How to Cut Meat Like a Professional Butcher (5 Top Tips)

If you’ve ever walked in to your local butcher’s and seen first hand a professional cutting away at an entire carcass, you know that it can look quite brutal.

The knives are sharp, the cuts (after years of practice) come swift and clean. There’s often excess blood on the worktop and apron, and it is very clear that one false move could see the unintentional dismemberment of a vital body part, (belonging to the butcher).

However, with all that being said, you would still like to have a go at it.

This article will hopefully put you on the right path to cutting meat like a pro, while keeping all your fingers intact at the same time.

Follow these 5 top tips (plus some bonus videos on exactly how to make those cuts) and you will be well on your way to safely chopping whole cows, should the opportunity ever present itself.

1. Use the right tools the job

The first and most key tip that a butcher would give you, is to use the correct tool for the job.

A pro butcher’s knife collection consists of a number of tools to ensure they are never cut short. However, the 3 essential knives are:

  • A 5-inch stiff boning knife;
  • a 7-inch stiff boning knife;
  • a 12-inch butcher knife.

Stiff knife blades are best for beginners as they are easier to handle. However, as your skills increase a more flexible option will give you greater overall control

Victorinox make well-regarded butcher’s knives, (see our full review of the best butcher knives you can buy here).

2. Know the animal you are cutting (Remember: Pigs have seams)

The biggest learning curve is getting to know the natural clefts in the musculature of the various types of animal you cut.

Pigs have seams, knowing that you should target behind the 5th rib in order to dismember the chest away from the rest of the body, is one such piece of knowledge that will help you execute effortless cuts.

There’s also variations in the intramuscular fat. Studying this will allow you to target areas that will be less stubborn as you cut.

All animals are different of course, however the following videos will give you an insight into the methods of cutting involved for each one:

How to cut a cow like a pro butcher

How to cut a pig like a pro butcher

How to cut a deer like a pro butcher

3. It will get wet and slippery!

Cutting large animals is a wet and slippery business.

You will want a secure grip on your knife throughout the process. Ergonomic, plastic handles designed specifically for butchery are the way forward for beginners.

They are easier to hold and to clean. (Pro butchers do often move on to wood handled options however).

A towel on hand to wipe your hands and tools is also important. A slippery knife is one of the main precursors to a lacerated hand.

4. Keep it sharp

A good butcher will always have sharp knives. Accidents happen with dull blades because of the extra effort that needs to go in to make the cut.

A sharp knife does the work for you. The result is effortless, clean cuts that your average pro would be proud of.

To ensure your knives are in good working condition have a honing or sharpening steel close by throughout.

You should have your tools periodically sharpened by a professional, or if you are handy with a whetstone, you can do your own maintenance instead. See here for how to use a whetstone sharpener:

5. Safety First

Finally, there is the issue of safety – something that no professional butcher would ever take for granted.

To work safely at speed, you will find that butchers never leave blades on the table.

They are put aside (either in a wall rack or a secure, hip-held tool belt) and the only knife in the area of action is the one in their hand.

Pros will also wear an apron with a metal chest plate. If you are completing butcher style dismemberments of large animals on a regular basis, you will want one too.

Other pro tips in the area of safety include placing a damp rag under the cutting board to hold it steady, child proof drawers or storage areas for all your knives, and finally, just be aware where your other hand is.

The final cut

And there you have it, some simple, yet effective tips that will set you on your way to cutting like a pro butcher.

Any comments or questions, just leave them in the section below. We always love hearing from you guys.

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