Butcher knives are ancient kitchen tools that still resemble their original forms. Long ago they were used for butchering animals. Today, they are still sometimes used for this task, but have a much wider range of applications.
Butcher knives are essential elements of a chef’s overall toolkit. Any task that involves cutting, stripping or splitting meat will likely require a butcher knife. Butcher knives can also be used for carving and preparing very thin cuts of meat that has already been cooked and prepared.
Potential uses for a butcher knife include:
Preparing animal meat
Carving prepared and cooked meat
Producing thin cuts
As such, a butcher knife is a crucial cornerstone of any chef’s at-home kitchen knife set. It is only one tool among many, but without it you may find yourself floundering for the right knife for the job.
This explains why people are so adamant about quality when buying their butcher knives. There are many factors to look out for when getting a butcher knife, professional or otherwise.
What to Look for in a Professional Butcher Knife
Chefs consider many aspects of a knife when choosing a professional butcher knife to use in their cooking. This can include things like:
Whether you want a chef knife, butcher knife or all around knife
Edge style and sharpness
Some people use a chef knife or all-purpose knife in place of a specific butcher knife. This can work for some people who don’t need a knife suited specifically to butchering. For example, you can get clean, thin slices of meat with other types of knives that are not specifically a butcher’s knife. So if you don’t have to prepare your meat ever, then you may opt for a different type of knife.
When it comes to professional butcher knives, though, the quality and style of the edge is a big deal. Professionals tend to prefer blades that include high carbon steel content, which helps keep the knife blade sharp over time, even during heavy usage. In contrast, a stamped steel butcher knife is cheaper, but not as durable, making them worse-suited to professional uses.
Butchering meat requires a sturdy grip. The work can get messy, making your hand and the surfaces you’re cutting on slippery. Having a reliable handle with a sturdy grip is therefore a major factor for professionals buying butcher knives. It is too easy to slip and cut yourself or ruin your meat when your handle is not reliable.
Finally, when it comes to shape, many modern professional butcher knives are actually slightly curved, contrary to the popular notion of a huge, heavy, square blade. A curved blade mirrors the look of a scimitar, a curved sword, and slices through meat butter than a flat, square blade.
What about Butcher Knife Sets?
Often a butcher knife is just one element of a larger knife set, or specifically a butcher knife set.
It is absolutely possible to buy your butcher knife as part of a butcher knife or general knife set. This can be an easy way to add a butcher knife to your kitchen knife collection. However, you should be wary of a few factors. You may not be able to get a good look at the butcher knife in particular when it is part of the set so make sure you are getting your butcher knife set from a brand you know and trust. The quality of the other knives in the set will likely be reflective of the quality of the butcher knife.
If you are only interested in a butcher knife, it is not advisable to get an entire knife set, as this will only result in you getting a bunch of other knives you don’t really want or need. The exception is a butcher knife set, which will include several butcher knives. Most knife sets are not only butcher knives and include a lot of variety. However, it is possible to get a butcher knife set that has a couple different butcher knives and other butchering tools. This is an especially good option for those looking to butcher their own meat from start to finish.
These sets do not look like other types of knife sets. They often include additional tools that you wouldn’t normally associate with cooking or the kitchen. This includes things like saws, scissors and other tools. This may seem strange, but it makes sense for sportsmen looking for a butcher knife set to take with them hunting.
Buying a Japanese Butcher Knife
Japanese butcher knives are renowned for quality and durability. Japanese butcher knives have a long history as great knives. They are particularly excellent when it comes to butchering fish, in addition to animal meat.
There are some types of Japanese butcher knives that are specifically designed for fish, such as the deba and yanagiba knives. However, other Japanese butcher knives are all purpose and suited to a range of butchering tasks. While some of the blades are very curved, others are straight. Some Japanese butcher knives are even hand made. Stainless steel is a reliable material that is used for many types of knives, including Japanese butcher knives.
Can you Buy a Butcher Block Knife Set?
If you are looking for both a butcher knife and a butcher block, you will likely have to buy both items separately. While butcher knives are commonly included in many types of knife sets, the butcher block is generally a separate item. This heavy cutting block is great for butcher knives because it won’t get ruined by the sharp, heavy blade. Cutting blocks that aren’t meant for butcher knives take a lot of damage if you use a butcher knife on them. They also aren’t as good for cutting meat on, whereas a butcher block is specifically for cutting meat with a butcher knife.
Unfortunately, it is hard to find these items as a set. But usually the same brand and store that sells the butcher knife will also sell a butcher block. So while it is hard to find a set, it is easy to find matching pieces produced by the same manufacturer.