1.) A good knife.Now I am admittedly a knife snob. When I got to the point where I had enough money to do it, I slowly built up a collection of high-end German knives. Those are the knives I use for everything. I love them all. Even the ones I rarely use, but somehow justified their purchase in my mind. You don’t need to have an arsenal of knives at your disposal. You also don’t need to have the baddest, most expensive knives on the planet. What you do need, at a minimum, is to have one “good” go-to knife. If you’re getting into barbecue, you’ll find that you’re going to be doing a lot of meat prep. And by meat prep I mean butchering. Trimming fat, trimming meat flaps (okay, I’m a five-year-old, but “meat flaps” always makes me laugh), breaking down big cuts of meat into smaller cuts of meat, etc. If you’re going to be doing this on a regular basis, you’re going to want to have a nice, sharp knife available when you need it. The knife I use pretty much exclusively for prepping meat is a rigid-blade 6″ boning knife. Sometimes I do wish it was an inch or two longer, but it works just fine. Yes, this is part of my snobby German knife collection. No, that’s not what I’m going to recommend to you. Why not? Because it’s a $120 knife. Well, that, and they no longer even make the line of knives that I own. I’m old… I’m not trying to push anybody to buy high-end stuff because it could potentially make me money. You will have to spend a few bucks if you want quality, but you don’t have to get stupid with it. The knife that I recommend for all of your BBQ prep needs is the Victorinox 8″ curved breaking knife:
Breaking knives are designed for breaking down large cuts of meat into smaller cuts. I wonder where they got the name from…hmm. Breaking knives feature a curved blade, which gives you some additional leverage when cutting through tough skin, cartilage, and small bones. In addition, they are ideal for trimming fat from meat. Victorinox was my go-to before I got into really high-end knives, and their stuff is about the best you’re going to find for the price. This knife is the perfect size at 8″….big enough for larger jobs, and small enough to not be too much when doing some of the finer detailing. It has an ergonomic no-slip grip that won’t get slippery even when your hands are wet. It’s also weighted and balanced to make it as easy as possible to work with. For around $35, you can’t beat it. They also offer a 10″ version for a few bucks more, but trust me, stick with the 8″. At 10″ it gets to be a bit much for trimming and such. Just my opinion.
2.) A honing steel.This goes hand-in-hand with #1. If you’re going to get a good knife, you need to get a honing steel. Honing is not the same as sharpening. Honing is what you do to keep your knives sharp for as long as possible before needing to have them sharpened. At a level which you cannot see, the very edge of the blade will roll to the side with use, and the knife will start to snag and not cut as clean. Your knife doesn’t need to be sharpened…it needs to be honed. Sharpening will do the trick, but you’re also grinding off metal from your knife. Excessive sharpening will result in prematurely using up your knife, and why would you want to do that? Honing, on the other hand, simply pushes the rolled edge back into position by running the knife along the honing steel in a slicing motion a few times on each side. If you do this regularly, your knives will stay sharper for much longer. How much longer? I’ll let you in on a little secret. I’ve owned my knives for different lengths of time because I didn’t buy them all at once. To be honest, I don’t even know how old my oldest knives are, but they are well over 10 years old at this point. I can be a bit OCD when it comes to my knives. Then again, I spent a small fortune on them. I run my knives over the honing steel for a bit before each use. I do it again after washing and drying before putting it back into the block for storage. I do this every time. You want to know how often I have my knives sharpened? Never. I have never had my knives sharpened. And I use some of my knives a LOT. Still razor sharp. Because I take care of them. I hone them. I hand wash them. I hand dry them. I keep them in a knife block. I read them stories. I sing them to sleep at night. I cuddle… okay, nevermind. Moving on. Sum it up to say that if you’re going to spend a few bucks to invest in a good knife, it’s more than worth it to invest in a honing steel to prolong the life of that knife. Plus you get the bonus of being able to use that honing steel on any other knives that you purchase. My recommendation is the Victorinox 10″ honing steel:
It’s the same manufacturer as the knife that I recommend, it has the same no-slip grip as the knife I recommend, and at 10″, it’s the perfect size for most knives. Do it. You won’t regret it. And you won’t need to keep replacing knives prematurely.
3.) A cutting board.This is going to assist with the longevity of your knives, as well as keep a lot of juices and other nasty stuff off of your counter. They make a lot of more attractive, more expensive, wooden cutting boards, but I’m not a big fan of the wooden boards. They tend to crack and come apart after a bit, and then you have to worry about juices seeping into the board and then things just get nasty. This is the one that I recommend:
This is a commercial-grade, FDA approved cutting board. It’s also very large at 24 x 18 x 0.75 inches thick, which is perfect for prepping and carving large cuts of meat. It has a groove near the edge, which will catch a lot of the juices that run out of the meat. The grooves are shallow, so you may still have some runoff, but it will help. The only negative I have to say about these is that they will slide around on your counter. It’s an easy fix, however. Take a large kitchen towel, put it under the faucet to get it good and wet, then wring out the excess so that the towel is just damp. Place it on top of your counter and place the cutting board on top of the towel. That will keep it in place. If you have granite countertops, don’t be freaked out about putting a wet towel on there. You’re not submerging the counter, and you’re not leaving the damp towel on there long enough to cause any discoloration. Stop it.
4.) Disposable gloves.Not a whole lot to say here, aside from the fact that you should be wearing gloves when you do your prep work. They help keep you from contaminating the meat, and they keep you from getting stuff all over your hands that you will then get all over everything you touch. Think about it. Yeah, get some gloves. These are the gloves I recommend:
They’re more sturdy than most, and they have a little bit of a texture to them (which is nice when handling raw meat) to help with grip. They are powder free and latex free, and they are available in sizes Small through XXL. Pro-tip. Okay, Semi-Pro tip. Okay, okay….old, experienced person tip – Pull on one pair of gloves, and then pull a second pair on over the first pair and cuff the bottom of the second pair. The cuff will make it easier to grab and pull off the outer pair, and the first pair will make it easier to change gloves multiple times without having to pull new gloves on over moist sweaty hands. Trust me. Just keep the first pair on until you’re done with what you’re working on, and change the outer pair as needed. You’re welcome.
5.) Kitchen shears.Yes, you can use your knife to do the same thing that kitchen shears will do, but it’s much easier to use kitchen shears when you can. Primarily, I use my kitchen shears for poultry. I cannot tell you how much easier it is to spatchcock a chicken or a turkey with kitchen shears as opposed to using a knife. I also use them to open up the packages that meat comes in, cutting twine for wrapping a roast…basically anything I want a pair of scissors for that I want to use only for food prep. You don’t want to use the scissors from your wife’s sewing kit. Trust me. You also don’t want to use the shears you use for cutting meat to cut paper for your kid’s school project. Because gross. Get a good set of kitchen shears. Use them only for food prep. These are the shears that I recommend:
These have oversized handles, which makes them much easier to use. They come apart easily, which makes them easier to clean. Please clean them by hand, not in the dishwasher. They’re sturdy enough to cut through bones and give you a lot of control for more precise cuts and trimming. They have a lock feature which will keep them from opening during storage, and they also have a spring mode which you can engage to help with hand fatigue. Really nice shears for the money. They also have the added bonus of a curved, serrated outer edge, which can be used for scaling fish. Apparently, they can also be used as a bottle opener, but I don’t know why I’d bother reaching for my kitchen shears to open a beer. But whatever. All in all, very nice. There you go. Check them out and pick ’em up if you need them. They’re all worthwhile investments. Thanks for reading!