As food explorers, we’re always searching for accessories to help us make great meals. We often overlook one of our most valuable tools: our knives.
Try to think of a time when you used your grill, and you didn’t use a knife. It’s probably difficult because almost every recipe we prepare requires some level of knife work.
Our first instinct is to use kitchen knives when preparing to grill, but many kitchen knives are designed for cutting vegetables and trimming smaller cuts of meat. They don’t work as well on the large cuts of meat we tend to grill outdoors. At a minimum, you’ll get frustrated when breaking a whole pork loin into chops or spatchcocking a turkey if you’re using the wrong knife for the job because your slices will be uneven or the effort needed will be hard. More importantly, a knife that’s dull from daily use in the kitchen can lead to injury because a dull knife is a dangerous knife.
This is why our All Things Barbecue team recommends building a barbecue knife kit. Start with just a few of the most important knives and add the rest based on your preferences for prep and cooking. These knives should only be used when cooking outdoors so that they remain sharp when you need them.
Types of knives the ATBBQ team recommends
Over the years, our team has done a lot of knife work and we’ve found there are a few types of knives we always reach for. The knives we prefer for grilling here at ATBBQ as well as at home are listed below.
Knives for Prep Work
8” Chef’s Knife
If you only buy one good knife, it should be an 8-inch chef’s knife. It’s one of the most versatile knives in the kitchen, great for slicing, dicing, chopping and carving. The 8-inch chef’s knife is one of the most important knives you can own.
6” Curved Boning Knife
When people think barbecue, they often think smoked brisket and pulled pork. That means preparing whole packer briskets or pork shoulders. These meats require trimming fats, cartilage and silver-skin. In the case of a brisket, you’re also trimming the meat so the heat and smoke can move smoothly over its surface.
For this job we recommend a 6-inch curved boning knife. We’ve found that a curved boning knife helps move around the meat easier, giving you smoother cuts, better maneuverability, and less stress on the wrist. A 6-inch curved boning knife is also small enough for precise cuts, letting you do finer detail work as well.
Heavy Duty Poultry Shears
Many kitchen knife sets come with shears. To be honest, most of those shears seem like they weren’t meant for cutting much more than the occasional package. The first time you use them to spatchcock a chicken or a turkey, you see their weaknesses.
This is why we recommend a good pair of heavy duty poultry shears. They are going to have the blade strength and the leverage to cut through the backbone of a Thanksgiving turkey with no problems.
Knives for Serving
10” or 12” Granton Edge Slicer
Often called a brisket slicer and looking more like a sword than a knife, it may be hard to appreciate this knife’s value just by looking at it. But when you need to slice a large piece of meat after it comes off the smoker, you’ll quickly come to appreciate this knife.
Slicers save time and effort by giving you more cutting length as you slice back and forth, letting you make longer cuts with less arm movement. The Granton edge is also a benefit because the scallops cut into the sides of the blade reduce the vacuum that causes meat to stick to the blade. This prevents the meat from bunching up so you get smoother cuts and the slices just fall off the knife onto your plate. If you are serving large pieces of meat, a Granton edge slicer is a game-changer.
Trying to slice a moving piece of food is almost as impossible as it is dangerous. A good carving fork will allow you to firmly hold your food in place while you are using your knife. When using a carving fork, your hands are away from the food, so if the knife slips, it will not cut you. It also allows you to handle meat straight off the grill without burning yourself.
Should You Buy a Pre-Made Knife Kit?
Some knife manufacturers see the importance of knives for grilling and are curating some great kits that have much of the cutlery we need. Buying a pre-made kit may not get you the all the knives you want or will need, but they are an excellent platform to build on. In addition, most kits come with a bag or a knife roll that allow you to store your knives and give you room to grow your collection over time.
Since knives are by far one of our most-used tools, they deserve more consideration than we often give them. When we're grilling for our friends and family, we want to use the right tool for the job and be efficient with it. This inspires confidence and helps us make better meals. When searching for grilling accessories, don't overlook high quality knives!