Different Types Of Kitchen Knife
Knives are one of the most important tools in a chef’s arsenal. Go into any professional chef’s kitchen and you’re likely to see a wide range of knives, varying in size, shape, and function waiting to be used.
Each knife has its place in the kitchen, and knowing how and when to use each allows a cook or a chef to safely conduct themselves in the kitchen.
In this guide:
- The Intro
- Chef’s Knife
- Paring Knife
- Utility Knife
- Boning Knife
- Bread Knife
- Carving Knife
The Chef’s Knife
This knife is probably the most important knife in the kitchen. It’s often known as a cook’s knife and is easily identified as one of the largest knives you will see in a kitchen setting.
The blade of a chef’s knife can be between 6 and 14 inches in length and is often curved to a point to allow the fast rocking motion of chopping or mincing of ingredients. They are also quite thick, around 1½ inches wide, and often don’t boast a serrated edge – having a sharp, clean edge instead.
There are generally two styles of chef knife that you will come across in your search, German-style and French-style. German-style knives are easily identified by the curvature of the blade which is a much more continuous curve than the French-style which has a much straighter blade and only curves to the tip right at the end of the knife. It’s all down to personal preference as to which you choose, as neither one is known to be better than the other.
This knife is commonly used as an ‘all-purpose’ knife in the kitchen, owing to its versatility and taller height of the blade. Many chefs will use their chef’s knife to slice meat, chop vegetables, and crushing and dicing ingredients – in fact, almost any aspect of chopping, slicing or dicing can usually be completed adequately by the chef’s knife.
Many people who don’t have culinary training will use a chef’s knife by holding the handle with all four fingers and their thumb wrapped around the handle (of the tang). While this isn’t incorrect, you will have more precise control over the blade by using what is known as the ‘pinch grip’.
This requires the user to hold the blade itself at the top with their thumb and forefinger just in front of the finger guard. The middle finger is then curled under the bolster (the area between the handle and the tang) of the knife and around the tang. This gives you the best control of the knife.
One of the smallest, simplest knives in the kitchen, the paring knife is perfect for those smaller tasks which the chef’s knife is just far too big to use.
With a thin blade which can be between 3 and 4 inches long and has a very pointed tip at the end which comes in very useful for paring (or skinning) fruit and vegetables. Its small size makes it incredibly versatile, and the go-to knife for smaller, more intricate tasks, such as trimming off excess fat from meats.
There are three different styles of paring knife; the sheep’s foot, spear tip, and birds beak.
The sheep’s foot style is easily recognised by its completely rounded tip which extends down to where it meets the sharp edge of the blade. This style is often used to slicing into cheeses, as well as julienning ingredients.
Spear tip paring knives are the most common style paring knife you will see, and looks just like a mini chef’s knife in features. The sharp edge of the blade curves up to the sharp point, and the thin blade is the perfect thickness for peeling the skin off fruit and vegetables. The sharp point is also perfect for coring.
Birds beak paring knives got their name from the very unique downward curve of the blade, making them easily recognisable. This style is more often used in intricate cookery, such as carving designs into fruit or vegetables or shaping them to create impressive shapes and designs.
Each of the above styles can also come with the blade serrated oast a serrated edge rather than a clean cut one. These are more often used to slice through thicker vegetables and fruit, or through tougher ingredients such as baguettes or bagels.
The Utility Knife
Often described by many chefs as a mini chefs knife, the name of the utility knife gives it away that it’s often used in a variety of ways within the kitchen where the larger chef’s knife just isn’t needed.
Utility knives can come in both straight bladed and serrated versions, but can usually be found to have a 4 and 7-inch blade, no matter which option you choose. It’s the mid-size between the chef’s knife and the smaller paring knife, and can often look like a smaller version of a bread knife when serrated.
The straight blade is perfect for smoothly slicing through vegetables and fruit without tearing the skin or the flesh, and can also be used to slice meat which is too small for the chef’s knife to be used.
It is also useful in cutting larger vegetables such as lettuce or cabbage where the height of the blade is much more suited than that of the tall chef’s knife, or shortness of the paring knife.
