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Is it ok to use a chef knife to chop through bones (not too big, like chicken or pork ribs) or a coconut or will it ruin the knife permanently?

I've done that on occasion and it did not seem to suffer damages but may be it's just that I haven't done it enough.

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see this for related info on coconut opening: cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/298/… –  Sam Holder Jul 13 '10 at 11:44
    
and although not always possible, avoid chopping through the bones by slipping the knife through the tendons that join the bones together, this makes it much more simple to separate chicken thighs from the bird etc. Its just a matter of getting the knife in the right place. Obviously can't work for chopping ribs in half, or cutting through the breast bones of a chicken, but... –  Sam Holder Jul 13 '10 at 11:47

5 Answers 5

A good-quality cleaver can be the right tool for both jobs. Make sure it's properly constructed with the metal of the blade running all the way through the handle, though, or else you risk the handle snapping and the blade going flying during a strike.

For the coconut, the technique is actually to roll it along the blade to start a groove, then crack it with the blunt end of the knife almost as if it were a mallet. This should be done with extreme care, of course.

For bones, place the meat on a very solid cutting board and use clean, forceful swings to break through.

For both techniques I recommend doing a quick search on youtube to watch others demonstrate them first.

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For safety reasons I wouldn't attempt cutting into a coconut with a knife. Try a saw instead.

For chopping bones such as ribs I'd use a good weighted cleaver or heavy knife so you reduce the chance of the knife bouncing back. If you use the correct knife for the job and the knife is of good quality then no harm should come to either the knife or the operator.

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I've ruined a cleaver opening a coconut, before I learned the correct technique -- use the back of the knife.

Hold the coconut in your off hand, and slowly work your way around the coconut, turning and hitting it with the back of your knife. The goal is to crack the coconut, not to cut it.

As for bones with the chef's knife -- it won't do major harm so long as you have good technique. If you hold the knife at a little bit of an angle, for most foods you'll be fine, but bones will quickly take the knife out of true. You'll want to re-hone it after hacking through bones.

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For smaller bones, like chicken bones, you may find a good pair of kitchen shears an easy-to-control alternative to a cleaver. I have these Messermeister shears, which I totally love.

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I've butterflied a chicken before with a good pair of shears. It worked very well. –  justkt Aug 10 '10 at 13:57

Standard answer: No, you should not use a chef's knife for those jobs.

The chef's knife should be very sharp and is used mainly for chopping vegetables or meat. Alternatives have been discussed here. A cleaver, a shears, the back of the chef's knife even.

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