Your Guide to Kitchen Knives and Their Uses
Your Guide to Kitchen Knives and Their Uses
If you’re not an experienced cook, you’ve probably looked at a knife block with confusion more than once before. Why are there knives of so many different shapes and how will you know when to use which one?
Over centuries of culinary artwork, chefs have found that for nearly anything they need to cut, slice, chop, separate, or mince in the kitchen, there’s a particular knife size and shape that works best. Knowing which knife to use in which scenario can make all the difference in your cooking experience.
The first step is getting acquainted with the many types of kitchen knives, so take a look at these popular models and how best to use them.
Bread knives have long, fairly thin blades. The blades are serrated and they may or may not come to a point at the end.
Unsurprisingly, the most common use for a bread knife is to cut bread. These knives are designed to be sharp enough to cut through bread without fraying the fibres too much. For that same reason, it’s also a handy knife for roasted meats.
Chances are that you’ve used paring knives before without realizing what they were. A paring knife is a small knife with a short, flat blade.
These knives are primarily designed for peeling produce. They’re also useful for making small, precise cuts and for dicing small vegetables. Only use the for small volumes of vegetables, though; there are other knives better suited to large volumes.
Remember the bread knife with its long, narrow blade? Carving knives are a similar shape but their blades are flat, not serrated.
True to their name, carving knives are meant for carving meats. They’re best for dense cuts of meat and allow for precise yet powerful cuts.
Most people would say that cleavers have the most intimidating look of any kitchen knife. In fact, cleavers look similar to hatchets but with shorter handles, because the blades are large, flat, and rectangular.
Cleavers are widely used by butchers. They’re heavy and powerful enough to efficiently chop through large pieces of meat and even through soft bone.
You might find steak knives in the kitchen but they’re used more for dining than for cooking. Steak knives have medium-length, thin blades, often around six inches long. The blades are serrated to more easily slice through steak, potatoes, and other dishes.
Cook’s knives and chef’s knives are two names for the same tool. These knives have a large, flat blade. In fact, they’re often a similar size to a cleaver but with a rounded top rather than a squared, rectangular top.
As their name implies, these types of knives are useful for chefs because they’re ideal for cutting large volumes of vegetables. They work well for cutting meats too, and in general, they’re fairly versatile.
If you spot a knife that looks like a cook’s knife but is more of the size of a steak knife, that’s a vegetable knife. As you might guess, these knives are designed for vegetables.
The knife blades are very sharp to swiftly cut through vegetable skins. They’re generally easier to use for precise, fine cuts compared to a cook’s knife, yet they’re still efficient for larger volumes of vegetables than a paring knife.
The santoku knife originated in Japan. Its full name is santoku bocho, which translates roughly to “three virtues.” Those three purposes for a santoku knife are mincing, dicing, and slicing.
Santoku knives have an interesting look. Their size and shape are similar to a cook’s knife, but they can be slightly smaller. More notably, they have a row of divots along the edge. This helps you to cut slice after slice without the previous slice sticking to the knife.
A utility knife is around the same size as a paring knife. The only real difference is that utility knives tend to have more of a curve to the blade.
These models are called “utility” knives because they serve many purposes. They make it easy to make precise cuts and small slices, but they’re also often used for cutting open food packaging. Think of utility knives as jacks of all trades.
Unsurprisingly, the land of samurai swords has another type of knife that is widely used worldwide. The nakiri knife has a wide blade with a squared-off edge. In fact, it might remind you of a small cleaver because of the straight blade.
Because of its shape, the nakiri knife is handy for chopping large or dense vegetables like onions. It’s also used for slicing and dicing, though it can take some practice to learn how to slice accurately with this shape of a knife.
Boning knives look comically awkward when you first see them. They’re very long, often the length of a bread knife, and the blade is very thin.
Boning knives are meant to separate bone from meat. They’re often used interchangeably with fillet knives to slice off thin fillets of fish and meats.
All the knives above were designed and perfected over the years to work best for certain purposes, functions, and ingredients. No matter how many knives you have, though, there will be situations here and there that don’t fit with any of those conventional knife types. That’s why you need a catch-all.
That’s where all-purpose knives come in. These knives are designed to be versatile enough to tackle most cutting jobs you might have. Visually, they look similar to a steak knife but with a flat blade rather than a serrated blade.
Building Your Kitchen Knife Collection
With the growing emphasis on whole foods and healthy diets rather than diets packed with processed foods, there are many more emerging chefs experimenting with new ingredients in their kitchens. The best way to make that task easier is to have the right tools at your disposal.
To build your kitchen knife collection, shop our kitchen knives online and fill in the gaps in your kitchen.