Knives are one of the most important tools in the kitchen. Little wonder why it’s often referred to as a cook’s best friend.
Whether you’re a pro or just beginning to find your way around the kitchen, knowing the right knife to use for any cutting operation puts you in a position to obtain optimal precision on your cuts and enjoy the entire cutting experience.
In this article, we will discuss the different types of kitchen knife blades, and their functions in case you want to consider adding any to your kitchen’s collection.
While some of these knives are quite common, and you expect all households to have them, others are only necessary if you’re a professional chef working in a restaurant kitchen.
Must-Have Kitchen Knives
1. Chef’s Knife
If you’re looking to have just one knife in your kitchen, it’s best to make it a chef’s knife. It’s what you can consider an all-rounder when it comes to the usefulness of knives. It’s safe to say a kitchen is useless if it isn’t preset, and this applies to a butcher’s meat shop too.
Being the ‘knife-of-all-trades’ it’s got a design that makes it suitable for the majority of cutting operations. Even for some complex cuts, this knife can still manage to get in there and do a decent job – depending on the skillset of the holder of course.
It’s often shaped like a right triangle with one side of its end curved, and the other straight. Typically, 6-12 inches long, and about 3 inches wide at the center, the chef knife is capable of slicing meat, vegetables, fruits, and sometimes, even lightweights like bread.
This blade is a must-have in the home regardless of what your plans for a kitchen are looking like. As it can perform the function of multiple versions of knives, you want to make sure you get it first before considering other options.
2. Paring Knife
Often argued to be the next best thing after the chef’s knife, paring knives are somewhat smaller load carriers that take some stress off a chef’s knife by handling the little cuttings.
With a relatively smaller handle, a paring knife is the best tool if you’re looking to have precision when cutting items like leaves, onions, and tomatoes.
They’re often 3-5 inches long with a handle usually around 2/3 its entire size. Aside from being the first-choice knife for cooking looking for precision, it’s also a pretty decent tool for peeling (some versions in particular), in cases where you don’t have a dedicated peeler.
The meat cleaver is the most important knife for any butcher; a primary addition for home kitchens that butchers most of their meats themselves.
Cleavers are the most visually striking types of knives, and rightly so, they’re heavy-duty tools designed for chopping large chunks of meat and cutting through bones.
They often take a rectangular shape and are around 7-11 inches long and can be up to 5 inches wide. Aside from cutting meat and bones which they’re primarily known for, they’re also very efficient in cutting hard vegetables like cabbage and pumpkins.
Its wide and heavy blade makes it the perfect tool for cooks and butchers looking to cut through hard items with a single strike.
Utility Kitchen Knives
4. Steak Knife
There are not a lot of knives that’s got a place on the dining table – steak knives should be acknowledged for making it to that list. Contrary to what its name suggests, it’s a multipurpose knife that can be used for cutting either cooked or raw meat of any type.
They give the vibe of a bread knife but are a lot sharper making them capable of cutting through beef, chicken, and fish.
More so, they can come in either non-serrated, semi-serrated, or serrated edges. It’s also able to perform the functions of a carving knife quite efficiently, and sometimes even adds style to it with its serrated blades.
5. Bread Knife
The bread knife is often considered a utility knife in the kitchen. Even though you don’t need it to make the perfect breakfast that’ll require you to cut bread, it’s still a great tool to have if you’re looking to have a relaxed experience cutting light ingredients – tomatoes and pepper for example.
Its entire design makes it dedicated to cutting soft and light objects. It’s usually around 6-10 inches long, with one edge being serrated such that when cutting these light items, they don’t spill everywhere (if juicy) or produce a lot of crumbs in the case of loaves of bread.
Although some cooks and kitchen enthusiasts can treat it as a must-have especially if they operate a large kitchen space, it shouldn’t be among the first knives to get especially if you don’t run a kitchen that’s dedicated to preparing breakfast meals only. Consider it as a knife that gives you a level of luxury when cutting lightweight items – that’s about it.
6. Boning Knife
Although it’s often underrated because of the level of tasks it can handle in the kitchen, it’s still one of the most potent knives cooks can have in their collection. The boning knife is a thin long-bladed knife designed for removing bones from meat or chicken.
It usually measures 5-8 inches long, but some are up to 12 inches depending on a specific brand. Also, the sharp edges can be curved inward, giving a tiny flat surface that’s usually not more than 1.5 inches.
Being a butcher specialty knife, it’s not something you may put much priority in getting especially if you’re not running a large kitchen that’ll involve cutting different types of meats.
7. Carving Knife
As the name suggests, the carving knife is a cutting tool designed for slicing out thin pieces of meat. It looks a lot like a paring knife in terms of physical appearance. However, this is a little bigger as it is built to handle heavier items.
Although the carving knife is a must-have tool for a butcher, if you’re not going to be cutting out tiny meat parts for showcase regularly, then it’s probably one of the last types of knives you want to add to your collection. Its common use in a regular household is to cut tiny bits off the Thanksgiving turkey.
8. Fillet Knife
The fillet knife is what most cooks consider the best alternative to a boning knife – even better in a way, as it’s designed for cutting fish. As the boning knife is designed for cutting meat, so is the fillet knife for fish.
It is extra-narrowed out so it can slice through fish perfectly without giving it any damage. While that’s the case, the distinctions between both types of knives are negligible enough for both to be used for the same tasks even with minimal expertise.
Japanese Kitchen Knives
9. Nakiri Bocho Knife
The Nakiri Bocho or simply Nakiri, is a knife specifically designed for cutting vegetables. If you’re into having a collection of dedicated knives, this is one that you’d want to add to your shopping list if you don’t have it already.
Although It’s almost as wide as a cleaver, making it capable of doing some meat-cutting and slicing operations, its primary function is to chop vegetables, specifically the hard ones like cabbages, pumpkins, and carrots.
10. Santoku Knife
Best described as the Japanese version of the regular chef knife, it’s a lighter and shorter version that also takes some physical features of the cleaver with its wideness.
It can handle a variety of tasks just like the regular chef’s knife – its shape essentially makes it the second-best thing to have as an allrounder if the chef’s knife isn’t available.
Compared to regular chef’s knives, santoku knives have straight handles and blades. As such, it’s not the best performer when it comes to cutting things with a chopping board. It’s best to just use it for cutting items that are not too little and don’t lay flat on the table.
To learn more about Japanese knives, we have made a list of all types of Japanese kitchen knives available. You might want to have a look.
What to Consider When Choosing Your Type of Kitchen Knife
Right away, we want to assume that budget isn’t a problem. At the same time, we also want to consider factors that’ll ensure that our knife collection isn’t overkill for what we’d be using the kitchen for.
When it comes to choosing a type of knife for your kitchen, factors like handle style, blade style, and sharpness doesn’t matter as most of these factors will depend on the actual uses of the knives.
You want to know exactly, the primary dishes you’ll be preparing. For a small home, a chef’s knife, cleaver, and bread knife might be enough, and for other homes, it might be necessary to add a paring knife to the collection.
While that’s the case, if you’re running a kitchen as a single individual that only uses it a couple of times a week, then a chef’s knife can be all you need. You essentially want to find the balance between your frequent dishes cuts that you can’t do easily with your chef’s knife.
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A culinary virtuoso and wordsmith extraordinaire; I am a chef that wields knives and pens with equal finesse. Join me as we explore and find out the best kitchen tools.