As a person who has worked in the food industry for several years, I can tell you the knives you use will become your best friend. In fact, many kitchens that I have worked in were generally ill-supplied, and so many chefs bring their own set.
Maybe that is what brought you here today, the excitement of having your own personalized knife kit, a.k.a. ‘Murder Bag.’
What makes a good butcher knife?
Well, that depends on what exactly you are doing, as with any tool, as there is always the right tool for the job. Butcher knives actually have a surprising amount of variance in them due to the different types of tasks involved in breaking down meat.
There is skinning, deboning, fat trimming, cutting through joint or even the bone to take into consideration. So I’m going to cover a few of the knives used for each task a butcher may come across so you have a decent idea of what will work best for you.
The cimeter knives are what you’ll want to use when you are cutting steaks such as a ribeye from a prime rib, or a filet from a tenderloin. These knives feature a long curved blade that is actually fairly thick for as kitchen knives go.
This design allows for you, the butcher, to get perfect, straight, and one-pass cuts of a steak. It allows for long-clean cuts that result in the final texture of a steak before it is cut.
Think of it as similar to a finishing tool for chefs and one of the most important in a chef’s arsenal of knives. Skill with this knife is extremely important as well.
For instance, I know a chef who saved a restaurant $12,000 a year by simply convincing the owner to let a staff member cut filets from tenderloins. But it takes time and skill to cut 10oz filets perfectly every time.
And he used a cimeter knife to do that.
Dexter Russel is a company that you will see a lot of in a restaurant or hotel kitchen. As the largest supplier of restaurant cutlery in America, they are very familiar with the needs a chef will have of their tools.
This 10” cimeter knife is a perfect addition to your knife collection. Whether you are a domestic foodie enthusiast who loves wowing guests and a natural host or as a professional chef looking for a knife of your own.
All of their kitchen knives use DexSteel which is a propriety blend of their creation. DexSteel is high carbon steel, which lends itself to rust easily if not cared for properly.
Which means keep it dry and clean.
If you are a chef in a commercial kitchen, you already know that you keep your knife clean and dry after each use. If you are a domestic cook, this is not a knife that you use and leave in the sink for later as it can rust before you come back to it.
While high carbon steel is not the most durable super-steel, it is surgical quality and is sharpened easily.
Made for near-constant use, this knife will come to you razor sharp out of the box, and if properly maintained it will last you for years of use.
Wüsthof is a brand that often finds itself in the hands of many celebrity chefs, for instance, it is one of the trusted brands used by the famed Gordon Ramsey.
There is a good reason for this. Wüsthof has been in the business of making restaurant-quality knives since 1814 and is still family-owned. A German company that holds German standards of manufacturing.
What sets this knife apart from Dexter Russel’s cimeter is the steel. This cimeter is also made from the respective company’s propriety steel, commercially labeled as X50CRMOV15, which is stainless steel.
The difference between stainless steel and high carbon steel is that it can take a little more abuse and neglect than carbon steel. It also means that it will hold its edge just a little longer and is resistant to rusting or corrosion.
This doesn’t mean that you should wash them in the dishwasher. All culinary quality knives should be washed and dried by hand after each use.
If you find yourself in need of a larger cimeter then this knife by Mercer Culinary is the ticket. I know of several aging chefs who have chosen larger knives simply for the ergonomics they can have, meaning reduced stress on the wrist.
Many people who work with their hands every day often develop issues like carpal tunnel. This happens with welders, tattoo artists, bricklayers, and writers.
So if you are purchasing a cimeter for everyday use in your profession, this may be the knife that you’ll want to go with. Not only for the reduced stress on your hands but you will be surprised the difference an extra 2” will make when cutting a steak.
It can mean the difference between a flawless one-stroke cut, of that slight imperfection the head chef might notice on plating a ribeye.
Cleavers are definitely one of the most eye-catching knives in the kitchen. They are large, foreboding, and just beg the question: What do you even use that monster for?
The answer is cutting through bones and joints. Soft bones by the way, such as what you find in birds like chicken or duck or quail. Bone saws are what butchers use for bones mostly.
Cleavers are also great for chopping and crushing vegetables and spices.
While certainly large, they are thin and lightweight, making them much easier to use for prolonged periods.
