Tools They Use: Butcher & Sausage Meister Ben Forbes

Tools They Use takes a look at local food artisans, such as chefs, bakers, brewers, and more with a simple photo displaying their signature items and favorite tools.

Ben Forbes is a butcher and sausage meister at Johnny Gibson’s Downtown Market and owner of Forbes Meat Company, an artisanal whole animal butchery for local ranchers and hunters. He’s been a butcher for 27 years.

Dexter-Russell 8-Inch Heavy-Duty Cleaver

The 8″ is large enough for heft to cleave through bones, but small enough to provide more control.

“Weighing in at a solid thirty-six ounces, this hefty boy yields the weight needed to cut through just about anything. Back in the day, there was a tool called a hog splitter that was a cleaver with a four-foot handle. It was used for exactly what it was named after: to split hog carcasses in half.”

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Victorinox Cutlery 12-Inch Curved Cimeter, 8-Inch Curved Breaking Knife, 6-Inch Curved Boning Knife

The 12-inch cimeter, or scimitar, is used on large joints of beef.

“When I need to clean up a roast, this baby will do in one cut what others knives would do in four or more cuts. This baby is large and in charge and nothing stands in its way. Pair this up with my trusty mallet and it can work its way through a bone-in pork loin like butter.”

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Forbes uses the 8-inch breaking knife for its lighter weight and thinner blade.

“It’s like a fighter jet versus a C130, both kick ass but the eight-inch again is more precise.”

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The 6-inch breaking knife is Forbes’ workhorse for breaking whole sides of beef, pork, lamb, wild game, and whole chickens.

“When yielding this little baby its all about the tip and finesse, not brute force like the Dexter cleaver.”

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Bone Dust Scraper

“Customers don’t want bone dust on their porterhouse steaks and this is the tool that removes little bits of bone and fat that accumulate on the face of the steaks as we’re cutting them.”

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Honing Steel

“The steel is used to hone or straighten the blade of the knives. As the knives are used, they hit bone and the butcher block which causes the blade to get rounded out and dull. When you run it along the steel, it brings the blade back to its original edge.”

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Weston Butcher Saw with 22-Inch Stainless Steel Blade

“I don’t have a band saw at Johnny Gibson’s and that’s just fine. This small meat saw has been used to do everything a band saw would do and my bicep, as you can see, is developing just fine as a result.”

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Meat Hook

“The meat hook is used in whole animal butchery to get a better grip on a primal of meat. When the primal is removed, the hook helps me keep a better grip on the joint of beef, pork, or lamb.”

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Kosher Salt, Thyme

“I apply a little salt and pepper and then grill my steaks for about two or three minutes per side. Then I finish them in a sauce pan with a generous amount of butter and a sprig or three of thyme. While in the pan, I baste the steak with the butter constantly with the thyme right on top of the steak. This infuses the flavor of the thyme right into the steak. And please, please, please let the steak rest at least five minutes before you cut into it, and pour all the thyme-infused butter from the pan right on top of the steak when you plate it.”

Ben Forbes (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Ben Forbes (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Jackie is a food writer and photographer native to Tucson. He loves corgis and still thinks rickrolling is funny. If you'd like to stalk him, visit and his Instagram @jackie_tran_.