Butcher’s knives are kitchen knives featuring a curved blade. They are used to butcher large animal carcasses into smaller portions. There are various types of butcher’s knives, as well as different sizes and shapes.
1. What is a Butcher’s Knife?
At some point you’ve probably seen that big kitchen knife that features a curved blade. That’s a butcher knife (also known as a butcher’s knife). And if you’ve seen it, you’ve at some point asked yourself if you would benefit from having one. Well, that really depends on who you are and what your needs are in the kitchen. Let’s get into it.
A butcher knife is, as the name implies, one of the most useful tools for butchering animal carcasses. If you have a large piece of meat that you need to portion off into smaller cuts, a butcher knife is the way to go. They’re most commonly used by butchers, hunters, and professional chefs, but as a home cook you might also want one.
And sure, you could use a chef’s knife to accomplish some of those tasks, but butcher’s knives are especially designed for butchering and breaking down large pieces of meat with their long, curved blade. If you want to make things easier on yourself, it makes more sense to use the butcher knife rather than struggle with a smaller chef’s knife.
The butcher knife’s long blade allows for long, smooth slices. And the reason it’s curved is that it helps with getting under the skin and around the bones of the animal. The fact that butcher knives also tend to be extremely sharp and made of heavy duty steel tells you all you need to know about what is designed to do, and how it’s designed to do it.
2. What to Look For in a Butcher’s Knife
Before you venture off and try to purchase a butcher’s knife of your own, let’s talk about some of the main things you should be looking for in a butcher’s knife.
When we talk about balance, we are referring to the feel of the blade in your hand. All blades are different due to their handle, others due to their heft, and many other variables. But one of the most important things is that the knife should feel balanced in your hand – there should be equal weight distribution, and it shouldn’t feel as though one piece of the knife is much heavier than the other. Full tang knives (where the blade runs all the way through the handle) are usually better balanced.
The sharpness of the blade, and its edge retention, are both extremely important topics when researching blades to buy. Butcher knives tend to be thicker than others. They’re made of steel that’s sturdy and durable because they’re meant to get through tough pieces of meat without the fear of breaking or chipping them. Some of the blades, however, do have a bit of bend and are meant to flex lightly. This helps them get around the bone.
Some knives come with wooden handles, others are plastic, steel, or other materials. The main thing you should look for is that the blade is slip-resistant; you don’t want your butcher knife to literally slip out of your hands and possibly hurt you or others. Wooden handles tend to be a bit more traditional than others.
Butcher knives vary in length from 6 to 14 inches. The smaller knives are best for cutting smaller pieces of meat, like chops, while the larger ones are better for portioning off larger pieces. They’re also good for getting around the bone. Meanwhile, the large butcher’s knives are good for quickly and in a single swipe portioning off pieces from larger cuts of meat.
Let’s not pretend looks don't matter. When you buy a knife, you want it to work great, but you also want it to look good. Making sure that your kitchen knives are stylish and good-looking is part of the joy of shopping for new kitchen tools.
3. Differences Between a Butcher’s Knife and a Cleaver
For a long, long time, I had butcher’s knives and cleaver knives confused. When I thought of a butcher, the image of a meat cleaver was the first thing that came to my head. I was under the impression that “butcher knife” was just a different name for the classic meat cleaver.
Well, that’s not entirely true, but also not entirely incorrect. A lot of online sources list the meat cleaver as a type of butcher’s knife, while still referring to the traditional rounded butcher’s knife as the rightful owner of the name.
So let’s first define what a cleaver is. A meat cleaver is a large knife that has a blade with a very distinctive, rectangular hatchet shape. This large blade provides a good amount of heft for applying brute force to a tough task, allowing for its use in splitting up bones and cutting up thick pieces of meat. It’s a thick, heavy blade meant for tough tasks.
So why the confusion, if they’re so different? As it turns out, “butcher knife” – in addition to referring to the specific type of knife we’ve been talking about – is also a generic term used to describe the profession’s tools.
So a cleaver may be referred to as a butcher’s knife. But a cleaver is not the type of knife we’ve been exploring here.
4. The Best Butcher’s Knives to Buy
Now that we’re on the same page regarding what to look for in a butcher’s knife, let’s take a look at some of the best options available in the market. Here’s our list of best butcher knives to buy.
Sometimes you know all you need to know by just looking at a knife. In this case, the Marauder Edition 9” Pitmaster makes its case with just one look. This is one of the most fierce-looking knives available for purchase, and it’s not afraid to show it. From its bright red color to its sharp, aerodynamic lines and forked tip, this knife is perfect for both preparing meats and manning the grill at a get-together.
- A ruthlessly sharp butcher's knife, painstakingly honed by craftsmen to 16-18 degrees per side, which ensures precise cuts as well as excellent edge retention.