The Boning Knife
The name of this knife gives its function away, but the boning knife isn’t just used for separating meat from bone and can be used to trim and peel vegetables, too.
The blade of the boning knife is flexible and thin which helps get into the gaps between the bone and the meat. Depending on the type of meat that you will be cutting, you may need a variety of different boning knives which differ in firmness. Meats which are considered to be tougher such as beef or ham will require a firmer blade than meats which are softer such as chicken or fish.
Boning knife blades measure between 3 and 8 inches in length and depending on which meat you will be boning with the knife, the thickness can vary quite a bit. When looking for firmness, you will often come across the terms semi-flex, flex and stiff. This refers to the flexibility of the blade, and most home cooking enthusiasts opt for the stiff option as they are able to be more in control of the cut.
Stiffer blades often tend to have a straight blade, whereas more flexible often have curved blades.
Another knife which is pretty self-explanatory is the bread knife. With the same features as a serrated utility knife but much bigger, the bread knife is mainly used for cutting into soft bread, as well as tougher foods such as baguettes and bagels.
Usually, bread knife blades are between 6 and 10 inches long, and will always have some form of serrated edge to the blade, although the style of this can differ depending on the knife. Some may have smaller serrations, whereas others can have deeper, wider serrations, or scalloped serrations.
Scalloped serrations are easy to spot; instead of a tooth-like serration, they look more like waves or clouds. This style is mostly used in cutting softer foods such as cake or a soft loaf of bread as the wave-like design is perfect for reducing friction and, therefore, tears in the food.
Large teeth serrations are ideal for tougher foods such as tough-crusted loaves or baguettes and bagels, but can sometimes snag on the softer parts of the bread, making them look a little ragged.
Small serrations are somewhat more gentle on bread and cakes than larger serrations and are more often used for slicing through crusty loaves and can easily cut through cake with very little damage to the sponge.
Flexibility is also a key factor, with many chefs opting for a little flex in the blade so that it can adapt to the toughness of the food it is slicing into to create a cleaner cut. It’s important to note that a blade that is too flexible, though, will often lead to an uneven cut.
Probably one of the easiest to identify, this menacing looking knife is easily the largest, most intimidating looking knife that you will find in a kitchen.
Rectangular in shape, and very wide and heavy, the cleaver can boast a blade up to around 6 inches in length and is the widest and heaviest knife in the kitchen due to the nature of what it is used for – cleaving meat and bone. It has an incredibly tough edge to be able to withstand impact through meat, cartilage and bone but still produce a nice, clean cut.
It is mostly used in professional kitchens where chefs will prepare their own meat and isn’t considered to be essential for the home kitchen.
In addition to cleaving meat and bone, cleavers are great for cutting through tough, thick ingredients such as pumpkins, watermelons and squashes. Many people also use them for crushing ingredients such as garlic or pulverising cooked and uncooked meats.
Rather than using a sawing, cutting motion, a cleaver is used in a manner which creates a clean chop through the ingredients. Using the momentum of the hacking motion and the weight of the knife is key to making the cleanest cut.
Another knife that looks very similar in design to the chef’s knife is the carving knife. It is easily distinguishable from the chef’s knife by being much thinner and a little longer than it’s larger counterpart.
The blade of a carving knife measures between 8 and 15 inches in length, and has a very sharp, straight edge which is perfect for slicing through cooked meats with great precision.
Carving knife and slicing knife are two terms that you will often see used interchangeably, although some people differentiate the two by the presence of a serrated edge or the thickness of the blade. Technically, carving knives are thicker than slicing knives, owing to the need to carve through the tougher roasted meats. Slicer knives are more often used for slicing through softer cooked meats like fish and beef.
Technically both carving and slicer knives can be used interchangeably without a noticeable difference in results
Building your collection of essential kitchen knives and knowing which knife is best to use can be a continuous learning process, and here at Kitchen Knives, we’re here to help you make the best choice when it comes to finding the best tools – whether you’re a professional chef or are just simply passionate about cooking at home. If you have any questions, feel free to get in touch with our team who are happy to help you.