A Guide To Kitchen Knives And When To Use Which One

For millions of years, humans have used various tools to help them get by in day-to-day life. One of humanity’s most fundamental needs is food, and in order to make great food, you need to use the right kind of knife. So, if you’re a cooking professional, an aspiring chef, or you want to have a stress-free cooking experience, then this article will help guide you to kitchen knives and when to use them. 

In the kitchen, the most common knife used is the chef’s knife. Chef’s knives are essential kitchen tools as they find frequent use for slicing during food preparation. Although it is called a chef’s knife, there’s no need to be a chef to own or use one. 

A chef’s knife may be the most commonly used in the kitchen, but it isn’t the only one used for everything. In the culinary world, there are countless types of knives used for different purposes. In this article, we will get to know which kitchen knives are best used for what. 

Basic Kitchen Knives

Chef’s Knife 

kitchen knives

A chef’s knife is typically 8-10 inches long with a broad blade and a straight edge. Its finely pointed tip and curved blade, which allows for an excellent backward and forward chopping motion, make the chef’s knife a go-to for slicing and dicing lots of vegetables at once. 

A broad heel area also makes the chef’s knife the perfect tool for more heavy-duty chopping, especially with thicker or harder foods such as potatoes, carrots, and the like.

Paring Knife 

paring knife

Only around 3.5 inches long, a paring knife is small compared to a chef’s knife, but it also finds use for the same tasks on a smaller scale, particularly those that need more accuracy. 

Its lightweight, short, and slim build with an evenly sized blade ending in a pointed tip makes it helpful in peeling and mincing soft fruits and vegetables. Pairing knives are also best used for detailed cutting, such as for fruit carvings or making a garnish. 

Utility Knife 

utility knife

The utility knife, ranging from 4-7 inches, is a versatile culinary tool longer than a paring knife but shorter than a chef’s knife. They’re also known as “sandwich knives” since they come in both serrated and straight blade styles. 

The utility knife’s slim build and comfortable blade length are ideal for chopping or slicing tender meat, buns, sandwiches, as well as fruits, vegetables, and herbs. This kind of knife is a handy and all-around tool for any chef or cooking enthusiast.

Bread Knife

bread knife

A bread knife is generally long with a serrated and evenly sized blade. Its purpose lies in its namesake, which is to cut bread. Bread knives are typically used for softer foods, significantly different kinds of bread such as fresh bread, loaves, rolls, and soft and fluffy pastries like cakes. 

The bread knife’s serrated edge makes for effortless slicing, only needing minimal pressure, without the worry of damaging the food’s insides or outer shape. It is why it works not only for bread but also for soft fruits and vegetables. 

Knives Best Used For Meat

Carving Knife 

carving knife

A carving knife is often a bit longer than a chef’s knife but much thinner and without the chef’s knife’s traditional curve. As its name implies, a carving knife generally finds carving meat easy, particularly roasts. 

The carving knife’s straight-blade design allows for cutting accurate and thin slices of meat. However, to avoid the risk of getting jagged and uneven meat slices, a carving knife’s blade must be kept razor-sharp.

Cleaver

cleaver

A cleaver is a big knife with a rectangular-shaped blade comparable to a hatchet and is intended to slash straight through small to medium bones thanks to its sturdy force and weight. Unlike other kitchen knives, Cleavers feature a strong edge for added durability, which makes them ideal for repeated cutting through thick meat, cartilage, or bone.

Additionally, chefs and butchers prefer a cleaver knife to cut stiffer meat or giant vegetables. The broadside of this knife may also find use in crushing garlic or transferring chopped items to a pot or skillet. 

Boning Knife

The boning knife is long and thin, typically 5-6 inches in length, making it ideal for taking the meat off the bone cleanly. Because this knife allows you to move along the bone’s curves and bends, it is an efficient tool for butchering poultry like whole chickens or filleting fish.

Additionally, boning knives come in two types: ones with flexible blades and others with stiff blades. Skin and bones from chicken and fish may be easily removed using a boning knife with a flexible blade while boning knives with rigid blades are ideal for large pieces of meat like beef and pork.

Best Knives For Cutting Fish

Salmon Knife 

A salmon knife is typically around 11 inches long and is meant to fillet bigger fish. Salmon knives are thin and sharp, allowing the blade to fillet the salmon and remove its skin accurately.

