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Understanding your knives and why it matters for your BBQ

knife math

Understanding your knives and why it matters for your BBQ.

Despite what most people think, barbecuing is not JUST about BBQs.

As you evolve in your path of becoming a genuine pit master, you’ll slowly realize that in order to be consistent with your cooking, you must invest in some accessories and learn how they affect what you are doing.

Sure, you can cook veggies and dessert on a BBQ but let’s not kid ourselves, barbecuing is mostly about meat. Cutting muscle fibres efficiently requires that you have the right knife for the right job.

While ‘average Joes’ will work, cut, trim and do just about anything with a steak knife, understanding your knives will be a game changer for you and will allow you to save tremendous time and efforts in your preparations.

Choosing your knives and building your pit master kit is one of the many ways one can tell that you’re getting serious about what you do.

Choosing your knives

Every Pit master Knife kit should be composed of a minimum of 3 different knives: A paring/carving knife, a meat slicer and an all-purpose one. Having a starting selection of knives will allow you to make sure you can trim, chop, slice, carve or do whatever it is you need to do to make sure your barbecue meals look as good as they taste. Knives won’t affect the taste, of course, but they will contribute to the anticipation of that first bite.

Before we drill down into the different knives you need, let me make it clear that there are lots of ways to qualify a knife. As knives become more and more popular, prices also have seen an increase. You do not have to go bankrupt for good quality knives. Japanese steel will always be considered as some of the best knives on the market, but you can find a similar blade at a fraction of the price, without the glitz and glam that comes with aesthetically pleasing handles and other extra features. Invest in what matters, not how cool a knife looks.

Carving/Deboning knife

If you enjoy cooking BBQ classics such as pulled pork or lamb legs, you will make good use out of a carving knife. Cutting meat directly from the bone can take a toll on any blade so carving knives are known for their narrow and slightly flexible blades, traditionally attached to a sturdy handle.

This type of knife offers balance and a safe grip as you work your way in just about anything. Some cuts of meat will require precision work to slice through ligaments and tendons without putting meat at risk. Deboning knives are usually on the shorter side of the spectrum to make it easy to power through hard bits and pieces without sacrificing control.

The low profile of the blade is designed to decrease any resistance as you cut your way through the toughest of layers, be it fish skin, tendons or small bone. The thin and narrow point of the knife makes precision work as easy as can be. Don’t get fooled by the name, a good carving knife will often prove to be one of the most useful knives in your set as it works wonders trimming off excess fat and shaping up briskets.

Slicing Knife

There’s nothing more frustrating than investing 12 hours on a brisket and it’s bark, only to shred your slices with the use of the wrong knife.

Slicing knives are specialty knives that are intended for presentation and simply put, make things pretty on your plate.

They are composed of long, thin blades and in most occasions, are aesthetically boring. And that’s fine. What you need to pay attention to is the small indents that should be on your blade. Those indents are designed to minimize drag and create air pockets so as you cut through meat, you ensure smooth and steady strokes. 

While 12 inches may seem long for a knife, know that anything under this length may actually prove to be a few inches short on some briskets. 

All Purpose Knife

All-Purpose Knives come in various shapes and sizes. While some people will invest in paring knives as a third option, Chef’s knives will often prove to be more versatile and reliable. Paring knives are similar to deboning knives except the size, normally much smaller, and work as “go-to knives”. That being said, having a chef knife in your set will become valuable for everything that’s not meat.

Being considerably much larger in size than the paring and deboning knife, the Chef’s knife is great if you need to chop down herbs, open bags, mincing garlic and do the dirty work with most tasks.

What’s great about Chef’s knives is that being so common, there are a lot of affordable options out there. You can go all in and invest in Japanese steel, which is always a sure bet, but you can also get the best bang for your buck in consumer grade knives such as Kai’s Chef Knife.

This knife is reliable, versatile and it’s hammered texture decreases friction as you cut for a safer and more precise work.

Of course, you can add to your kit afterwards with cleavers and other specialty knives but having these 3 different types is a great way to feel in control and efficient as you prep and serve. With all the effort that goes into barbecuing, it’s your responsibility to make sure you’ve got what it takes to enjoy every step of the way!

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