We've checked out 60 knives to bring you our top picks for the best chef, butcher, slicing, boning, and meat cleaver knives. We evaluated how well each knife preformed and how comfortable it was to handle while cutting meat, while also considering cost when ranking each knife. We discovered cheap knives under $20 you can count on and even our top preforming knives are under $100; making this roundup ideal for anyone looking for affordable knives to add to your kitchen.
The Right Tool For the Job
Love meat? Then you’re probably aware how important is to have the proper tools in the kitchen. Whether you’re slicing chicken strips, trying to dig into a steak, or need the best knife to cut through bone, 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.
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.
|Dalstrong Chef 8"||Forged||$$$$|
|Mercer Culinary 8"||Stamped||$|
|Dexter Russel 10"||Stamped||$$|
|Victorinox Cutlery 12"||Stamped||$$$|
|Mercer Culinary 11"||Forged||$$|
|Henckels Meat Cleaver 6"||Forged||$$$$|
|Juvale Cleaver 8"||Forged||$|
|Victorinox Swiss Army 6"||Stamped||$|
|Dalstrong Boning Knife 6"||Forged||$$$$|
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.
Best Types of Knives for Cutting Meat
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 mostly for cooked meat and for smaller cuts in raw meat, while a butcher’s knife is used exclusively for raw meat, especially breaking down larger pieces to smaller ones.
While a chef’s knife is more versatile, 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’s knife, with a slightly curved blade as opposed to the chef knife’s straighter, tapered blade. There are two styles. The classic with a slight bulge at the end, and the scimitar style with an exaggerated curve and a sharp point.
The curved blade is part of the effectiveness of this style blade. When taking say a loin down to nice New York steaks, the curve takes you through the fat cap and all the way down. When used correctly it cuts each steak with a single draw through for a cleaner look. The shape also helps cut through cartilage, and with a rocking motion hard fat caps or heavy silver skin. We have chosen to focus on the bulged end shape because the weight at the end lends itself to making all these cuts easier and safer.
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.
BEST KNIVES FOR MEAT
KITCHEN KNIVES UNDER $100
An eight inch blade length is the most common length you will see in use. Almost all manufacturer’s offer different blade lengths. Some folks like to buy a longer chef’s blade for slicing, as an example, but a purpose built knife is better as we have discussed. So our picks listed here are all eight inch blades.
Many of our knife choices will have textured or rubberized grips, in particular those knives being used more with wet raw products. It makes sense to have a grip that will stay solid if you should get it damp. A chef’s blade is mostly used with drier products so we can enjoy a wood or smoother plastic grip.
We have three chef’s blade for your consideration
WÜSTHOF MODEL 4562-7/20
You don't get much better than this for the money. While the handle is synthetic, it fits comfortably in your hand, cuts like a charm and the blade is designed to maintain a sharp edge.
Made in Germany, the Wusthof Gourmet Chef’s knife is designed for commercial kitchens, but feels at home in your kitchen too. The blade is made of laser cut, stamped high-carbon stainless-steel that sharpens easily and keeps it edge very well. The handle is ergonomically shaped, features a full tang, which makes it much more stable, and synthetic handle with a solid grip.
This is a good looking chef’s knife, and while not inexpensive, Wusthof is known for heirloom quality blades that will last long enough to be passed on to the next generation. It fits great in your hand, is easy to wield, and cuts through almost anything like butter.
DALSTRONG CHEF KNIFE - 8"
This is an up and coming brand, exploding almost, that markets heavily to the commercial kitchen with good results. That’s good news for you, because this is a heavy blade that holds a nice edge and will cut anything.
Not going to lie, some designs coming out of Dalstrong get a little far afield, but not this knife. It has classic styling, full tang that runs to the end cap with a ferrule design and a grip that has some characteristics of a Japanese knife. They use resin saturated pakkawood for the handle which takes sanitation well and is very durable.
One great feature is the blade height at the heavily built bolster. It allows excellent clearance for you knuckles off the cutting board when using a pinch grip. These guys pack a lot into what is basically a mid-range priced knife. Plus they get great commentary on their customer service, a trait we like in manufacturers.
MERCER CULINARY ULTIMATE WHITE
You walk in the back door of almost any commercial kitchen and you will see Mercer knives hanging on the wall. They are that good and that well priced, and they survive well in the crucible that is a full time kitchen.