- The blade is up to snuff, made of precision forged, ultra sharp, wear-resistant high carbon 7CR17MOV-X steel.
- Ergonomic, comfortable handle made of G10 resin material.
- A stunning looking piece of craftsmanship, with a blood-red nonstick coating.
- Life’ is full of mysteries, and one of them is why anyone wouldn’t love the look of this knife. Alas, some people prefer more traditional-looking knives; if that’s you, the good news is we have many other options available for you here.
- Not all home cooks who are looking for a butcher’s knife will find much use for the forked tip, but it’s great if you’re a BBQ enthusiast (and it looks amazing).
Speaking of absolute lookers, the 10” bull nose butcher knife from Dalstrong’s Delta Wolf series is probably the best all-around butcher knife you will ever find. Not only is it stunningly designed – really looking like a mythical machete that has been wrought upon the Earth by a vengeful god – it’s also an incredible performer in the kitchen at everything from boning, skinning, and all kinds of butchering.
- The blade is made of precision-forged, ultra-sharp 9CR18MOV carbon steel at 60 Rockwell Hardness.
- The reason for the blade’s intimidating look is it has a black, non-reflective titanium nitride coating for corrosion resistance.
- It features a Granton edge for better drag and friction.
- Has a G10 camouflage handle that is both comfortable and stylish.
- Just like with the previous entry, these are pretty flashy-looking knives that may not be everyone’s cup of tea. There are plenty of other more traditional-looking options available in this list.
- The blade is 1.6mm thick, so it’s a fairly thin blade, though it’s designed that way for precision slicing. If you were looking for a thicker, heftier blade, look into getting a meat cleaver instead.
Here’s another bull nose butcher knife, this time from Dalstrong’s acclaimed Gladiator series which brings elegance and fierceness together in a seamless package. This awesome knife is a powerhouse in breaking and portioning meat, its bulbous nose making for a more weighted end and swifter skinning. You can use this to sail through all kinds of meats with total ease.
- Perfect for both common meats (beef, pork, chicken) as well as large game (moose, deer, elk, etc).
- The blade is made of ultra-sharp, single-piece high carbon German ThyssenKrupp steel at 56+ Rockwell Hardness.
- It features a beautiful hand-polished satin finish on the blade.
- Features a premium G10 garolite handle, which nestles comfortably in your palm.
- 10” is a great size for a butcher knife, but if you’re going to be butchering large pieces of meat maybe you should check out one of the larger options on this list.
- A fairly traditional-looking butcher knife.
The knives in Dalstrong’s Shogun series are amazing. They combine gorgeous looks with absolutely killer performance in the kitchen. This 8” bull nose butcher knife is a great example – look at that blade. The combination of the Damascus cladding and the Tsunami Rose blade pattern make for a butcher knife that’s as lovely as it is absolutely ruthless.
- Incredible sharpness, polished to a staggering 8-12 degree angle per side, allowing you to make quick work of any culinary challenge.
- Has a fantastic edge retention at 62+ Rockwell.
- The blade features an AUS-10V Japanese super steel core, with 67-layer Damascus cladding that is sharpened under the ancient 3-step Honbazuke method.
- Very easy to clean and to take care of.
- Some home cooks might not be into the Granton edge or how it looks on the blade.
- 8” is definitely at the shorter end of the spectrum when it comes to butcher knives. If you’re going to be portioning large cuts of meat, it’s likely you’d be better served by one of the larger options in this list. Such as…
Cimiter knives are designed after ancient swords, and this butcher & breaking cimeter knife definitely lives up to the family tradition. At 12.5”, this makes for an impressive addition to any kitchen armory. Its long blade makes it easy to perform large incisions and slice easily through any kind of meat without any fear of damaging its structural integrity.
- Perfectly designed to effortlessly tear through large cuts of beef, pork, or poultry.
- Just like the last knife in this list, this is part of Dalstrong’s Shogun series and features its gorgeous Tsunami Rose blade pattern.
- Military grade G10 handle that is highly impervious to heat, cold, and moisture.
- Hand polished spine for a comfortable grip.
- At 12.5”, this is a lot of knife. Not every home cook might need a butcher knife this large.
- This knife is lighter than you might imagine, which might make the first use a little awkward. But after a bit of practice, you’ll get used to its dimensions and weight.
Now we’re getting into the real big leagues when it comes to size. This 14” butcher and breaking cimeter knife is an astounding kitchen powerhouse, designed to tackle the largest pieces of meat and make quick work of them. It features a scalpel-like curved edge designed to make complete cuts in smooth, single motions (no sawing necessary, as you might imagine with a blade like this).
