5 top knives under $50 every meat eater needs
Love meat? Then you’re probably aware how important is to have the proper tools in the kitchen. Whether you’re slicing chicken strips or trying to dig into a steak, having the correct knife makes all the difference. Imagine trying to cut your favorite, juicy steak with a regular dinner knife. Or attempting to cut your chicken with a butter knife. It's less than ideal.
The Right Tool For the Job
Using the right knife does more than make cutting meat easier; it can help improve all your cooking by ensuring your meat has the right texture and thickness. It’s also safer faster. Without a good butcher’s knife and cleaver, you’ll find yourself struggling to cut through a single slab of meat. Not to mention, using the wrong knife can bruise the meat. It’s also possible to damage and prematurely dull smaller blades if you try cutting foods too thick and tough. Think trying to cleave meat with a paring knife. Perhaps you're not familiar with the basic five knives for cutting meat, or you use the same chefs knife for everything – we'll provide a complete overview of everything you need to know and give you our top pick for each type of knife any meat connoisseur should own.
What to Look For In A Good Kitchen Knife
Where to start? Do you need a chef’s knife or a butcher’s knife? What the heck is a boning knife?
If you're already a die-hard Meat Geek, you probably have a knife arsenal at your disposal. But for those of you still on your journey to BBQ Geekdom, here are a few tips to help you arm yourself for Meat Geeking battle.
First thing to look for in a good knife - how it feels in your hand. Your personal best knife will have a good balance, and feel comfortable and secure as you wield it. It should be hefty enough to slice easily through meat, but light enough to be wieldy and precise. If you haven’t used a lot of knives before, you may need to try out a few to really get a handle on what you like best.
You want to find a knife that is well balanced. How balanced is up to you; you can find kitchen knives balanced to all sorts of various ratios, but the most even on is the best to start. The weight should not be all in the handle nor entirely in the blade, as either one can make cutting difficult and awkward without experience.
When choosing a handle, you’ll probably see them made out of both wood and synthetic/plastic. Which is better is really your own personal preference, but you should look for one with good grip that doesn’t slide, and of course, is comfortable. Some knives will have various finger grooves and ergonomic grips for better handling.
Also pay attention to the tang; how deeply into the handle the blade goes can have a large effect on how durable the whole knife is, and how well it handles. A full-grip tang is stronger and more secure than a short one.
The bolster is the thick part of the blade that helps it transition smoothly to the handle, serving both as reinforcement and a counterbalance to the blade. This helps balance it, give it more control, and add to overall strength. It also serves a safeguard, to keep your fingers from slipping onto the blade during chopping.
Five knives essential to a Meat Geek’s arsenal
Before you ask, no, a chef’s knife and a butcher’s knife are not the same. A butcher’s knife is usually heavier than a chef knife. They also usually have a curved blade, which is perfect for slicing through thick cuts of meat.
The first, and most versatile, knife in any kitchen is the chef’s knife. Whether you’re slicing meats or dicing tomatoes, the chef’s knife can get it done. With a slightly curved blade, the sharp tip and the deep heel, the chef’s knife is an extremely stable, dexterous knife. It will work well for cutting through thinner raw meats, such as chicken, as well as through just about any vegetables or fruits you could need. Good chef’s knives are usually high carbon stainless steel, as this provides the best edge retention, sharpness and hardness.
Finally, a major difference between the two knives...a chef’s knife is used for cooked meat while a butcher’s knife is used for raw meat.
While a chef’s knife is more versatile, and and can be used for cutting more than just meat, a butcher’s knife is more specialized, meant mainly for cutting through thick, raw meat. They are usually heavier than a chef knife, with a slightly curved blade as opposed to the chef knife’s straighter, tapered blade. This curved blade is meant to rock back and forth, for chopping, trimming and slicing the edges of thick meats.
While a butcher's knife will work well on most raw meats, it’s worth investing in a meat cleaver. A cleaver uses sheer chopping power as opposed to precision, and can slice through bones without cracking them. This not only makes chopping meat efficient, but also ensures no one ends up eating shards of bone. With a cleaver, you can simply chop your way through whole chickens, and avoid dulling your chef’s knife on other hard foods, like squash.
