For all of us kitchen samurais, there is no favorite katana other than the butcher’s knife. While we don’t actually wield a real sword--that would be cumbersome in the when slicing meat--the good old butcher knife is a must have and without it, you are almost useless.
The butcher knife looks like a scimitar and it’s designed to hack on thick meat because it’s heavy and wouldn’t require a lot of strength for it to penetrate. The curved end of the blade allows you to cut with slicing motion allowing for more precise meat sculpture.
Good quality butcher knife is made of carbon steel because it holds the edge better than stainless. But stainless also have the advantage of being clean and easy to sharpen. It doesn’t discolor the meat or any ingredient you’re cutting.
Those who are looking for quality blades would opt for forged steel rather than stamped because it tends to be stronger and sturdier, giving you the confidence that it won’t break when cutting through bones and cartilage.
What to Look For in a Butcher Knife?
Before you take one to the counter, make sure you inspect it properly. With so many brands claiming to be of good quality, it’s easy to pick the wrong one and regret the decision later. Here are some things to look at.
Different manufacturers use different materials in making their knives. This is true not only for a butcher knife, but also with all other blades out there in the market. The best blades are made of steel and there are basically three types of steel that they use:
- 420HC--This is your garden variety stainless steel knife. It can serve all cutting purposes but it’s not the strongest of blades. It doesn’t corrode and it’s easy to clean and sharpen.
- 440C--This is stronger than 420HC and this is also a common material used to make knives. Just like the 420HC, this can also serve most cutting purposes and it won’t corrode. Due to its hardness, this is a bit difficult to sharpen but it also holds the edge better than 420HC.
- VG-10--This is what top quality butcher knives are made of. It holds the edge longer, it doesn’t corrode and it doesn’t shy away even if you cut through bones and cartilage.
There are three materials used for knife handles: steel, wood and plastic.
Steel--Due to its weight, it provides better balance and stability. It’s also clean because bacteria can’t propagate on steel. The only caveat about steel is that it’s not as comfortable to use compared to wood and plastic.
Wood--This material has been used for centuries as knife handle and it’s comfortable to use. There however a couple of caveats that health professionals warn us about wood as knife handle. First, it’s a good breeding ground for bacteria which can potentially cause health problems. Second, wood rots particularly if it’s contentiously wet. It’s therefore not as strong as steel and plastic.
Plastic--It has gained popularity nowadays because it’s abundant and highly advantageous for most purposes. It’s light, comfortable to use and would last for long periods of time. On top of that, it’s easy to clean and it doesn’t rot making it an unsuitable breeding ground for bacteria.
There are two types of kitchen knife blades: stamped and forged. For most purposes, the stamped knives would do the task. It’s cheaper because it’s easier to manufacture. Forged knives, on the other hand, are a little bit more expensive and for a good reason.
First, it’s stronger and more suitable for cutting through harder materials like bones because it has larger and heavier blades. It has a bolster which allows for better balance and handling. If you’re looking for better blades, forged steel is the better choice.
Edge retention is how long a knife can stay sharp after extended period of use and abuse. This is the area which carbon steel blades reign supreme. If you don’t want to sharpen your knife often, you better opt for carbon steel.
Most quality butcher knives are rust resistance so I will not belabor this point. I just want to emphasize that carbon steel is still the king when it comes to corrosion resistance.
Most plastic handles are designed to be slip resistant because it can be molded into whatever design. Some even have contoured designs that allow for better grip. Wood handles are naturally porous making it the most slip resistant of all the handle materials. Steel is at a disadvantage here because it tends to be slippery particularly when your hands are greasy.
Closely related to slip resistance is the comfort of the grip. Well designed grips would seem to make the knife an extension of your hands. It just fits. This is important because if you’re making huge food preparation, you will be holding the knife for an extended period.
If it doesn’t provide optimum handling comfort, you could end up having blisters before you finish your work.