- Precision forged, ultra sharp, wear-resistant high carbon German ThyssenKrupp steel.
- Hand sharpened to 16-18 degrees per side, which makes the perfect balance between sharpness and toughness.
- Features added chromium which makes it more stain-resistant.
- An unbelievable value for the price.
- Okay, 14” is really big. Only purchase this is if you’re going to be using it on large pieces of meat, or to break down large game.
- This knife blade has a bit of flexibility to it, so keep that in mind when you’re using it.
Dalstrong’s Phantom series of knives have a very unique look and feel to them; they are elegant, agile, and razor-sharp. This 10” butcher and breaking knife, specifically, looks and feels like a ninja weapon. It’s designed to easily slice through flesh, cartilage, and fat, to easily portion beef, pork, fish, poultry, and many other meats.
- The blade is made of premium Japanese AUS-8 steel with added chromium for stain resistance.
- Extremely sharp edge, hand-finished to a mirror polish within 13-15 degrees per side.
- Has a gorgeous premium quality laminated pakkawood handle imported from Spain.
- This ruthless kitchen powerhouse has a really lovely and stylish look to it.
- This is a thin style blade, so be aware of that before making your purchase.
- Some may prefer the G10 handles over the wooden handles.
To say that I’m a fan of the Shadow Black series of knives is a bit of an understatement. Every knife I’ve ever tried from this series isn’t just among the best I’ve ever used when it comes to actually slicing through meat and making quick work of even the toughest culinary challenges, but they also look incredible. This 10” bull nose butcher knife is one of the most unique you’ll ever find.
- Cooler-than-cool look, with a black and non-reflective titanium nitride coating.
- Very unique geometry to this knife, inspired by the F-117 Nighthawk Stealth Fighter.
- Made of high carbon 7CR17MOV-X vacuum treated steel.
- Fiber resin military grade G10 handle with an ergonomic design for maximum comfort.
- If you like your kitchen tools to match with each other, you might not be as enamored with the all-black look.
- The titanium-nitride coating might make you a bit hesitant when it comes to sharpening the knife, but it’s easy to do once you get past that initial hesitation.
This futuristic 10” butcher and breaking knife is different from any other you’ll find. As part of the Quantum 1 series, it’s designed with sleekness and forward motion in mind. It’s engineered to take on even the largest of game meats at record speed. It’s an advanced piece of kitchen machinery featuring a cimeter-like curved blade and premium materials.
- Made of high carbon American BD1N-VX steel at 63+ Rockwell.
- Sharpened to 8-12 degrees per side, making it extremely sharp and also durable.
- An incredible-looking knife, with the Nova Prime blade pattern which not only looks great but also reduces drag.
- The handle is a hybrid of military-grade G10 and carbon fiber.
- Not everyone is a fan of the futuristic look of the Quantum 1 series.
- Some home cooks might prefer the feel of the G10 or wooden handles rather than this blend.
We wrap up this list with an impressive and veritably imposing kitchen tool, an extra-long bull nose butcher knife. At 14”, this is one of the largest and most impressive entries in the Gladiator series, and it comes at a really great price. Designed for cutting down the largest pieces of meat, this is a welcome addition to any butcher’s arsenal, regardless of their level of expertise.
- Precision-forged, single-piece high carbon German ThyssenKrupp steel.
- Full tang for excellent robustness and quality.
- Ergonomic shape with a stainless steel second bolster.
- An incredible value for the price you’re paying.
- This blade tends to be a little heavier than people are expecting at first.
- Again, at 14”, this is an extremely long knife. If you’re not going to be using it on large cuts of meat, I recommend looking into some of the smaller options in this list.
5. Frequently Asked Questions About Butcher's Knives
What is a butcher's knife used for?
A butcher’s knife (sometimes also just known as a butcher knife) is a knife designed and used primarily for the butchering of animal carcasses, breaking them down into small portions for selling or cooking.
What is the best butcher knife?
This is a hard question to answer, because, like with many questions about the “best” type of knife, it will depend on your specific needs. A great all-around butcher knife that combines looks and functionality is the Bull Nose Butcher Knife 10" from Dalstrong’s Delta Wolf series.
What knives do butchers use?
Butchers commonly use butcher knives as well as meat cleavers, carving knives, and breaking knives, depending on the specific task at hand. They may also use boning knives and, sometimes for precision cuts, paring knives.
What is the difference between a butcher knife and a chef knife?
The difference between a butcher knife and a chef’s knife is the shape and the size. A chef’s knife will usually be 6 to 8 inches long and feature a pointed tip and curved edge, which helps with its use as an all-around all-purpose knife. Meanwhile, a butcher knife will be longer and heavier, as it’s designed to cut through bones and portion large cuts of meat as well as whole carcasses.