Finally, you need to pick up a boning knife. When the time comes to remove bones from meat, you can’t get a better tool that a boning knife. If fact, if you try to use a meat cleaver or a butcher's knife to take care of business you will find yourself frustrated and disappointed. The blade of a boning knife is flexible, narrow and sharp, making it easy to get into crevices and carve out as much meat out as possible. This thin, specialized knife is flexible and sharp, meant to closely remove meat, fat and cartilage from bones, cutting around edges and joints to get it all off. It’s also thin enough to make filleting fish easy. Boning knifes aren’t especially common anymore, but they are worth investing in; the most common length is 5”, and make trimming hams and legs dead simple.
While these are the essentials, to be a Master Meat Geek you also need to get a slicing knife and/or carving knife. Both knives are used for cutting cooked meat. If you have a really good chef’s knife you can go without, but really why would you?
These thin knives usually measure 8 to 12 inches long, have a rounded tip, and are used to slice meat thinly, such as you would on roasts and hams. A carving knife has a long, narrow blade that comes to a point. It is used mostly to carve turkey and other poultry, it also works great for bone-in cuts such as lamb and roasts. Carving knives are similar to slicing knives, but instead of a large rounded tip, taper to a sharp point. Slicing knifes are better for large boneless meats, like a roast, while carving knives excels at cutting around bones and cartilage, similar to a boning knife. Think carving a Thanksgiving Turkey, for example.
If the knife doesn't have a Granton edge (those little divots along the blade), then don't buy it. The Granton edge helps prevent meat from sticking to the blade as you slice.
FORGED VS STAMPED KNIVES
A forged knife is designed from a single piece of steel; unlike stamped knives which are manufactured from a sheet of steel. Therefore, you’re getting a stronger, more balanced knife which will keep an edge longer.
A stamped knife is cheaper to manufacture therefore, you can expect to pay less but weight and balance will be sacrificed. While there are many poor quality stamped knives, there are a few good ones that made our best knives under $50 list.
A good knife should be carbon steel. And since it will be used to cut meat, a forged knife is going to be better than a stamped one, perfect for cutting, slicing and trimming meat.
A forged knife is essentially made from a single piece of hot-forged metal, cut into a precise knife shape. They are thus more durable, as they are a single piece of metal, and harder, thanks to the high-heat forging process. They hold their edge much longer, will be more balanced in the hand, and cut more precisely than a stamped knife.
A stamped knife, on the other hand, is made by literally stamping out a blade from a sheet of stainless steel, like using a cookie cutter, before being given a handle and being sharpened. They are much cheaper to manufacture, resulting a more affordable knife, but sacrifice strength and quality. They will also be more flexible, but won’t hold an edge like a good forged blade. They also often lack a real bolster.
WHAT ARE THE 5 BEST KITCHEN KNIVES UNDER $50?
2018 MEATGEEK'S KNIVES UNDER $50
Best CHEF'S KNIFE
- WUSTHOF PRO COOK'S KNIFE
You don't get much better than this for the money. While the handle is plastic it fits comfortably in your hand, cuts like a charm and the blade is designed to maintain a sharp edge.
SIZE: 8-inch but also comes in 10-inch and 12-inch
Made in Germany, the Wusthof Pro Cook’s knife is designed for commercial kitchens, but feels at home in your kitchen too. The blade comes in 8”, 10”, and 12” lengths, and is made of precision-stamped, high-carbon stainless-steel, that sharpens easily and keeps it edge very well. The handle is ergonomically shaped, features an inner core, which makes it much more stable, and an outer, slip-resistant grip.
While it’s not the most attractive of chef’s knife, for the money, you can’t really beat it. It fits great in your hand, is easy to wield, and cuts through anything like butter. It is a stamped blade, which is why it is so inexpensive, but well crafted, especially for the price.
Best BUTCHER KNIFE
- DEXTER RUSSEL
A great knife to have grill-side. While I prefer my old-fashion "Old Hickory" butcher knife, for this review I felt better about going with a knife with a polypropylene handle that repels bacteria. This knife gets the job done and is American made. Watch out, as it comes out of the box sharp as a razor.
The Dexter Russell Sani-Safe Butcher Knife is, like the Wusthof Pro Chef’s knife, a high-quality but inexpensive piece of cutlery. The carbon steel blade holds its edge very well, and slices through meat with ease. It is, likewise, made of a stamped construction. This may not be as durable as a forged knife, but considering the price you’re paying, is still quite high-quality.
The Sani-Safe handle - (as Dexter Russel calls it; it’s intended for restaurant use) - is made of polypropylene, with Grip-Tex non-slip grip to keep it firmly in your hand. It can also withstand high temperatures in the kitchen, without any melting. A protective finger guard where the bolster would normally be prevents accidents.
