Cutting through protein requires a blade with a particular set of characteristics — it doesn’t have to be big, but it should be agile. To help all you carnivores, we talked to experts to find the knives to buy for when you’re butchering your own chicken, serving a pork rib, and cutting a steak.
For whole poultry, like chickens and ducks
“People think that when you’re breaking down a whole animal, you need to have these big, heavy knives,” says chef Angie Mar, who runs the New York West Village restaurant Beatrice Inn, where the menu includes extravagant protein dishes like lavender aged beef rib and rabbit à la joinville. “I actually don’t use them at all. I use a boning knife because when you’re talking about whole animals, really you’re looking at taking them apart at the joint. So you need a boning knife that’s sharp, with a shorter blade, so you’re really going to be able to get in there.”
For porchetta, prime rib, or leg of lamb
Before you serve a special-occasion piece of meat, you want to carve it into smooth slices. “With a slicer, you’ve got a longer blade, maybe 270 millimeters,” — about 10.5 inches — “that’s great for slicing boneless protein,” Mar says. “The blades are a little bit thinner than on a chef’s knife, but — especially when we’re using whole roasts or steaks — I would always reach for a slicer.” Outside of a restaurant, this is the knife you’ll use on Thanksgiving and at big, ambitious dinner parties.
For a rib eye, sirloin, or any other cut of steak
Knife geeks will tell you that a steak knife should have a straight blade, and serrated blades actually tear the meat rather than slice it. “My current favorite, which you will find in many of the French three-Michelin-star restaurants, are the Perceval 9.47 steak knives,” says Gotham Bar and Grill chef Alfred Portale. “They’re a new favorite in the industry; I just bought a set of six for myself.” The Percevals have a relatively short and pointy blade, like you might find on a pocketknife, and the handles come in some surprising colors (sky blue, pistachio green), in addition to more classic black and olive wood, and you’ll find some restaurants mixing and matching their sets.
These are made in the French town of Thiers, which is to cutlery what Burgundy is to wine.
The other camp believes that a steak knife should have teeth, no matter what the aesthetes say. “I think the serrated blade is better for longevity and for the average home cook because you don’t have to worry about sharpening your steak knives,” says Ryan McDonald, chef of the new-school Chinese restaurant Good Fortune in St. Louis. “Steak only tears if you push too hard, so if you make a proper sawing motion and let the knife do the work, it should cut just fine.” For this, you can get an equally gorgeous serrated blade from Laguiole. Like Cartier and Dior, Laguiole is one of those French brands that signifies intergenerational quality.
“My grandparents have had an old set my whole life,” McDonald says. “Twenty years and a couple of kitchen remodels under their belts, the knives are still styling.” These have olive-wood handles; for a set with black handles, for $170, check here.
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