Butcher Tools And How To Use Them
Butcher tools consist primarily of several different kinds of knives, each kind designed for a specific purpose. The right knife used at the right time will make preparing any cut of meat both easy to accomplish and easy to do the right way. The one exception would be when bone needs to be cut, in which case a bone saw will usually be needed.
When first using butcher tools, hopefully under the guidance of one experienced in meat cutting, the impulse may be to cut and slash and hope for the best. This will not only produce far from satisfactory cuts of meat, but given the degree of sharpness butcher knives should have, cutting and slashing could be downright dangerous. Even more dangerous are butcher tools which have been allowed to become dull.
The carving knife you use at the dinner table, or the steak knives used at the table, are usually fairly sharp, though they may not be sharpened all that often. What most don't realize is when cutting meat, a knife can become dull rather quickly. We don't usually witness this in our own households because the kitchen steak knives we use are most often sharp enough to do the job.
Not Sharp, But Razor Sharp - When it comes to butcher tools however, when we say sharp, we mean razor sharp, and a razor sharp knife will lose its edge after preparing just so many cuts of meat. A butcher will usually sharpen the knives he is planning to use the day he is planning to use them, and if he is very busy, may sharpen the knives once or twice more during the day. If you are given the opportunity to butcher a side of beef, you'll quickly notice the very significant difference between sharp and razor sharp.
An experienced carpenter takes good care of his tools, keeps them in tip top shape, and doesn't leave them lying about. The same holds true for a butcher, especially the last part. A professional butcher will never leave knives lying around, as leaving a razor sharp knife on the table, which could be temporarily covered up by a piece of meat, some paper, or a rag, is about as safe as leaving a loaded gun lying around. The end result probably won't be fatal, but could still result in a very nasty cut. The mantra the butcher must follow is "do you know where your knives are?”
Butcher Knives - The two primary categories of butcher knives are the boning knife and trimming knife, Both types come in different shapes, have differing blade lengths, and have blades with varying degrees of flexibility, usually designated as stiff, medium, and flexible. Boning knives are those most often put to use when preparing a quarter of beef, while it is the trimming knife we usually see the butcher use when preparing a cut of meat at the counter for sale.
Favorite Knife – Do Not Touch - Most butcher tools are not only well cared for, but butchers have a habit of selecting one or two knives as their favorites. These are often instruments the butcher uses for more than just a single purpose, and are knives which have a "feel" the butcher is very comfortable with. If you serve an apprenticeship with a butcher, or just are there to help out on a temporary basis, heaven help you if you start using one of the butcher's favorite knives. It's like using someone's favorite tennis racquet or toothbrush. It just isn't done. One of life's little adventures is facing an enraged butcher who just happens to be holding a knife or a cleaver, and you've just dulled his favorite knife. Fairly or unfairly, butchers are sometimes stereotyped as being rather temperamental, so it's nice to know which knives can be touched and which should be left alone.
Bone Saws - Besides knives, other butcher tools consist of knife sharpeners, cutting blocks and boards, and bone saws. A bone saw looks very much like a large hacksaw, but has a specially designed blade, designed to cut bone. A carpenter's saw, or a chain saw for that matter shouldn't be used to cut bone. It's not safe, plus you'll end up with cuts of meat that are full of bone chips. If you're a hunter, and dress and prepare your own kill, get a bone saw if you thing a saw will be needed, and don't go to the garage to get just any old saw. And keep your boning and trimming knives razor sharp.