Knives Are Becoming More Multidimensional Every Year. These Sporty Kitchen Knives Are Ready For The Cutting Board Or The Campsite
When many of us blade enthusiasts think kitchen knives, we don’t necessarily associate them with outdoor or sport use. Likewise, many of us would not consider bringing our hard-use blades into the kitchen for prep work. Nonetheless, there are a few knives that have a broad range of uses in both the kitchen and camp.
I tend to see a knife not just by the edge but by its blade thickness. While there is a utility to extremely thin-edged knives with thin spines, such blades are almost always designed for secondary or finishing uses. In my opinion, the thicker the spine the more utility a knife has for crossover work between kitchen and field.
On the other hand, the thicker the spine gets, the harder it is to use for fine work—it can even be dangerous. Thinner blades are much better in the kitchen. As far as field use goes, they are pretty much only for light work and very small amounts of game processing. I’ve seen many thin blades break while working on deer. Some of these have resulted in injuries to the user.
Best 3 Sporting Kitchen Knives
There is a sweet spot for crossover, though, and the test knives fit the mold. None would be my preference for dressing a whitetail, but all certainly would be at home in camp or the kitchen after the heavy lifting has been accomplished.
The TOPS Frog Market Special test knives could be used as skinning knives, as could the White River, but the main enemy of any thin blade is going to be breaking and edge chipping. Of the test group, the White River is the only one thick enough to be a primary use hunting knife, but it is a rather small knife with a slender handle. On small game it will work, if it’s not a bit obtuse in spine thickness, though when moving large amounts of muscle and skin, the hand would fatigue.
So, if we tend to think of a kitchen sporty as a secondary tool, a wide number of its features become handy that would not be so great on a primary field knife or even a primary kitchen knife. The first is the ease of cleaning and the ability to hold an edge.
I put the review knives to work quite extensively in the kitchen, doing everything short of fully deboning large game. All were used on cuts of meat, to cut vegetables, peel apples, cook over an open flame, and as eating knives at the table or camp. In the process, I learned a few things about each one.
White River Exodus 4
Of the test group, the White River Exodus 4 is probably the most well-rounded for field and table use. A relatively small knife, it is very slender in overall profile, both grip and blade. For general use, it is extremely functional. I found it suitable for virtually all small game, able to process a whole chicken and an excellent skinner.
It could be used for slicing vegetables, chopping onions, and cutting many other types of fruit and produce as well. The edge profile does not lend itself to fine cuts. For presentation or fancy plates, it tends to split rather than give clean cuts, especially in apples and things like cucumbers. This is not a major concern, just something to note.
The Micarta® handle is contoured superbly and cleans easily. It isn’t slippery when wet. Notably, it’s a full-tang blade that’s extremely strong. Despite its size, it has a blade profile thick enough for baton work on small pieces of wood, though it would not be my first choice for such a job. The blade spine has a sharp 90-degree profile excellent for use with a ferro rod.
There aren’t many if any, downsides to this knife. It can be used in just about any setting and will not look out of place if you take it to town for dinner. You also will not look like “that guy” if you use it to cut a sandwich in half or an apple for your kids in public. Note: The sheath is a bit stiff when you first get it but it breaks in fairly quickly. The knife was very easy to keep clean and sharp.
TOPS Knives Frog Market Special
I’ve used the Frog Market Special (FMS) models by TOPS Knives for a couple of years. They’ve given me a long time of service in the kitchen as well as around the campfire. They’re available as individual pieces or a set. If you get the set, it comes with a piggyback sheath. The sheath is very nice and has a belt clip.
Steven Dick, U.S. Army ranger veteran and editor of the old Tactical Knives magazine, based his design for the FMS on knives he saw on a trip to Hanoi, Vietnam. He watched butchers and fishmongers using knives of a pattern he’d never seen before. They prepared meats and fish of many varieties easily using the blades.
I’ve done just about everything you can imagine with my FMS knives in the kitchen, and also processed dozens of deer with them. They maintain their edges very well and required only occasional resharpening. Because of the unusual blade shape, the knife can cut just about any type of meat and vegetable, including slicing, chopping, and in a rocking motion. They’ve replaced several other knives in my kitchen and serve as my go-to set.
While they have a large, deep-bellied profile, the FMS knives aren’t especially durable for field use. I have not used them to break down large game for the same reason I would be afraid of breaking any thin-spined knife. They excel for chicken and duck, as well as other small game. The Micarta handle is very comfortable and slip-resistant.
I’ve had an extremely good time with these knives but they have a downside—the blade finish. I’ve had excellent luck with all my TOPS knives, though I’ve never been a fan of the finish. I prefer knives that are bare metal. I don’t like it when the coatings begin to chip away. In a couple years of use, the finish has begun to flake and the metal underneath has become discolored, even with oiling and care. While it is a minor gripe, for knives used to process food I don’t like the idea I may also be eating blade coating. I would like to see this profile in some sort of stainless, or perhaps a slightly thicker spine in a tougher steel.
MSRP: $375 for the set
Spyderco Utility Knives
Spyderco offers some very affordable and high-performance knives that are at home in the kitchen and easy to clean and maintain in the field. The company sent me its 4.5-inch Utility Knife with a serrated edge and red handle, as well as a plain edge 6.5-inch model in black.
The first thing about these knives is they are extremely slender and likely would not be suitable for hard field use. However, if you are already at camp, these are exceptional for end processing and cooking. I used them for weeks straight for all my cooking and they never dulled or chipped. They were both so sharp at the end of the review that they could still cut paper-thin slices of tomato, a hard feat for most knives.
One of the most important parts of these knives is they are essentially foolproof. Even after cooking with them for several meals a day for a long time, I cleaned them without issue and returned them to the knife block. The fact they are so easy to clean and stay sharp for so long really makes them worth the already low price. You don’t really have to worry about oiling them or keeping them in a special container.
In a pinch, the knives can be used for striking on a rod, though I would not recommend it long term. Their utility in the field is very limited, though when it comes to fishing or pursuits that don’t involve moving large animals, they’re just fine. I would not replace my fillet knives with either of these, though they certainly work for the task.
MSRP: $50 or $60
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