These guys are the pickup truck of the knife world, and not the fancy one, but the workhorse hauling gravel or hay. At an amazingly low price point this is obviously a stamped blade. But they start with a good high carbon stain resistant steel and carry a solid core into the handle. The grip is polypropolene; great for slip resistance, hygiene, and endurance.
The only minor negative is that the blade is a hollow grind. It will still hold an edge quite well because of decent steel, but you need to be cautious cutting a bone or other harder things as the blade could chip. But as we know, there are other knives for those duties, so use this blade freely and with slight caution, you will get more than your money’s worth.
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 Mercer 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.
Sure, they call it the Gladiator series, but it does feel like you could take it to battle and win. Rock solid and super sharp, that’s what you need to break down primal cuts.
A Granton edge – the small regular indents along a blade – is essential for slicing cooked meats, especially into really thin slices. To have them appear on a blade intended for raw cutting is still very functional. Sometimes meat will adhere to a blade, almost vacuum like, and the Granton edge helps the meat release from the blade. Other than that, this is the classic design, shape, and edge that you want to have in your butcher’s knife.
Dalstrong is building with quality, from the steel sourcing to the grips, to the fit and finish. With the heavy bolster, the tang running to the end cap, the carved handle and three rivets; it all comes out seamless and smooth. These are characteristics you used to spend two or three times the money to get.
VICTORINOX SWISS ARMY - 47645
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.
MERCER CULINARY RENAISSANCE GRANTON EDGE
We know this may not be a daily use knife, so perhaps you want to get a good quality at a value price. Our ‘go to’ is the Mercer line, sharp out of the box and meant to stay that way; they just work.
The formed handle is riveted to the tang giving a good grip feel and responsiveness to the blade. As a result you can know that this knife will deliver consistent slices that look great when you serve them to family and friends. At eleven inches, you may occasionally have to draw through twice to finish your cut on a roast, but the sharp edge helps minimize any slicing tracks or shredded meat.
For brisket, pork loins, even ribs, this knife will serve you well breaking the meat down for service. The tapered grind facilitates thin slicing to show off your smoked meats, or cut them cold to use as lunch meat.
HENCKELS MEAT 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.
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 6” blade is attached to the handle with a full-tang, with 3 sturdy rivets. It is well balanced and as tough as they come weighing in at 11.85 ounces. The handle also has a nice ergonomic shape, 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.
MEAT CLEAVER HEAVY DUTY KNIFE
The fact is that a cleaver is like having an axe in the kitchen. It doesn’t balance like a regular knife, it doesn’t have an edge like a regular knife. You swing it down hard, it ‘cleaves’ through the bone and everything else. That is what this item will do for you
First off, cleavers have that hole to hang them on a hook or peg for easy access. Imagine you are breaking down some meat and you get down to the bone that needs cleaving, rather than fumble around with your meaty hands, grab the cleaver hack away and go back to your regular approach. Again, not your typical daily use item. But when you do need it, it has to work. Coming in at just over two pounds in weight, this cleaver is up to the task.
This is the only item on this list not from a knife manufacturer, Juvale is a curator of household goods, finding them on the open market and making them available. That being said, a cleaver is simple. You don’t want a really sharp edge or bits of metal will come off in use. You don’t want really hard metal because the brittleness will cause even more shards to come loose. This is stainless steel without an especially high carbon content, for those reasons. In particular a cleaver needs a full tang the length of the handle top and bottom. Again, the swing brings a lot of force to bear, a blade welded to the tang will break after minimal use.
VICTORINOX SWISS ARMY CUTLERY FIBROX PRO
For the money, this knife is undisputed as the best boning knife 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.
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.
DALSTRONG BONING KNIFE
Your boning knife should be the sharpest knife you own. This one will be.
If you’ve boned out a pork shoulder, you know what kinds of nooks and crannies you can find in the meat boning process. You need scalpel sharp and a thin blade which is why we shifted to the Dalstrong Phantom series for this blade. In addition to those two parameters, this has a D shaped handle for comfort, an extra bump at the bolster so that you can safely pinch grip and not slide your hand out on this really sharp blade.
You want the exact opposite of the steel from a cleaver. A higher carbon content, AUS-8 steel in this case, gives you that sharpness and keeps the edge better. In their collections, Dalstrong has differing flex and blade shape options if you have a certain preference. This is the one knife that is usually off limits to anyone else in the kitchen. Purpose built, it will continue to perform at a high level, virtually forever, with just a little bit of TLC.