more than a dozen chefs to get their take on the butcher knives on the market right now. We read hundreds of reviews, compared their responses, and weighed the information against the factors above.

Pro Panel Q+A

Q: What are different butcher knives used for?

A: Different knives have different uses. If you're cutting through meats, especially steak, then a good butcher knife will do the job. But if you're trying to cut through bones, then a cleaver is likely the better option. It depends on what you plan on using the knife for.

If you're not sure where to start, our experts recommend a 6-inch boning knife and an 8-inch chef's knife for home chefs. The smaller size will provide more control when using these knives, like an extension of the hand.

Q: How do you sharpen butcher knives?

A: A whetstone is your best sharpening tool for a butcher knife and a steel to hone it. Sharpen and hone at a 15-20-degree angle and sharpen them once a week when used daily. An electric sharpener is also a quick and easy option, though it may erode the blade over time.

Q: Why do butcher knives often have a hole in the blade?

A: The hole on the blade of larger butcher knives is to hang them from a hook on the wall or shelf. Most of our chefs agree to avoid hanging knives as it may cause them to fall or spin like a wind chime. Instead, they recommend looking for a nice magnetic knife holder, either a countertop or wall-mounted version, to display butcher knives.

Our Expertise

Clarissa Buch Zilberman is an acclaimed food writer with nearly a decade of experience. She spoke with more than a dozen chefs and butchers, including Rusty Bowers, Heather Marold Thomason, Victor King, Cesar Zapata, Isaac Toups, John Villa, Brian Whalen, Ryan Pera, Michael Buhagiar, Bryce Shuman, Easton Sadler, Adam Glick, Ray Rastelli, Jr., Jacqueline Kleis, and Kelly Kozak. She then rounded out the list with market research.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles