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Knives for competition BBQ

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 

Maybe I am a bit lazy, but was struggling to work my way through this section.  I compete professionally in the BBQ circuit....relatively new at it though.  I am  putting together a separate set of utensils so that I am not using my home tools on the road.  I am looking for Recommendations on top quality knives.  My priorities are that they take and hold a good edge.  The particular knives I am look for are as follows:


1) 6 inch boning knife--trimming the meats

2) 10-12 inch knife for slicing brisket -- think hollow edge

3) Kitchen sheers to trim chicken mostly

4) 3-4 inch paring knife


I don't mind spending a bit of money on these as they are only going to get used every other week or so for six months of the year so I consider them an investment.





post #2 of 11
A popular knife for slicing brisket is the Victorinox Graton Edge 14" Slicer w/ Fibrox handle

You can't lay on the beach and drink rum all day unless you start in the morning


You can't lay on the beach and drink rum all day unless you start in the morning

post #3 of 11

Welcome to the forum. I don't think you really need to spend a lot of money to get what you are looking for. Scuba mentioned the Victorinox for a slicer. A friend of mine is a butcher and Victorinox Fibrox is what they use as well. In the knife world, these are "great value for the money" knives and are considered "acceptable". But for what you are doing, they are perfect.

When I worked briefly for a BBQ restaurant we used Dexter-Russell scimitars to trim packer cuts of brisket. The Victorinox is a step up in my opinion - and what I use at home (10" Chef, not a scimitar). They take a 15-degree angle very well ( I use a Chef's Choice 463 manual sharperner) and you don't have to worry about them chipping like harder steel tends to do. The Victorinox Flexible Boning Knife I have is psychic, I think. I've been looking for some kitchen shears myself lately. Cook's Illustrated recommended the Messermeister Take-Apart Shears and I've had a chance to use Wustof Gourmet Take-Apart Shears which were excellent but haven't had a chance to compare. There are also dedicated poultry shears you may want to look into.

Hope this helps and good luck on the circuit!


post #4 of 11
Thread Starter 

Thanks--that is actually what I have at home and am very happy with it, but was wondering if there was an upgrade...but sounds like that fits the ticket so will get another one..again, thanks for taking the time to respond



post #5 of 11

Steve, KCBS comps? What is the purpose for the shears?

What do you use to trim chicken thighs?


I don't think the average cooks understands how much trimming goes into comp chicken thighs including thinning the fat from under the skin. I think I averaged about 5 minutes per thigh.


Chicken thigh prepping: I use a 145mm Petty-thin and scapel like sharp to trim meat and a Santoku to scrape the fat off the underside of the skin.


Rib prepping: trimming full spares into St Louis racks, I use an 8 inch Forschner Breaking knife.

If you buy ribs pre cut this knife is not necessary.


Rib turns ins: the Petty above works, utility, boning, or smaller (8 inch) Chef's knife. You don't need to get too fancy. The rib meat is very tender and easy to cut but you do need precision thus I think a smaller knife works a little better.


Pork: you just may want to trim some excess fat cap. The Breaking knife (above) or a Chef's knife both work. You're just cutting fat so it doesn't need to be too high end. The Breaking or a Chef's knife both work.


Brisket trimming.. again your just cutting excess fat but that very hard piece of fat between the point and flat can be tricky if you decide to trim that. For trimming the excess fat off the Flat again the above Breaking or a Chef's knives both work.


Brisket turn in slices... it's a wide piece of meat.. most use a 12-14 inch Slicing knife like a Dexter Russell or Forschner/Victorinox. I'm not sure a Sujihiki would work well here because they have that pointy end. I think the blunt end Slicers work a little better here. I would love to try a longer 270-300mm Sujuhiki and see how they work on the turn in slices but it's hard to justify the cost versus a Forschner or Dexter.


With the turn in slices you would benefit by very even "clean" cuts. Thus a single slice/draw versus a sawing type of motion would look better. For this a longer knife is more ideal. With a shorter knife you may need to make saw motions which may result in less than clean cuts.


Package/box opening: a simple folding blade locking pocket knife works.


Sharpness is important. See Chad Ward's online discussion of knife sharpening and/or read his book.

Edited by JohnR - 10/18/12 at 7:03pm
post #6 of 11

Going in you want to ask yourself some questions.

  • How do you sharpen?
  • How much are you willing to spend on knives?
  • How much are you willing to spend on a sharpening kit to go with your comp kit?


For most guys doing comps, the best bet is probably Forschner Fibrox or Rosewood for everything but the shears. 

  • You can get them very sharp fairly easily;
  • They stay sharp for a long time, as long as they get the right sort of steeling;
  • They're cheap enough, that if one gets [ahem] borrowed it isn't a tragedy; and
  • Everyone uses them, so they won't draw undue attention to you.

Personally, I prefer Rosewood to Fibrox but they're slightly more expensive. 


I understand why you're suggesting the various profiles you're suggesting but I think you can do better.  For one thing a hollow ground (aka "Granton, and FYI there's no such thing as "hollow edge") won't help you with brisket sliced as thick as the thinnest comp slices.  Assuming you can get and keep a knife sharp, get a regular, fine edge. 


Following your ideas, this is the kit I'd recommend:

  • 12" (fine edged) slicer;
  • 10" cimiter for portioning ribs, and other heavy duty work;
  • 7" curved breaking knife for boning trimming;
  • 6" utility; and
  • 3-14" paring. 

You'll be surprised at how often you use the 6" utility and how seldom you use the little parer except for cutting string and opening packages, but it's nice to have an extra sharp edge in your kit.  I don't want to insert myself too deeply into this but if it were me, I'd also have a 10" chef's knife in my roll for cutting garnish, if nothing else.  Speaking of extra edges, it's a good idea to have a box cutter, a pocket knife, a multi-tool like a Leatherman and a couple of pairs of pliers.  Pliers rock.


Getting back to your questions, I like the all purpose, spring powered, serrated shears you get at hardware stores (on sale) rather than kitchen specific shears.  They're pretty cheap, stay sharp a long time and are cheap enough to throw away when they get dull. 


If you're going the Forschner route, you should probably carry a simple sharpening kit consisting of:

  • Norton IB-8 (combination coarse and fine India);
  • Norton IM-50 Sharpening stand (you can store and carry the IB-8 in the stand);
  • 8x2 Hall's Hard or (better yet) Black Arkansas;
  • 10" Forschner fine, polished, or combination fine and polished steel.  I generally prefer ceramic "steels" but they're fragile.  The exceptions are the DMT CS2 (don't get a DMT Diamond steel!) and the MAC Black.  The MAC Black is a little pricey, though. 


As long as your knives meet a certain minimum threshold of quality (like the Forschners) sharpness is more about sharpening and maintenance than the knife itself. 



post #7 of 11
Thread Starter 

I appreciate that. The shears I have just used in the past on the  thighs for cutting off fat and initial clearing up, could well be done without but also feel a good set of shears ought to be on hand "just in case"


If you are triming up thighs in 5 minutes--do you give lessons?  smile.gif

post #8 of 11

Cleaning, trimming, and trussing a dozen thighs, from start to finish, should take well under 30 minutes.  What are you doing that uses so much time? 


  • Lay the already brined thighs on the board skin side down;
  • With knife or shears, clean up the joints on each side if necessary, leaving or removing the "knuckle" cartilage as you like;
  • With a knife, trim away excess skin and globs of fat;
  • Do NOT separate the skin from the flesh in any way -- unless, that is, you like to season between skin and flesh;
  • Truss the thighs with string so that the meat and skin will move at the same rate, which helps keep the skin from separating from the meat, and so they'll be more attractive -- i.e., regularly shaped, plump and compact; and finally
  • Rub the thighs with your rub(s).  


I think you get the best skin by removing the string, and crisping the skin briefly on a well-oiled grill after they've smoked.  The grill will also "set" the glaze, if you glaze.  In addition, the grill marks are attractive and will mask the string marks. 


You want nice box, but judges care a lot more about "bite through," taste, and an appropriate degree of doneness than they care about appearance. 


You don't need to get rid of all the fat, just globs which are long enough not to render away during the cook.  Remember, fat looks bad but tastes good. 



post #9 of 11

"Cleaning, trimming, and trussing a dozen thighs, from start to finish, should take well under 30 minutes. What are you doing that uses so much time?"


BDL, I guess I'm not that good then ... 24 thighs takes me about 2 hours..


I do remove the skin and thin/remove fat from under the skin  .. it does take a while it get every thigh evenly sized, skin defatted, all other fat removed, etc.


Steve there is a decent tutorial at this link ... Also on the underside of the thigh there is a deep triangular shaped piece of fat that I remove. It takes a sharp knife with a pointy end.. it can't be removed by shears. Chris Lilly taught me how to trim meats for KCBS comps at a class I attended a few years back.

post #10 of 11

I'm going to check into your idea for shears for myself. Never would've thought of that one!

Thank you,

post #11 of 11
Thread Starter 

I have been submitting boneless thighs and scraping skins which has taken time....

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