The 10” long, slightly curved butcher’s blade is razor sharp right out of the box, and makes quick work of thick meats, and even large fish. And bonus points: it’s Made in America, where Dexter Russell’s cutlery heritage goes all the way back to 1818.
Best SLICING KNIFE
- FIBROX PRO W/ GRANTON EDGE
If you’re spending big bucks on a prime rib or taking the time to smoke a mouth-watering brisket, you don’t want to mess around with a knife that will "get the job done" – instead, knock it out of the park – clean and perfect slices. You’ll also find that this knife can also perform other duties than just slicing a roast.
Once you’ve spent big bucks on prime rib and entire days smoking mouth-watering brisket, don’t mess around and slice it with any old knife. Opt for the Fibrox Pro with Granton Edge, a slicing knife that gets clean, perfect slices every time. At 12” long, this narrow slicing blade is razor sharp, and makes slicing paper-thin roasts and brisket a breeze. The Granton edge creates pockets of air between the blade and the meat, keeps the meat from sticking, and reduces friction for a smoother, easier cut without any shredding.
The blade is a single piece of stamped stainless steel, extremely sharp - and easy to keep that way. The handle is made of sturdy TPE, is solid in your hand, and has a Fibrox Pro-Grip handle with non-slip texturing. At 8 ounces, it is also bit heavier than it looks, but well-balanced and easy to wield.
And since it’s made by Victorinox, who has been crafting the original Swiss Army Knife since 1884, it is guaranteed to be of the highest craftsmanship. Probably the highest-quality slicing knife you’re going to find in this price range, it’s will make deliciously thin slices out of your roasts, hams and briskets.
Best MEAT CLEAVER
- J.A. HENCKELS CLASSIC CLEAVER
Henkels leads the way in cleaver manufacturing. Full-tang with triple-rivet handle. Whether chopping through hard joints or straight through bone you'll find this sharp blade has the weight and balance that rivals cleavers that cost twice as much.
WEIGHT: 11.85 oz.
J.A. Henckels is perhaps the most well-known name in kitchen cutlery. They have been making all kinds of knives and kitchen tools since 1895, so it is hard to imagine this cleaver being anything but excellent. Despite being designed by the legendary German knifemaker, the Classic Cleaver is made in Spain, using traditional hot drop-forging, the way blacksmiths have been crafting metal tools for thousands of years. The result is an extremely hard, durable high carbon stainless steel blade, that chops through meat and bones without a second thought. It’s satin-finished, holds its edge well, and is easy to sharpen.
The blade is attached to the handle with a full-tang, with 3 sturdy rivets. It is well balanced and as tough as they come. The handle also has a nice ergonomic handle, and the whole thing is dishwasher safe, making cleanup a breeze.
Whether you’re looking to chop right through leg bones or slabs of meat, the heft behind this blade gets it done - and for a lot less than most other forged cleavers. J.A. Henckels knows a thing or two about making superior knives, and this one is no different. They back it up with a lifetime warranty.
Best BONING KNIFE
- VICTORINOX FIBROX PRO
Again, for the money, this knife is undisputed as the best boning knife under $50 by several of the top trusted cooking gurus in the industry. Sharp enough for the tough jobs like striping meat, but delicate enough to have the flex needed to debone fish.
OPTIONS: flexible & curved, flexible & straight, semi-flexible & straight, semi-stiff & curved
Another fantastic offering from Victorinox, the Fibrox Pro 6” Boning knife is our choice for a boning knife. The high-carbon, stainless steel straight edge blade, with a slight “S” shape, is thin and flexible, as a good boning knife should be, and is adept at removing meat and fat from large and small bones alike. Victorinox uses canonical grinding on this blade to achieve the perfect edge and sharpness, and it shows; the knife slices through everything – meat, even fruit, vegetables and bread – without batting a figurative eye. The Fibrox Pro Grip handle with non-slip grip stays firmly in your hand. Victorinox also says the handle design is reduces wrist tension while cutting.
At 5.9” and 3.8 ounces, this is a versatile, wieldy boning knife. Reviews from users are nearly unanimously positive, and when you try it out, you’ll know why. It’s light, superior quality, and affordable as can be. Add the Fibrox Pro Boning knife to your arsenal, and you’ll be separating meat and bones like a pro in no time.