Hardness vs flexibility
Blades are either hard or flexible. If you’re just starting out in your journey as a chef, it’s good to opt for a harder blade because it’s easy to control. On the other hand, if you’re past the newbie stage, you better opt for the more flexible blades because it allows for sophistication with your cuts.
Be careful though, it can be a bit difficult to control and overly flexible blades can potentially injure its wielder.
Last update on 2017-09-21 PST - Details
My Top 7 Butchers Knife
With all these features in mind, let’s take a look at the best butcher knives in the market today. My choices came after hours and hours of using these knives in my own kitchen and I believe these are really quality knives.
Dalstrong Boning Knife: The Shogun Series
When it comes to cutting power, the Dalstrong Boning Knife is on top of my list. It sports a handle that is made from ultra-premium G-10 military grade materials and its immune to moisture, heat and cold. The blade itself is made from VG-10 forged carbon steel which holds the edge like Valyrian sword. It boasts a 62+ hardness based on the Rockwell standard and 66 layers of carbon steel repeatedly folded for exceptional hardness and durability.
The knife has a bolster that provides perfect balance and a tapered blade perfect for de-boning, skinning, filleting, trimming and cutting your meats close to the bones.
The thing that made me so confident about this knife is that the manufacturer gives it 100% money back guarantee and a lifetime warranty against defect.
- Made of carbon steel
- Rated 62+ hardness based on Rockwell standard
- VG-10 steel which holds the edge really well
- G-10 handle is really sturdy
- Six inches is a bit short for really huge preparations
- The one I got needs a little refinement at the tip
Victorinox 10-Inch Curved Breaking Knife
The name Victorinox is almost synonymous with stainless steel and its reputation is really beyond question. From the original makers of the Swiss Army Knife, the Victorinox 10-Inch Curved Breaking Knife is the best choice for most butchering work. From the name itself, this breaking knife is used to break down large chunks of meat into smaller cuts and pieces.
The blade is made from ice tempered high-carbon stainless steel which guarantees edge retention and rust resistance. This knife is made by stamping on cold-rolled steel and it doesn’t have a bolster typical of stamped knives. And like all other Victorinox made knives, this comes with lifetime warranty against manufacturer’s defect.
- Made from carbon steel ensuring hardness and edge retention
- Made with Victorinox quality
- Long enough for most cutting needs
- Lifetime warranty
- The blade tends to be too hard
- Too light for a balanced blade but typical for stamped knives
Mad Cow Cutlery JERO TR 6" Stiff Curved Boning Knife
If you want to get a lot done with minimal effort, the Mad Cow Cutlery JERO TR 6" Stiff Curved Boning Knife is what you’re looking for. Guaranteed to hold the edge, its made from high-carbon German stainless steel, popular among German knife manufacturers. This knife is designed to give you the most enjoyable butchering experience.
The handle is made from solid polymer and a thick rubberized layer for better grip. You can expect this stay in your hands even when it’s wet or greasy.
This knife is hand sharpened to ensure are really sharp edge and laser tested to ensure its sharp out of the box.
- Made from strong German carbon steel
- Hand sharpened and laser tested
- Reliable grip
- Needs a little refinement at the point
- Requires constant sharpening
Sani-Safe S112-6-PCP 6" White Butcher Knife
The Sani-Safe S112-6-PCP 6" White Butcher Knife is designed to be safe and sanitary and can stand high and low temperature. It is razor sharp out of the box and rigid enough to slice through chickens and other meat but this is not designed to be used for huge food preparation.
It has a non-slip handle and a protective bolster making this the safest of all the knives reviewed here. It is also inexpensive and I believe it is more suited as a beginner’s knife.
But don’t let its beginner-friendliness fool you, this knife is designed to last and it will serve you well in the long haul.