When you have to break down 30 lbs of chicken or quail in the next hour, a cleaver is a tool that can make that culinary feat happen. While not made for the same long cuts as a cimeter, this cleaver will make mince-meat, literally out of breaking down a bird.
The best aspect of a cleaver that sets it apart from a cimeter is that it is built for chopping. So not only will it easily cut through joints and bones, but it will make chopping vegetables easier as well.
The height of the blade gives you maximum control in chopping up vegetables like squash or beets, as small blades can alter their direction mid-cut. It also provides enough surface area for you to crush garlic or ginger with ease.
This knife also is made with DexSteel. So remember to keep it dry.
If you are a person looking for a bit of style in your cleaver set then feast your eyes on this unique beauty by XYJ Forging. You can’t beat the aesthetic of this thing.
While traditional cleavers are rectangular in shape this cleaver is steeply rounded out to a point. This cleaver’s design will give you more control when you require a little more accuracy in the point breaking down meat.
It may not have the same iconic hole used for hanging the knife when not in use, it does come with an equally beautiful leather sheath.
The finish on this knife screams discerning and is bound to catch the attention of your coworkers or quests, and discerning is exactly the kind of quality professional looks for in their staff.
For being a hand-forged and sharpened knife beautiful of a cleaver, you can’t beat the price.
There is something to be said about Japanese craftsmanship, and that is that it is superb and without equal. This 7” cleaver is no exception to that rule.
A little-known fact about the island of Japan is that they have very little in the way of steel. This has in turn affected every industry of the nation. They have so little steel that their carpenters learned to build extremely durable buildings without the use of nails or other steel fasteners.
Steel was worth more than gold. Which is historically reflected in the way they treat it.
This cleaver is made with Japanese steel known as VG10 and is cryogenically treated. What the cryogenic treatment process does is neat. As the steel is frozen the atoms in the material huddle closer together, forming a more perfect crystalline structure.
This makes the steel more durable and sharper. You will often find high-end musical instruments cryogenically frozen, such as saxophones, because it allows the metal to resonate better, allowing for a beautiful tone.
Speaking of beautiful tone, the finish on this knife is just that. Elegant
This cleaver is unique in its design although similar to the Serbian cleaver above. The upturned blade on this knife allows you to use it in a gentle slicing motion that some will find easier to begin or end a cut with.
Larger in length than the other cleavers on this list the extra length aids the upward curved blade in long slicing motions.
Made with German steel and a G10 handle this knife will last you the rest of your life if you love it as much as you love great food.
These are invaluable in the knife set of a butcher. When you knife those hard-to-get places around bones or needing a exact cut to remove fat the boning knife is the go-to.
With slim, pointed blades boning knives allows for the quick trimming of fat from beef and removal of bones from fish. Boning knives are also a ‘finishing’ tool of a chef, allowing for quick finishing touches to a steak before it is cooked and served.
Mercer culinary provides a great selection of boning knives with the everyday chef.
The blade on this boning knife has a gradual curve that allows it to make surprisingly thorough cuts for a 6” blade. Another great benefit of having a curved blade is that it also makes it easier to maintain its edge when sharpening.
While being the company that makes the versatile and ever-popular multitool known as the Swiss Army Knife, they also make fine cutlery for the versatile chef.
They offer a range of blade styles for their boning knife from straight to curved, and from flexible to stiff.
So if you are looking for a specific style of knife, say you work strictly with deboning fish or breaking down chicken then Victorinox has your back with a variety of styles to choose from.
Always a provider of quality cutlery since 1884 at discerning prices, Victorinox will have your back whether in the kitchen or the field.
And for those of you chefs out there that like to have a flair as many of us do, Zeng has a uniquely styled boning knife you slide into the aforementioned murder bag of awesome butchery implements.
This boning knife has a much larger and stiffer blade than you would normally find among the boning knife family. It is also complemented by a fingerhole in the blade that allows you to slip your index finger through it for better control.
Not only does Zeng’s boning knife have a stand-out finish on the blade, but features an ergonomic wooden handle. This boning knife is not only affordable but gorgeous to look at.
You will likely be using these knives every day in your home or work, and the constant use demands constant care for the edge.
While sharpening stones definitely bring the edge back to out-of-the-box performance it creates a microscopic burl on the blade. This is often just enough to keep the blade of a knife from being razor-sharp.
Also, it can break off into meat and vegetables. Something to think about for your customers or guests.
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