Choosing the Right Kitchen Knife for Each Task
With all the knives out on the market, it can be confusing and even overwhelming finding the right knife for your needs. Here at ChefProKnives, we would like to offer an overview of the different blade styles to help you decide which knife is best suited for you and your individual tasks.
Cook’s knives (or chef’s knives)
For all-around versatility and multi-purpose use, a few blade styles are clearly in the forefront. Cook’s knives rank high in popularity, with a wide, triangular blade and a curved belly that enables an easy rocking motion for fine mining. A Cook’s knife comes in sizes ranging from a petite 6 inches to a weighty 14 inches, with 8-inch blades being the most popular. These knives are suitable for nearly any chopping, slicing, mincing or dicing task, and can be used with foods of nearly all kinds, fruits, vegetables, herbs and meats.
Utility knives also offer versatility, but with a narrower blade profile and straight or serrated edge. A Utility knife offers precision with a range of foods, trimming vegetables, cutting vegetables, and slicing cheese or meats. Utility knives typically feature a “medium” length from 5 to 7 inches, since a smaller blade would be more of a paring knife, while a longer one becomes more like a slicer. Serrated utility knives are also available for similar work as managed by a straight-edge utility knife, but offer better handling of tomatoes, sausage and cold cuts, tough rinds as well as small, crusty breads and bagels. A serrated utility typically makes a great sandwich knife.
Kitchen knives offer a similar versatility in a slightly different style. The blade’s back is straight, with the edge also straight near the heel of the blade and curving gently up as it gets closer to the tip. Though leaning somewhat more towards use with meats, a kitchen knife still offers easy use for vegetables and fruit as well. A kitchen knife typically ranges from 6 inches to 8 inches in length, but a shorter 4 to 5 inch form is often seen in the form of a steak knife.
Another all-around useful blade is the Asian style Santoku. This Japanese-style Chef’s knife provides similar versatility to a Cook’s Knife, with a slight curve to its edge for easy mincing. It will vary from brand to brand, but Asian style knives generally offer lighter, thinner, and sharper blades than many Western style knives, and can be ideal for those who wish to avoid the potential fatigue of heavier cutlery.
Paring and Peeling knives
For small and intricate tasks, peeling and paring knives provide the most control, with short, sharp blades ranging in length from 2 to 4 inches. Within this knife category, there are a few blade styles to choose from to achieve the best results for cutting and cleaning fruits and vegetables in addition to mincing herbs, removing eyes from potatoes and coring pears or apples. A bird’s beak parer, also called a peeling knife or a tournée knife, offers an inverted curve that excels with peeling and shaping rounded fruits and vegetables. A flat-cut paring knife offers a sharp, flat edge for fine and accurate mincing, with the spine of the blade curving down towards the edge at the tip. A fluting knife features a triangular blade, with a flat edge similar to a flat-cut parer, but with a tip that tapers into a sharp point. The blade of a spear-point paring knife is shaped much like a utility knife, but is shorter in length for versatility in cleaning and cutting small items. Finally, a clip-point parer is much like a spear-point, but with a clipped back side of the blade that forms a sharp, pointed tip for the most meticulous of details. Peelers and parers are particularly adept with decorative cuts, and some styles feature a serrated option for small tomatoes and foods with tough skins or thick rinds.
Carving and Slicing knives
Slicers and carvers are geared towards managing meats and roasts of various kinds, with straight and sharp edges designed to prevent tender juices from escaping from the meats for best flavor and blade lengths from 8 to 14 inches. Slicing knives are often available in serrated edges as well as straight, for use with roasts that may have a tougher exterior, as well as with cold cuts and salami. These knives will most often be shaped like a longer utility knife, but more specialized ham or salmon slicers will offer a rounded tip to prevent tearing of the most delicate skins while slicing. Many slicers (as well as cook’s knives and santoku) offer a blade with hollow-ground indentations. These prevent foods from sticking to the blade by creating air pockets between food and blade during use. Slicers and carvers are often paired with forks of varying lengths. Meat and kitchen forks come in curved and straight designs from 4.5 to 8 inch lengths.
Tomato, Sausage, Brunch knives
Sausage knives, tomato knives and brunch knives all tend to be variations on the serrated utility knife, with sizes from 4 inches to 7 and different tips to accommodate different needs. A tomato knife often features a forked tip to assist with serving and presenting, while a brunch knife might offer a rounded tip for spreading cream cheese or condiments.
Fillet and Boning knives
Boning and fillet knives typically offer a long and narrow profile that curves in at the base and then up near the tip for better following of the contours of bones and cartilage. Flexible variations of these blades allow the cut to follow even closer along the form of the fish and meats. The sharp tip of these blades is designed for a sharp pierce of flesh, trimming fat and easy cutting through sinew and tendons. Fillet and boning knives are available in sizes ranging from 4 to 7 inches depending on the size of the task at hand.
Cleavers, Nakiri, and Vegetable Cleavers
Cleavers are for those who get serious about handling meat products - splitting poultry, disjointing meats, and cutting through ribs. From a petite 6 inches to an imposing 10 inches, cleavers take on the most serious work around the kitchen, and can also be used for tenderizing. The flat of the blade proves handy for smashing garlic or olives, as well as for scooping up and transporting chopped foods from cutting board to plate. Be aware when shopping for cleaver, as there are blades out there shaped similarly but in reality have much thinner blades. Blades like these include Japanese Nakiri and Chinese vegetable cleavers, which excel with slicing and chopping vegetables and fruits but are not intended for use on bones which could easily damage the blade.
There’s no mystery in what bread knives are intended for. Generally long and lean from 8 to 10 inches, bread knives offer sharp serrated edges that are designed to enable an easy break through crusts without the sort of pressure that could crush the soft bread within. While clearly intended for bread, these knives are also well suited for fruits and vegetables that offer tough outer skins and thick rinds. Serrations come in a few styles, including fine and close together, wide and wavy low-frequency, reverse scalloped design, as well as double serrated styles designed to hold their edge longest.