A Guide to Knives

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One large knife may seem to do everything needed in the kitchen, even if it is sharp. That doesn’t mean there isn’t an easier way to do your prep work before cooking. As a reminder, everyone’s kitchen is different and so: different foods will have different needs for different knives. There are plenty of options for types of knife materials, but for now, we will focus on the styles and shapes of knives. Here is a guide to all types of knives needed to get every kind of job done. 

Key:

(*) Suggests an alternative tool for the same use.

(~) Explains the function of a tool. This can also suggest a different variety of tools.

(E) I consider it essential in my kitchen.

5 Basic Knife Types for Everyday Cooking

  • Chef’s knife (E) (Large slightly curved triangle blade. ~All around chopping capability for fruits, veggies, and meat. The thicker blade is designed to not lock through large foods like squash or watermelon)
  • Carving knife (E)(Long thin blade with an end that curves up. ~The thin blade makes thinner cuts from large pieces of cooked meat. (Ex: Turkey, chicken, steak, pot roast.)
  • Paring knife (E)(Small sword-tip blade. ~Used for small chopping work as well as peeling.)
  • Bread knife (E)(Long blade with serrated edge and down-curved end. ~Thin knife keeps from crushing the bread as it cuts through the crust of a loaf.
  • Steak knife (This blade is pointed up and has a slightly curved shape with a serrated edge. ~The steak knife is used for cutting cooked meat into smaller pieces to eat. Sometimes a set of steak knives will come with a kitchen knife block set.)
  • Butter knife (As mentioned in Basic Kitchen Tools, The butter knife is a rounded knife with a thin lightly serrated edge. ~Made for cutting through butter to spread evenly.)

Specialty Knives

  • Utility knife (Thin long triangle blade. ~*This knife has the combined uses of a chef’s knife and slicing knife)
  • Bird’s beak knife (*Peeler)(Short small triangle shape with a wide hook curving outward away from the blade. ~This knife is designed for peeling fruits and veggies.)
  • Sheep’s foot paring knife (Short small triangle blade with the end pointed down like a hoof. ~Best used for cutting fruits and veggies.) Note: See Spearpoint Paring knife.
  • Spearpoint paring knife (E)(~Used for detailed processing of smaller foods.) