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What You Need to Know about Different Types of Kitchen Knives

A chef is only as good as his or her culinary tools, and this is especially true when it comes to the types of kitchen knives he or she has access to. When working in the kitchen, a knife is not a one-size-fits all utensil, and there are many kinds of knives each designed for different tasks. Think about it; cutting meat, slicing bread, and dicing onions all require different blades, so it makes sense that when equipping your kitchen you know a bit about the types of kitchen knives you might need.

Types of Kitchen Knives

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  • Chef’s knife

  • Utility knife

  • Slicing knife

  • Paring knife

  • Specialty knives

Chef’s Knife

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chef knife

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The chef’s knife is the knife you are most likely to see on a cooking show. It has become the default professional cook’s knife of choice because of its size and its ability to perform in nearly any situation. It is also referred to as a cook’s knife, and it can handle most food prep tasks.  It is sharp enough to cut through the grain of animal muscle, trim away fat, cut through ligaments, and to do just about anything else that is necessary.

However, this knife wasn’t intended to handle all the cooking a chef performs, as it was designed to handle large cuts of meat. It’s also on the longer side, which makes it possible to cut through longer strips of meat. The combination of the size and the sharpness makes this an excellent knife.

Look for Quality

When shopping for new knives, a chef’s knife is what you will want to put the most money into since it’s one you’ll be using quite often, so you’ll want to take the size, sharpness, and strength into account. Some of the best chef knives are hand-forged in Japan following an ancient technique that strengthens and extend the life of the knife. There are several ways to select a quality knife, but one of the best ways to do this is to determine whether the knife was forged or stamped. A forged knife is a heated piece of steel that is shaped through a process of heating and hammering by hand, which takes time, while a stamped knife is made using hydraulic machinery almost instantly. Stamped knives are generally cheaper, lighter, and don’t have the same balance as forged knives.

Utility Knives

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utility knives

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This is the all-purpose knife in your kitchen. Of all the types of kitchen knives you have at your disposal, utility knives are the ones you’ll likely reach for the most, because they are built to handle just about everything.

If you’re building a knife collection from the ground up, this is probably the knife you want to get first, and if you’re new to food prep, you’ll probably start out with this blade first. It’s easier to handle, is not as long, nor is it as heavy. The large chef’s knife is good for preparing veggies (like onions) as the blade helps maintain the stack, but in terms of sharpness, the utility knife can hold its own and is why it is one of the best types of kitchen knives.

Utility knives are usually on the smaller side. The blade is smaller than the length of your hand. It originally started out as a knife you’d take hunting with you. The size made it perfect for cutting hides and removing the skin of an animal (such as a deer or rabbit) from the meat. It was also used for cleaning fish and other outdoor activities. However, over time the blade made its way into the kitchen. The size made it perfect for individuals who didn’t want the larger chef’s knife and yet still wanted something that could handle most tasks.

Slicing Knives

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slicing knife

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When it comes to the different types of kitchen knives, you’ll find many are designed to tackle several cutting requirements. The slicing knife is designed specifically for one purpose: slicing. It is not a chopping knife for onions, where you need a taller knife to maintain the stack, and with the slicing knife, the blade is long and slender, making it perfect for slicing off cuts of meat. If you have gone to a buffet where there is an individual in charge of carving a slice of meat, they will typically have a long fork and a slicing knife.

Difference between Slicing and Chef’s Blade

The chef’s knife was originally designed to cut slices of meat, so you would think the two knives would likely be similar. In some ways they are; blades are longer. These are two of the longest blades you will have in your kitchen. However, the main difference between the two is the height of the blade. A typical chef’s blade will have a height of around 1.5 to 2 inches, but a slicing knife will have a blade height of no more than one inch. Also, the slicing blade will usually be thinner to give you a thinner slice when necessary. You also don’t need as much surface area to work with when using a slicing knife

Paring Knives

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There are several paring knife styles you’ll want to consider. Each of the different styles will give you a different benefit, so it may come down to what you’re interested in and what you’re attempting to do in the kitchen. The more you work in the kitchen the more you’ll need different types of kitchen knives. So you may find the need to invest in these varying kinds of pairing knives.

Bird’s Beak

This paring knife has a point that curves down (think of an eagle beak and how it curves down at the front) and some companies will call this a tourne knife. This kind of paring knife is great for peeling fruits, and if you like to cut display garnishes, the bird’s beak pairing knife is perfect for those small, intricate tasks.

Spear Point

This is the standard paring knife, and it looks exactly as its name implies: the blade is straight and comes to a point. This makes it a solid knife for peeling fruits, cutting vegetables, and other tasks. Think of it as a smaller version of a standard utility knife.

Sheep’s Foot

This type of paring knife has a flat front edge that then curves back at the tip. While it’s called a sheep’s foot paring knife, it also looks like a hill running back from the tip of the knife to the handle. This is a good knife for julienning fruits and basic chopping tasks.

Specialty Knives

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specialty knife

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There are also some specialty knives you might keep in your kitchen. It all comes down to what kind of cooking you do and what you need to work with. Some you may only need for special occasions while others are some you may want to just keep on hand because they’re hard to find in most supermarkets or general retail stores.

Boning Knife

This knife is another meat cutting knife, but it has a very flexible blade. You’ll probably only need this knife if you work only with meat. The flexibility of the blade makes it great for denuding and shaping meat. If you work with animal legs and need something that can work around joints, this is a perfect knife. However, if you don’t have to break down meat that often, you may not want to invest in a boning knife.

Bread Knife

If you do any kind of baking, a bread knife is a specialty blade you should invest in. These knives feature handles that offsets the blade, which are slightly curved and have a serrated edge, giving you more leverage in how you saw through the bread. These knives are also great for cutting through tough rinds.

Cleaver

This is the classic fat head knife used for cutting through thick meat and bone, and a cleaver is also a good knife for opening lobsters. Much like the boning knife, you’ll either really need this knife on hand or it will be one of the types of kitchen knives you don’t have to purchase.

Oyster Knife

Not exactly one of the types of kitchen knives you’ll need in the kitchen for cutting, an oyster knife is a specialty blade used to shuck oysters. It is designed more for prying than anything else, so unless you have raw oysters or clams in the house, you probably won’t need this kind of knife.

Conclusion

A chef is only as good as what he or she has in the kitchen. That is exactly why if you’re serious about what you’re doing, you need to invest in quality knives. There are several knife options to choose from, and while you may not need to go out and purchase every single type of knife available on the market, you should consider the different types of knives and which ones you’ll use the most. So whether you go with a paring knife or a slicing knife, with the different types of kitchen knives available, you’ll have the right tools at your disposal, no matter what it is you’re making.

The Kitchen Advisor
 

TheKitchenAdvisor is a team of energetic and enthusiastic food bloggers and collaborators with a unifying passion for great food and cooking. We’re committed to bringing you only the best and most accurate info on food and kitchen gear through our in-house reviews, interviews, blog posts, and editorials. You’ll also find food trivia, cooking hacks, and many, many beginner-friendly recipes here, as we constantly strive to infuse our readers with enough confidence to become a bit more experimental in their home kitchens.

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Ariel Biron - June 3, 2020

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