Ulu knives are some of the coolest kitchen tools out there. Ulu knives are not only unique, they’re also incredibly versatile. From filleting fish to mincing garlic, these knives can pretty much do it all.
But given how niche these knives are, it’s important to learn a few things before diving right in. I’ve outlined some critical information about ulu knives below - ranging from their rich history to contemporary use - and also listed what I consider to be the five best ulu knives currently on the market.
High End Pick
My pick for the all around, absolute best ulu knife.
The Ulu Factory would be the obvious place to go for, you guessed it...ulu knives. This Alaskan Ulu Knife is it as far as ulu knives go. No frills and no flash, just top of the line Alaskan craftsmanship.
This ulu knife has a six inch blade, honed with a single bevel to a very sharp edge, right out of the box. The blade is securely riveted into the handle, which is about four inches across and made from a rich shade of Alaskan walnut.
The handle is also pretty comfortable. I like how the wood is curved at the top in a way that creates nice visual symmetry with the blade itself, and more importantly such that it fits easily into the palm of your hand.
That said, the handle is relatively small at just four inches across, so if you’ve got large hands like me you may need to look elsewhere.
The knife also comes with a convenient wooden storage stand, because this ulu knife is obviously not fitting into a standard knife block. The stand holds the ulu knife upright, keeping it safe from wandering fingers and also creating a great statement piece in the kitchen.
And best of all, this knife is hand made in Alaska, the regional birthplace of the ulu knife!
This is without a doubt the best ulu knife on the market. It’s made from the best possible materials, using the best forging and hammering technique, and it's absolutely beautiful.
When you do a broad survey of ulu knives on the market, they can be divided into two, broad aesthetic categories. On the one side, we’ve got knives that are extremely simple, and on the other, knives that are outlandishly ornate, and usually stamped with some sort of touristy Alaska-related design.
But this knife is neither simple nor tacky. Rather, the North Star Knife & Ulu Company makes knives that actually match the refined aesthetics of other high quality kitchen knives. This alone makes this knife special.
Of course, aesthetics aren’t the only thing that make this knife great. This ulu knife is also made from superior quality carbon steel, mixed with nickel for added strength.
This ulu knife is also forged, rather than stamped, and about 200 layers of steel are hammered into a beautiful Damascus pattern. It’s also heat-treated, resulting in a super hard blade that ranges anywhere from 55 to 60 on the Rockwell Hardness Scale.
I also really like the handle on this knife. It’s made from a rich walnut, and triple riveted. The handle is also quite comfortable - important for an ulu knife, since pressure is concentrated at the top - with plenty of space for your fingers.
The North Star & Ulu Company also throws in two additional features, a protective leather sheath, and a limited lifetime warranty. Buy with confidence!
If you’re looking for a complete ulu knife set, look no further than this combo from the Ulu Factory. This set comes with a well made ulu knife (obviously) a nice wooden display stand, and a two toned, bowl-shaped cutting board.
Let’s start with the ulu knife. Made from high quality stainless steel, this thing is sharp. It’s actually sharpened on only one side - a single bevel - since that’s the way ulu knives have been traditionally made.
It’s got a great grip, with a curved wooden handle that mirrors the blade underneath and makes for comfortable knife work. I don’t particularly love the “Alaska Cutlery” stamp in the wood, but this is only a small aesthetic concern, and something I can overlook.
The cutting board is also really cool. It’s made from two different types of wood, Alaskan Birch and American Walnut, laid out in an alternating light and dark pattern. And the cutting board is concave to fit the curve of the knife, making for easy and satisfying dicing and mincing.
This set also comes with a small wooden stand, which is convenient if you want to display this ulu knife on your kitchen countertop.
This ulu knife by Bubba is certainly a statement piece. Although it might not look like a typical ulu knife, or like any kitchen knife at all for that matter, it definitely performs like one.
So hear me out.
First, this Bubba ulu knife is super strong, like run-over-it-with-a-car-strong. The blade itself is made from steel, and coated in “TiN,” which stands for titanium-nitride. This results in a light, yet durable kitchen tool.
But the real stand out of this knife is the handle. Although it admittedly doesn’t look great, it performs very, very well. Bubba has a patented “Bubba Blade Non-Slip Grip” handle that fits perfectly in your hand and won’t slip, ever, even when wet.
And there are a few add ons to this product that are pretty nice too. The knife comes with a safety sheath, which I think is particularly important for ulu knives, since they don’t really fit in knife blocks or on magnetic knife strips.
The Bubba ulu knife also has a built in bottle opener on the blade, which for me doesn’t add much, but it certainly doesn’t take anything away.
All in all, while the aesthetics may be lacking, this is an absurdly well made, highly functional and versatile ulu knife. If you can get past the bright orange handle, this knife may be perfect for you.
This ulu knife from Arctic Circle is a pretty decent budget option if you’d like to experiment with a rocker knife but don’t want to break the bank. It’s pretty well made, especially considering how inexpensive it is, and it looks great.
The blade is made from 440 stainless steel, and it’s actually pretty sharp, but unfortunately it’s also emblazoned with the outline of Alaska. This is because ulu knives originated with indigenous communities of the Pacific Northwest.
So while the blade itself is solid, the engraving is kind of tacky.
The standout of this knife though is the patterned wooden handle. The wood is kind of a combination of yellow, brown and red. My only complaint about the handle is that it doesn’t seem to be riveted, so I have some small concerns about strength.
The Arctic Circle ulu knife also comes with a small wooden stand, also nicely patterned, for convenient storage and display. This thing definitely isn’t the highest quality ulu knife on the market, but it looks great and it’ll get the job done.
So what are ulu knives used for?
Ulu knives are fantastically multi-functional, owing largely to their unique design. One of the best and most common uses for an ulu knife is filleting fish. Additionally I’ve found that an ulu knife is great for slicing cheeses and pizza!
Of course, ulu knives can also be used to slice vegetables. To do this, hold the knife with the handle in the palm of your hand, with the beveled side facing the direction of whatever hand you’re using. For example, if you’re gripping the knife in your right hand, make sure the bevel is facing to the right.
With the ulu knife in your hand, it's simply a matter of rocking the knife away from you. Ulu knives are also great for getting a good dice, and even a mince. When combined with a concave cutting board/bowl, ulu knives are actually perfect for mincing garlic, and preparing herbs.
Ulu knives are also fantastic for cooks with limited strength and/or dexterity issues. Because of the unique design, a little pressure on the handle goes a long way, which is great for cooks battling arthritis.
Where do ulu knives come from?
Given the ulu knife’s unique construction and rich history, it’s important to familiarize ourselves with its origins. We all know that ulu knives have something to do with Alaska, but what exactly is the connection?
The ulu knives we know today are indeed associated with Alaska, and routinely sold as tourist souvenirs. This is because ulu knives were, and continue to be, important tools among indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest.
But make no mistake, the ulu knives featured on this list are not simple tourist objects, nor are the original indigenous tools from which they gain their inspiration.
Ulu knives have traditionally been the primary cutting tool for these indigenous groups, and were originally made from sharpened, flat rocks. Handles have historically been made out of wood, ivory or bone. These knife handles were also often ornately decorated, usually with a distinct maker's mark.
These knives were used for a variety of purposes, from skinning seals to sewing projects, and of course, for food preparation. The innovative design is perfectly multi-functional, easy to use, and easy to make - there is a reason the ulu knife has been with us for thousands of years.
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