A chef’s knife, also known as a cook’s knife or French knife, is an all-purpose knife that everyone should have in their kitchen. A chef’s knife is considered the primary general-utility knife for most cooks, used for everything but the finest or most specialized tasks.
Chef’s knives are most commonly manufactured in 6 to 14 inch blade lengths, with an 8 inch blade being the most popular size. There are two common styles of cook’s knives; a German style knife which has a deeper, more continuous curve along the entire cutting edge, and the French style which has an edge that is much more straight and curves up at the tip. Neither style is inherently better, though many chef’s prefer the German style’s broad, heavy blade that is curved to allow the cook to rock the blade on a cutting board for a more precise cut.
The blades of a chef’s knife are either hot-forged or stamped, and is typically made from carbon steel, stainless steel, a laminate of both metals or ceramic. A forged blade is heavier, usually hand-made, and will keep it’s edge which makes it a popular choice for a professional chef. Stamped knives are cut from a single sheet of metal by a machine, though this does not necessarily mean stamped knives are lesser in quality.
As noted, a chef’s knife is designed to succeed at a multitude of food preparation tasks rather than excelling at one particular use. Mincing, slicing, chopping and disjointing all fall within the realm of capabilities of the modern chef’s knife. A cook’s knife can also chop through bone, eliminating the need for a cleaver in many scenarios.