The Best Knives for Cutting Meat and Other Proteins
If you enjoy serving large cuts of meat for dinner parties or preparing your meals at the beginning of the week, you’ve got to have the right knives and know which tasks they’re best suited for.
Luckily for the home cooking enthusiast, most common kitchen knives can be used for cutting meat – but each one does have a specific purpose. Choosing the right knife and knowing how to use it will help you get the most out of your kitchen toolset.
The F.N. Sharp Guide to Slicing Through the Meats
Some of the most common kitchen knives best suited for cutting meat include:
- The Chef’s Knife: This multi-purpose knife is designed to perform many different kitchen tasks, rather than excelling at one in particular.
- The Boning Knife: This knife has a sharp point and a narrow blade. Although it has other skills, the boning knife is designed for removing meat from bones.
- The Utility Knife: This knife usually measures between the size of a chef’s knife and a paring knife and serves as a multipurpose tool in the kitchen.
- The Bread Knife: This knife comes with a serrated edge designed to cut through bread and soft-shelled fruits without damaging or crushing them. Depending on how it’s designed, it can also be used in place of a carver.
- The Paring Knife: This handy little knife can be used to both trim and score through thick layers of fat.
- The Carving Knife: A carving knife is a large knife used to slice thin cuts of meat, and it usually comes with a serrated edge.
- The Cleaver: A large, often rectangular knife used for heavy-duty jobs, like breaking down beef.
- The Steak Knife: This knife is, of course, reserved for the finished product, whether it’s a big juicy steak, pork chop or chicken breast.
These knives all have their specific purposes in the kitchen, which we explain below. With a better understanding of each type, you’ll be slicing up different kinds of meat in no time.
Knife Knowledge 101: 6 Types of Knives to Keep in Your Kitchen
The Chef’s Knife
The chef’s knife is considered one of the most important knives in your kitchen. Designed to perform many different tasks, the chef’s knife comes with many uses, but here we will focus on how it is best used for cutting meat.
While the sharp edge of the blade is known for doing all of the work, including slicing meats and disjointing bones, the different parts of the chef’s knife are also used for different things. For example, the heel of a chef’s knife is used to cut through thick slabs of meat, including bones, while the tip of the blade is used for trimming fat and removing sinew.
When using a chef’s knife to prepare meat such as beef or pork, it’s important to start by slicing with the heel of the blade. While applying gentle downward pressure, pull the knife carefully toward your body, letting the weight of the knife do most of the work. Make sure to use the entire length of the blade. The good thing about this technique is it can work with most types of boneless meats, such as poultry, lamb and even fish.
Check out the video below to see how to use a chef’s knife to break down a boneless pork loin:
Check out the video below to see how use a chef’s knife to break down a whole chicken:
Check out this video to see how to use a chef’s knife to separate chicken wings:
Knife Knowledge 101: How to Use a Chef’s Knife
The Boning Knife
A boning knife has a sharp and thin flexible blade designed to remove bones and skin from various meats like pork, beef, and lamb, as well as poultry and fish, making it the ideal knife for prepping meats.
Some cuts of meat, such as a rack of lamb and various beef or pork cuts, have a layer of fat that should be removed before cooking. The boning knife is perfect for peeling away the excess skin and fat, plus it can help break away cartilage in joints, like separating the drumstick or thigh from the backbone of a chicken. It can also be used for butterflying meat, like chicken breast or flank steak to create stuffed meat recipes, or even for skinning and/or deboning and filleting fish!
When preparing meat with a boning knife, you’ll want to use a standard grip, keeping the blade against the meat while using long strokes. You’ll also want to avoid using a “sawing” motion to prevent ripping or tearing your meat, and instead utilize the length of the blade to make long, smooth strokes as you pull the meat away from the bone.
Check out the video below to see how the boning knife is used to debone and butterfly chicken breasts:
Knife Knowledge 101: How to Use a Boning Knife
The Utility Knife
Kitchen utility knives range from 4-7 inches, making them longer than a paring knife but shorter than a chef’s knife, yet a solid all-rounder in the kitchen.
Some utility knives have a serrated edge, which calls for an unfavorable sawing motion when cutting meat. A straight edged utility knife, like what you’d get from premium manufacturers like F.N. Sharp, make clean cuts without compromising the visual aesthetic of your final dish.
Utility knives can also be used for trimming fat and removing skin, as well as slicing smaller pieces of meat. These knives are also great for slicing cured meats for a charcuterie board. You can even use them to slice up small fish fillets or chicken breasts, or even for a big juicy steak, like with our recipe for perfectly crusted petite sirloin steak!
Knife Knowledge 101: Top Uses for a Kitchen Utility Knife
The Bread Knife
The bread knife is yet another versatile tool for home cooking enthusiasts to keep on hand. With its serrated edge, the bread knife can perform a wide variety of tasks.
As the name implies, bread knives are used to slice crusty loaves of bread without crushing the delicate interior. Other uses for this handy knife include slicing tomatoes, melons and certain kinds of cake – but a bread knife, in theory, can be used for slicing meat as well!
Although most professional chefs would never recommend doing so, a bread knife can also be used as a stand-in for a straight-edged slicing knife when carving cooked meat with a hard outer crust, like a prime rib or a brisket.
