Thursday, December 6, 2012

BAF Gear: The Butcher's Knife

So I don't know why, but people just looooove to have a tool for every single task. Peel an orange - oh wait there's an orange peeler for that, de-skin an apple - oh wait there's a paring knife for that, chopping green onions - let me get that santoku knife, let's carve that turkey - wait out for the carving knife, over.

You folks need to KEEP IT SIMPLE! I admit, I have 15 billion knives in the kitchen drawer and wood block; however, my most used knife is the venerable Butcher's knife. I believe wholeheartedly that every household, badass or hipster or everything in between, should have at least one butcher's knife. This one knife can very easily replace the entire knife block, plus almost alot of the kitchen utensils.

I use it to smash garlic, chop veggies, run after triad gang members, dice onions, balance ping pong balls, point at rude chinese lady and swear in loud cantonese, julienne ginger, brunoise jalapenos, alumnet carrots, slice through beautifully bbq'd pork, and of course chop through bone. So don't give me bullshit about needing a knife for every task. Hell I even use my knife to practice my tactical escape and evasion plan.

The Butcher's Knife is constructed differently that most other kitchen knives. It is made of a softer steel and thicker blade thus it keeps it straight edge and is resilient in that it can pretty much chop through thick meat, cartilage and even bone - repeatedly. It is, in fact, the only knife designed to be swung like a hammer. It doesn't need to be necessarily ultra shop like a paring knife, since it relies on momentum and "AIIIYAAA!!!" to get the job done. However, one can totally finesse it with artful grace - as you can see with the BBQ pork. Yeah I made that Char Siu from scratch. And Yes, I do wear Old Navy boxers for $5 each. yes I do cook in my boxers.

Three areas where it shines is firstly, the obvious ability to chop shit up, the second use is as a crusher. It can crush or smash garlic BLAM like that saving you the peeling process, thus creating efficiencies and streamlining workflows in your cooking workstream. And finally, you can use it as a spatula to scoop up your chopped up veggies and throw it into the wok, and if in my case, forgot to take out the cheese 30 minutes prior to consumption, you can take a heated butcher's knife to accomplish the task in a few short minutes.

In terms of care and maintenance, meh, I just wash it normally. I don't do much to sharpen it other than to run it across the bottom of a porcelain bowl, or knife stone. Once a year I take all my edged implements to house of knives to get sharpened, but that's about it. Keep it clean so that rust don't form. If you wanted to be all asian gang-like, you can get some hockey tape and wrap the handle for extra grippy. If you wanted to get tactical, you an always use skateboard tape.

I don't have a recommendation on a brand name of knife. The Chinese Butcher's knife that I use most often, I have had for over 15 years - the manufacturer is all but imperceptibly etched into the blade. Its a single piece construction and the blade is hard and is easily sharpened with the bottom of a porcelain bowl (chinese styles!!!). I've had one or two other butcher's knifes from name brand makers, but they never passed the "chop through bone" test. If your knife can easily chop up a bbq duck then you've got a good knife. However, if your knife's edge starts getting chips and cracks and shit from the bones being too hard for it, then somebody gave you a shitty knife for your wedding. In terms of cost, well, I have seen knives run from 10 to 50 bucks, I'd recommend getting something middle of the road. Perhaps walk by a chinese butcher shop and see what their using. I picked mine up in some kitchen supply store in Chinatown. Just follow the old ladies.

I challenge you to start using your butcher's knife more often, and forego your expensive Henckel 12 piece set for a month. Do it.


  1. This has some good insights about hard use, daily cutlery in comparison to expensive, fine use precision knives.

    Last month I spent three hours with a professional chef. He brought his arsenal of knives; a whole scabbard with 15 different varieties. He told me the good-old butcher knife is his all time preference.

    His favorite butcher knives were ones he'd picked up at garage sales 20 years ago, high carbon, ugly things. He told me they were bulletproof and cut better than many of the $500 knives he'd used.

    I've watched cooks in Southeast Asia chopping chicken and duck into chunks for literally hours on end with the same cleaver or large knife. When I've asked to see the knives they look like something made from an old lawnmower blade or truck leaf spring. Good old high carbon awesomeness.

    Follow the old ladies in Chinatown ... best advice ever!

    (Also, in a last ditch survival situation, while the Triad is kicking down your reinforced front door, you could always duct tape a butcher knife into each fist. I saw that in a movie. Plus, a duck in your mouth as you rushed your attackers while dressed in them fine boxer shorts would trip the psy-war metric off the charts.)

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  3. I do always find a number of uses for the butcher’s knife; the most popular one being surviving a zombie apocalypse. Do you guys have tactical knives suggestion? I found some pretty amazing options here:

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Full Disclosure: Unless noted, Bad Ass Dad has not been compensated in any means to review this gear. It is all his own, procured through pro-channels, retail, or issuance.