- Rigid blade made from carbon steel
- Most sanitary blade reviewed
- Beginner friendly
- Too short for larger food preparation
- Requires constant sharpening
Ontario Knife 7111 Old Hickory Butcher Knife
The simplicity of the Ontario Knife 7111 Old Hickory Butcher Knife is just mind blowing. But don’t let the minimalist design get in the way for you to take it to the counter, this knife has a strong heritage of performance, value and affordability.
Sporting a 10-inch cutting edge, the Ontario Knife 7111 Old Hickory Butcher Knife is made of high-quality materials and can stand the toughest demand of any butcher.
The blade is made from 1095 carbon steel, tempered and made to hold the edge for a long time. This knife will not bog you down with constant sharpening.
The wooden hickory handle which is attached to the tang with two rivets gives it a classic look. Avoid wetting the handle as it will become a breeding ground for bacteria.
- Really sharp edge
- Huge and sturdy blade for all you cutting needs
- Useful even for making thin cuts
- Highly affordable
- Too long for some small cutting needs
- Wooden handle can be a breeding ground for bacteria
- Needs a little cleaning due to corrosion
Rada Cutlery R109 Old Fashioned Butcher Knife
If you’re looking for an old fashioned butcher’s knife, the Rada Cutlery R109 Old Fashioned Butcher Knife is what you’re looking for. Made from T420 high carbon steel, the edge is hand-sharpened allowing for more precise sharpness. It is also hollow grounded which results in a concave shape at the edge, making it easy to maintain.
This knife tends to be lightweight which may not be good for cutting harder surfaces like bones. Made with aluminum handle and thin blade, this is more designed for people with smaller hands and smaller cutting needs. The handle has a satin finish and has a finger guard to protect your hand from accidental slipping.
If you are looking for a light, safe and good looking knife, this one is for you.
- Suitable for smaller cutting needs like dicing and splitting meat
- Suitable also for cutting fruits and vegetables
- Very sharp concave blade
- Elegant and durable
- Best value for its price
- A little bit flimsy for huge preparations
- Aluminum handle gets slippery when wet and greasy
- Best only for light meat cutting
Dexter-Russell S112-10PCP 10" Butcher Knife
For a clean cutting edge that can cut through meat without ragged edges, the Dexter-Russell S112-10PCP 10" Butcher Knife is the best choice. For cutting large meat into smaller and thinner pieces, this is the knife that you’d want to have.
With its 58-lbs weight, you don’t need to add extra strength just to cut through hard surfaces because gravity will do the trick for you.
With a plastic handle material, you can expect a clean and bacteria-free blade. It can be a bit slippery though, so you have to handle it with care. The handle is also a little too thick and if you have smaller hands, you can have a hard time controlling this blade.
- Stainless steel and plastic handle makes for a very sanitary knife
- Ideal for large meat preparations
- Really sharp and holds the edge longer
- Very strong knife
- More expensive than knives of the same quality
- The handle is slippery and a bit too large
Even with the advent of electric knives, there is still room for the traditional butcher knife in our kitchens. These knives allow for the ragged cutting and hacking for large meat that other knives would shy away from. These have been proven and tested by butchers through the centuries and will not go away even with the advancement of technology.
For this review, my clear choice is the Dalstrong Boning Knife: The Shogun Series. The VG-10 forged steel is the deal breaker for me because it really holds the edge longer than any of the blades I’ve tested here. The bolster provides a good balance making the knife like an extension of my hands.
The handle is made from military grade materials ensuring that it won’t break or provide a breeding ground for bacteria. The fact that it’s rated at 62+ under Rockwell Standard gives me the confidence that I’m holding a strong and sturdy knife that will now shy away from bones.
I wished the Victorinox 10-Inch Curved Breaking Knife was forged steel but it wasn’t. I love its quality and the attention to detail that this legendary manufacturer placed on their product is just awesome. If you don’t mind that it’s not forged steel, this is also a good choice.
Do you have other suggestions for a butcher knife? Have you tried using any of the knives I’ve reviewed? Why not share your thoughts in the comment section below?