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Nov 20, 2020| Local Shopping, Alaska History & Culture

Alaskan Ulu Knife: How To Use And Where To Buy

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Rain Barrel, LLC
Ketchikan, AK

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Corrington's Alaskan Ivory
Skagway, AK

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Tongass Trading
Ketchikan, AK

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THE ALASKAN ULU KNIFE IS MORE THAN JUST A KNIFE, IT’S A WAY OF LIFE.  HERE’S OUR GUIDE TO BUYING AND USING ONE. 

A knife is a knife, but an Alaskan Ulu knife is something extraordinary.

Although the Ulu knife’s history is long and embedded in Inuit culture, its uses in the modern kitchen are diverse.

The Alaskan Ulu knife, a wide-arced knife, is sometimes called an "ooloo” knife, an Inuit knife, or more generally as an Eskimo Ulu knife because various Alaskan indigenous tribes have used the device for centuries.

History of the Ulu Knife

The Ulu has a history in Alaskan native Inuit culture going back 3,500 to 5,000 years. It is a key part of Alaska’s Western Arctic Inuit tradition, and although the Ulu knife has crept into the mainstream market with availability at many retailers, the Ulu knife’s part in Inuit culture remains just as important as it was when it was invented thousands of years ago.

Ulu is the short form of uuluuraq, an Inuit word for a woman’s knife. It has been traditionally used by Inuit women to cut meat or separate skins for clothing. It is still used for food preparation, but its versatility has long been recognized as a useful tool for chefs and cooks around the entire world.

The Ulu knife’s thin, crescent-shaped blade today is usually steel attached to a wooden handle. But historically the Ulu knife blade has been composed of everything from slate, shale, or quartzite with handles that could be bone, ivory, or wood. 

Some Inuits glued blade to handle with an amalgam of clay, dog hair, and seal blood. Others used rawhide, whalebone, and pine root to sew the blade to the handle.

That’s a great history lesson, of course, but how does all that fit in with modern epicurean needs?

Perfectly!

Using an Ulu Knife 

Even if you are not an experienced cook, the Ulu knife is uber-utilitarian. It can be used to do everything from mincing vegetables to cutting pizza. More experienced chefs can use it for cutting meat, chopping nuts, and dicing vegetables. 

The Inuit’s, of course, also use the Ulu knife to skin animals, which may not be necessary for most households, and to even cut hair. Such is the Ulu knife’s versatility. Watch this video

to learn how to use an Ulu knife in your kitchen.

How and Where to Buy an Ulu Knife 

Buying an Ulu knife is surprisingly easy. Multiple types are available here on the Voyij website. 

When purchasing an Ulu knife, you have to decide if you want versatility, durability, size of the blade, or the best price.

And best of all, you don’t have to barter a seal skin to get a good one. 

As an Alaska gift marketplace, Voyij carries various types of Ulu knives from multiple vendors from across the state. 

The Ulu Factory sells an Alaskan birch wooden handle Ulu knife complete with a large wooden chopping bowl. If you are a chef or enjoy preparing good meals, this Ulu is the perfect gift for you.  

Suppose you are looking for ideas on how to use an ulu in your kitchen. In that case, Tongas Trading Company sells an affordable Ulu bundled with a colorful cookbook with popular recipes and tips on how to get the most out of Ulu’s unique chopping and cutting capabilities. 

Ulu’s come in all shapes and sizes, including such as this Caribou Antler Mini Pocket Ulu. This practical knife made by the famous artist - Bob Merry can be used for multiple chores inside and outside the house.

To learn more about the different ulu knives offered by various merchants across Alaska, check out the Voyij knife section.

How to Clean an Ulu Knife

No matter which Ulu you buy it is recommended that the knife never be placed in a dishwasher. When hand-washing use warm water be aware that the ulu knife has an extremely sharp edge. Apply mineral oil or vegetable oil to the handle to ensure a longer life. 

Sharpening the Ulu Knife 

Needless to say, all knives need sharpening and the Ulu knife is no different. Knife Planet says that an Ulu knife can be sharpened in 10 minutes using a sharpening stone and, of course, your dull knife.

The Ulu knife has only one beveled edge, and only that edge should be sharpened. You can use a wet stone or 400 grit wet/dry sandpaper to sharpen the edge. Apply light pressure and rotate the blade along the sharpening surface. Once fully sharpened the beveled edge should look polished.

If a burr appears on the non-beveled edge, use the sharpening surface or a leather strap to gently remove it. Use light pressure only. Check out this video to get more information on Sharpening an Ulu Knife. 

Alaska offers tours and history as well as a souvenir shop where you can grab Alaska artifacts as well as, of course, an Ulu knife.

As one TripAdvisor recommended: "Don’t leave Alaska without one.”

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