Choosing the Right Kind of Knife For Different Cuts of Meat
There’s a lot of different knives out there. There’s also a lot of different meats, cuts and tasks that those knives can be used for. This is why kitchen knife sets are so popular. Some knives are multi-purpose, while others are single task only. How do you when to use which knife? Keep reading and we’ll show you a few pointers to get you out on the right track.
What Are You Cutting? Different Tasks, Different Tools
The exact meat (or other food) you’re using is the #1 consideration when you’re choosing which knife to use, and the knife you use for cutting those tomatoes won’t hack it on a nice big brisket or pork shoulder.
If you’re cutting a large piece of meat that has lots of bones – say a turkey or a whole or quarter pig – you’ll need something that can separate meat from bone with both ease and precision. Like a boning knife – also sometimes called a paring knife.
Boning knives have long, thin and flexible blades with tapered tips. This allows you to easily work around bones, cutting fat and other connective tissue when necessary. The width and stiffness of the blade itself often varies considerably with boning knifes, and they come in a few different styles. But in general, the more curved the blade, the more precise your cuts will be. Use a narrower boning knife when cutting ribs and chops and opt for a wider knife with pork and ribs.
If you’re just chopping through large cuts of meat without all the bones, you’ll might get away with just a simple, handy chef’s knife. The chef’s knife is the all-in-one workhorse of your knife set and will allow you to cut regular-sized steaks, roasts and chicken breasts (and more) when preparing to throw them on the grill (or in the oven).
Chef’s knives come in a variety of blade lengths – from 6” to 12” long. The longer the blade, the faster it can slice – but the more unwieldy it is – and vice versa.
When you start cutting up large cuts of meat into smaller ones – or even need to quickly chop through some bones – you might start to find a cleaver necessary. A cleaver might be overkill for many kitchens, but if you love barbecue and often cook for large parties, you might find this large, wide blade makes a great addition to your chopping and cutting arsenal. It cuts more than meat, too – and can come in handy for crushing garlic, chopping large tomatoes quickly, and even tenderizing and pounding chicken breasts for more even cooking.
Oh – and scraping and moving food around the cutting board is ridiculously easy with the back of a good cleaver. Some people even use a cleaver as quick vegetable peeler.
When to Use a Carving Set
Carving sets – which include carving knives and a carving fork – are best used for cooked meats – like ham, roasts, turkeys or even chickens – that are ready to serve. Proper meat carving is a learned skill, – especially with smaller meats like chickens. But with some practice…you too can be slicing some great filets and sandwich-ready slices with ease.
That’s because carving knives are even thinner than chef’s, and thus capable of much finer, more precise cuts and handiwork. They typically have blades about 12”-14” long, with very pointed tips (unless it’s specifically made for slicing roast beef, in which case the knife will have a round tip).
Just keep in mind you should never use a carving set for chopping meat; the very fine edge would be easily damaged and dulled by such forceful motions. Instead, use a general sawing or slicing motion back and forth.