Welcome to Talking Points, a series looking at what makes certain products worth talking about, brought to you by Gear Patrol Studios.
What is an Alaskan Ulu knife and why does it come in a set? Let us explain it.
Originally designed by indigenous Alaskan tribes thousands of years ago, the Ulu knife was used primarily for cleaning and preparing animal skins for clothing. For more than 5,000 years, the Yupik, Aleut, and Inuit peoples relied on the knife for everything from cutting ice to cutting hair. Now you are looking at a culinary resurgence.
Like its predecessors, Marcellin’s Alaskan Ulu Knife Set is designed to chop, mince, and dice ingredients with a simple rocking motion that’s easy for a chef and impressive to behold—your guests will want to arrive early for the show.
Why choose this Ulu knife set over others?
There are some important factors to consider when buying a Ulu knife. First, you’ll want to make sure you find one with a high carbon stainless steel blade to ensure it’s food safe and durable. Next, look for a piece with heavy-duty rivets (this one is brass) to ensure it’s equipped to withstand years of movement.
Marcellin’s Ulu Knife Set ($65) boasts these necessary features, as well as an acacia wood handle and a custom rounded cutting board, cut specifically to match the size and shape of the knife. That’s the last necessary factor: Due to its center-rocking feature, an Ulu knife is only as good as its cutting board. By purchasing the knife and cutting board as a set, Marcellin eliminates the need for a third-party curved board (which probably wouldn’t fit properly).
The brand is “inspired by the good old-fashioned way of preparing food and drink”; With this set, they have honored and preserved a very, very, very old-fashioned design.
How to use an Ulu knife
Many professionals already use a rocking motion when cutting vegetables. Common knife etiquette dictates that never fully lifting the blade from the cutting surface will provide maximum control and ensure safety. And unlike percussion cutting, rocking will keep the cook blade from dulling for much longer.
The Ulu knife takes this a step further and makes cutting much easier. The knife’s rounded blade makes it easy for even beginners to achieve a skillful rolling motion when slicing meats or produce, and especially makes finely chopping herbs much, much easier. Its handle is also more ergonomic (and intuitive) than that of a traditional chef’s knife.
When combined with a perfectly scooped cutting board, the ‘Ulu move’ is even more easily achieved. Its rounded structure ensures that the blade will easily rock back and forth while automatically pushing ingredients onto your path, meaning your fingers stay out of harm’s way.
Visual learners can watch a video of Lisa from Suttons Daze breaking a pepper with his knife ulu here. Or, for the pros ready to go one step further, check out Anchorage’s ‘Fastest Woman With an Ulu’. breaking a salmon.
Our point of view
This is an easy, eye-catching knife for chefs, new and old.
Imagine gracefully cutting up fresh garnishes for your next dinner party while your guests look on in awe. Imagine yourself literally swinging through your prep list while cooking a special meal for two. Above all, be prepared for the pleasure of feeling like a professional.
The Marcellin Ulu Knife Set is an easy win: It’s surprisingly affordable, super simple, and beautiful. It will make a great gift for any chef, no matter his skill level, and/or a perfect upgrade to your kitchen setup.
Once you’re fully on board the Ulu knife lifestyle, you can always upgrade further to traditional builds made with everything from Musk ox horns ($425) a Walrus Ivory ($550). But as a first foray, Marcellin is the way to go.