The long, narrow blades of salmon knives are ideal for cutting thin, uniform slices of salmon. The blade’s highly flexible and round tip avoids any injury to the fish flesh. Some salmon knife blades also include clefts to prevent the salmon from adhering to the blade, making thin, flawless slices simpler to cut.

Santoku Knife 

Santoku knives originated from Japan and are known as the chef’s knives for the Japanese. In English, the word “santoku” directly translates to “three uses”.

This knife is more than capable of efficient cutting, dicing, and mincing. Santoku knives are typically between 5 and 8 inches long with slightly tapered blades designed for more accurate and delicate slicing.

The knife’s dimpling on the flat side, along with its sharp and straight edges, prevents thin fish flesh or tender vegetables from adhering to the metal, which is ideal when making and preparing sushi and other dishes requiring raw fish or vegetables. 

Fillet Knife

Fillet knives mainly find a use for cutting and removing bones from fish. A fillet knife ranges between 6 and 8 inches. Its most defining characteristic is its flexible and robust blade which allows for easy handling and deboning of delicate flesh such as fish.

As its name suggests, a fillet knife finds use for carefully filleting fish without damaging the flesh, and because a fillet knife finds use for cutting vertically, using one makes it more convenient to cut whole fish into fillets. 

Kitchen Knives Best For Vegetables 

Tomato Knife 

A tomato knife is usually around 6-7 inches long and is lightweight and straightforward to wield. The blade of a tomato knife is circular, with a sharp, serrated edge ideal for cutting tomatoes, as its name suggests. 

Tomatoes are challenging to slice due to their delicate skin, which is prone to ripping easily. For this reason, a tomato knife’s blade has tiny serrations that hold the skin of the tomato and prevent rips, allowing for an effortless and clean slice.

Nakiri Knife 

The Nakiri knife is another Japanese-style knife that’s typically around 5 inches long. Its flat blade has a squared and straight edge allowing for clean cuts even through stiffer vegetables. Its flat blade makes it easier to achieve thin and even slices, especially when preparing vegetable ribbons. 

The Nakiri’s versatility and robustness make it an ideal kitchen knife for cutting bigger vegetables like sweet potatoes and butternut squash, as well as shredding leafy vegetables, including lettuce and cabbage. 

So, now that we’ve covered some of the commonly used kitchen knives according to what they’re best used for, let’s compress the list a little bit and look at knife blade materials.

For the average person, steel knives, ceramic knives, carbon steel knives, etc., are all similar and serve the same purpose – to cut, slice, and chop food. But, for chefs and cooking enthusiasts, a kitchen knife’s blade material matters because it can determine how the knife performs and for which task or purpose it will be ideal. 

Knife Blade Materials 

Stainless Steel Blades 

As the most popular material used on knives, stainless steel has proven its worth as a reliable blade material that provides knives with durable and sturdy characteristics. Stainless steel blades are strong due to their components of carbon and iron with chromium added to make the edge resistant to stains. It is ideal for knives to slice wet or slimy items such as meat, vegetables, and fruits.

Most knives, including the chef’s knife, boning knife, and paring knife, to name a few, have stainless steel blades, yet some stainless steel knives are made with low-quality steel, so ensuring that you source your knives from reputable brands or suppliers is something to consider. 

Ceramic Blades 

Ceramic blades have an added visual factor because they look a little more appealing, especially with different patterns or details engraved on them than the typical stainless steel knife. Knives that use ceramic blades are ideal for preserving the food’s taste or natural color since the material is chemically non-reactive. 

Ceramic blades are lightweight, sturdy, and have the best longevity of all kitchen knife blades. However, they can also be quite fragile, and dropping or mishandling a ceramic knife will most likely cause it to chip or break. 

If the blade becomes dull, a home sharpener won’t be able to resharpen a ceramic blade, so there’s a need to take it to a specialist or back to the manufacturer.

Carbon Steel Blades 

Carbon steel is a steel alloy composed of carbon and iron but lacks the chromium present in stainless steel, making it prone to rust and stains.

High-carbon steel is frequently used to forge blades that require more strength and rigidity, and when properly maintained, will be able to keep an incredibly sharp edge. For this reason, carbon steel is an ideal material for peeling knives and cleavers. 

Despite carbon steel’s durability and strength, because it doesn’t have chromium in it, there is a high risk of rusting or staining the blade over time, especially when the knife often comes into contact with foods high in acidity. 