In most cases, a bread knife’s serrated edge can tear and mangle meat when used for slicing, especially pointed serrations, so you'll want to make sure your bread knife has the right edge before slicing into your beautifully cooked piece of meat.
For example, using a wider, scalloped edge knife, like the F.N. Sharp Bread Knife, will not only reduce crumbs and tearing when slicing bread, but will also allow for cleaner slices of meat and better juice retention.
Knife Knowledge 101: How to Use a Bread Knife
The Paring Knife
While the handy little paring knife is ideal for in-hand, detailed work like peeling fruits and veggies, segmenting citrus, deveining shrimp or even slicing and mincing small ingredients like garlic and shallots, it can also be used for quick meat prep tasks!
Need to trim off some extra fat or skin from a chicken breast? Reach for the paring knife. Need to score through thick layers of fat to help your meat absorb the flavors from your seasoning? Again, reach for that paring knife!
Knife Knowledge 101: 5 Big Uses for the Little Paring Knife
The Carving Knife
Carving knives have slender blades with sharp, pointy tips. The design is meant to reduce resistance as you move the blade back and forth. These knives are mainly used for carving a ham or leg of lamb, but are also great for poultry (like the Thanksgiving turkey you look forward to eating all year).
It’s important to make sure the blade of your carving knife is long enough. Otherwise, you’ll end up with unevenly sliced meat. When using a carving knife, it’s best to stabilize your meat in place and slice from top to bottom carefully, as to avoid injury.
Since a carving knife’s main task is to carve meat, it isn’t an essential knife for every home kitchen. You can get the same results with a sharp chef’s knife, utility knife or bread knife, depending on the size of the meat – and all three are usually included in most kitchen knife sets.
Cleavers, commonly called “meat cleavers”, are among the largest knives professional chefs keep in their toolkits. These knives come with wide, stout blades and are used for a number of tasks. As their size and shape suggest, cutting meat is one of their primary uses.
Given the larger portion sizes these knives are best suited for, most home cooks won’t find this knife a necessity in the kitchen. There are also certain meats, like whole roasted duck, that require you to use the cleaver in a way that performs more like a chef’s knife.
However, in professional settings where whole animals are being prepared, a cleaver is useful for tasks such as hacking through bone. The key is to hit the bone with the top third of the blade to allow for more leverage if it doesn’t go all the way through.
The Steak Knife
When it comes to meat-eating, be it a chicken breast, pork chop or big ole steak, a good steak knife is a must. Because the only thing worse than overcooking or burning your meat is serving it perfectly cooked with dull steak knives, or dare we say, butter knives?
And while most steak knives come with serrated edges, we prefer ours straight-edged and ready for business.
Also known as “non-serrated”, straight-edged knives feature razor sharp edges that can cleanly slice through meat without tearing the fibers – that is, if it’s sharp enough for the job.
Check out this F.N. Sharp guide to learn more about the differences between serrated and non-serrated steak knives, and which type is truly better!
Want the Best Steak Knives of the Block? Get F.N. Sharp!
Three Tips for the Perfect Cuts
To help you become a meat-prepping boss, here are just a few things to keep in mind when preparing your own meat cuts at home:
- Know your meats. Certain meats often slice better than others. Knowing the difference can affect the time you spend preparing a dish.
- Freeze your meat beforehand. This may not be common knowledge, but that’s okay. As the water inside the meat freezes and crystallizes, it adds structure to the cut that makes it easier to slice.
- Cut against the grain. This means cutting perpendicular to the muscle fibers you find in the meat, creating tender pieces that can be chewed far more easily.
Prep School 101: The F.N. Sharp Guide to Different Cuts of Meat
Choose the Right Knife Set for Your Meals
Most knife manufacturers package their knives into various sets. You can find individual knives available at almost any retailer, but a full set is worth the investment.
Here at F.N. Sharp, we offer the durability and cutting power of premium Japanese VG10 steel hammered into 67 layers to reveal a stunning feathered Damascus pattern – and the sharpest edges on the block.
Knife Knowledge 101: What is Damascus Steel?
Speaking of blocks, you'll also find the best knife storage and accessories here at F.N. Sharp!
Made of beautiful Acacia wood, the F.N. Sharp Knife Block features a magnetic exterior to allow you to showcase your knives, while the interior flex rods give you enough space to keep all of your favorite cooking tools handy. As an added bonus, you can get the magnetic knife block for free with the purchase of either our 6-knife or 3-knife set – or feel free to pick and purchase the knives you want and/or need individually.
Need a cutting board? We've got those, too – from our large 24" x 18" cutting board that gives you all the space you need to tackle any ingredient that comes your way, to our smaller 18" x 14" cutting board, which is the perfect size for everyday use and smaller spaces. Crafted from Acacia wood, our cutting boards are specifically designed to keep those knives sharp!
Now go forth and slice through those meats like the kitchen boss you are 😜
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Test Your Meat Prep Skills With These F.N. Sharp Recipes
From classic chicken dishes to pork, beef, game meat and seafood, we’ve got plenty of recipes for testing your protein prep skills!