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What Makes a Good Butcher Knife?

By Sherry Holetzky
Updated May 16, 2024
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Any good quality kitchen knife, but especially a butcher knife, should be comfortable to use. It should fit your hand well, feel sturdy, and provide a secure amount of space between the cutting surface and the area in which you place your hand on the handle. A butcher knife should be heavier than other kitchen knives and should have good balance. Generally, the blade should be between six and eight inches long (about 15 to 20 centimeters).

For the home cook, there are many options available that offer good quality without a high price tag. Those who use knives professionally may prefer to choose a set that includes a butcher knife, rather than buying individual pieces. Whether you choose a butcher knife by itself or a set that includes one, there are some things you should keep in mind.

Should you choose a stamped steel or forged steel blade when you purchase a butcher knife? The choice is important, so it helps to understand each process before making a decision. Stamped steel blades are much like they sound. They are stamped or cut from a sheet of steel. Forged steel blades are made from steel that is heated to a high temperature and then formed into the shape of the blade. The latter type is heavier and generally assumed to be sturdier.

Both stamped and forged blades are usually made from high carbon stainless steel. This type of metal is is meant to prevent staining. It also helps prevent rust, as well as many other types of corrosion, which are excellent qualities in a butcher knife.

The handle of a butcher knife will also help you determine the level of quality. The handle may be made from one of many materials, such as wood or polymer and other synthetics. Rosewood is a popular choice, but wooden handled knives should not be placed in a dishwasher or left soaking in water, as the handle may warp.

Also, examine the tang. This is the piece of steel that connects the blade and the handle. In a good butcher knife, the tang will not just be a short stub, but will run the entire length of the handle.

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Discussion Comments
By Glasshouse — On Jan 31, 2011

@parmnparsley- If you are looking in the lower price range, but you still want quality knives I would recommend the Victorinox Forschner butcher knife line. They manufacture quality knives that will last for years. If you are serious about the hobby and want to make a good investment, you may also like the pricier Global knives.

By aplenty — On Jan 29, 2011

@ Parnparsley- The knife you are thinking of is a meat cleaver. This is best for working with large pieces of meat that need to be split into more manageable sizes, and for cutting through bones. Think of a cleaver as more of a meat hatchet. A hybrid butcher knife is simply a meat cleaver that comes to a point.

A true butcher knife is sometimes called a scimitar knife because it resembles the shape of these Persian swords. It can come to a sharp point, or be slightly bulbous at the end; adding weight to the blade.

Probably the most important knife to a butcher is the boning knife, also called a fillet knife. This knife is used to trim meats, and to carve meat form the bone. If you are working with large cuts of meat, you may want to invest in all three of these. If you will actually be working with whole animals, you may also want to purchase a curved-blade skinning knife. I hope this helps.

By parmnparsley — On Jan 26, 2011

What other knives are used to butcher animals? Is a butcher knife a large square knife with a heavy handle? Can anyone else recommend any other knife a butcher might use? Besides those questions, the information in this article is great. I am interested in making my own sausages and steaks from whole slabs of meat, but I am still in the learning phase. I am getting ready to retire so I am trying to find a hobby, and I love artisan meats. Thanks for the advice people.

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