Titanium Blades 

Titanium is known to be one of the world’s toughest materials. It is ideally used for utility knives such as pocket knives, thanks to its non-magnetic and rust-resistant characteristics.

However, compared to stainless steel and ceramic, titanium is considerably less sharp and dulls more quickly, making it less useful as a kitchen knife. Despite this, many knife enthusiasts would still appreciate quality titanium knives mainly for their unique dark grey coloration.

Damascus Steel Blades 

Damascus steel is composed of two or more distinct alloys creating a strong steel material well-known for its wavy and complex-looking pattern. This type of steel has a long history of being the staple material for knives, swords, and other weapons for hundreds of years.

Although this type of metal is exceptionally strong, robust, and sharp, it is more commonly appreciated for its attractive and unique visual factor.

Now, we’ve proven that there are many kitchen knives out there available for different purposes. After reading this article, you might begin to think that you’ll need all of those knives made of all blade types in your kitchen, but rest assured, that’s not the case.

Must-Have Kitchen Knives For Everyday Home Cooking And How Much They Cost 

Cooking is an everyday task for most people, and even if you’re not a pro chef, having the right set of kitchen knives can turn simple meals into a fine dining experience. This section will be talking about the essential knives suitable for the average person’s kitchen.

1. Chef’s Knife 

A top favorite of chefs, cooking enthusiasts, and even amateur home cooks, the chef’s knife is the most versatile knife anyone should have because you can use it for almost all tasks in the kitchen. 

Regardless of the brand, most chef’s knives are suitable investments as long as they are well-taken care of and not neglected. But of course, the higher quality brand will most likely last twice as long, so choosing the right brand which suits you should carefully consider both your needs and your budget.

The price of chef’s knives can range from as low as less than $20 for no-name chef’s knives available online, around $100 for most reputable brands, and up to $1000 for high-end professional chef’s knives. 

2. Paring Knife

Considered the best partner to the chef’s knife, a paring knife is an excellent addition to your kitchen knives. Since the paring knife’s expertise lies in doing delicate tasks such as peeling small fruits or slicing softer vegetables, having one at hand will make home cooking more convenient and stress-free. 

Paring knives are generally affordable, and spending an insane amount on one is just unnecessary. A good-quality paring knife is available for around $20. But take note that paring knives with metal blades have better longevity compared to ones with ceramic blades, so remember that when purchasing a paring knife for your kitchen.

3. Boning Knife 

The boning knife’s most attractive qualities are its flexibility and tapered blades, which allow for seamless and easy removal of meat from the bones. This flexible knife is also perfect for getting the meat in tricky parts such as the joints or the ribcage.

A good-quality boning knife is available for as low as $30, but investing a little more on it never hurts as boning knives will most certainly get lots of good use in the kitchen.  

4. Carving Knife 

Having a long and thin build with a good-sized blade makes the carving knife the perfect tool for accurately carving meat with ease. Investing in a good carving knife will earn you compliments during dinner celebrations or gatherings. 

If you want to have a good dining experience without worrying about the chicken or turkey looking like a hot mess, then a quality carving knife should have a place with your other kitchen knives.

Carving knives generally range from about $20 to $100, but like most knives, the better brands, often with the higher price tags, can offer better quality and longevity. 

5. Serrated Knife 

Serrated knives are the go-to for cutting bread, but thanks to their serrated blade, this type of knife can also be used to slice fluffy pastries, layered cakes, and even soft fruits and vegetables. 

However, it’s essential to note that not all serrated knives are created equal, and some have teeth that spread wide apart, which will most likely tear up the soft interior of foods like bread or loaves, so choosing one with the proper teeth size is crucial.

Good quality serrated knives can cost around $30-$40, but you can’t sharpen most. So, we recommend taking extra good care of serrated knives and being prepared to invest in a few if you’re one who often uses them. 

So, Which Kitchen Knives To Use For When?

For people who cook often, knives are like extensions of their arms, so having the right kind of knives in the kitchen is a significant investment worth one’s time, effort, and money. 

Each blade mentioned in this article is made for different tasks in the kitchen, but do keep in mind that getting 11 kitchen knives for everyday home cooking is never a requirement. Having suitable essential kitchen knives is more than enough to elevate an average person’s home cooking experience.

All kitchen knives have their advantages and disadvantages, but keep in mind that proper handling and good maintenance are essential steps that should apply to all knives to ensure that they can perform at their best.

Dee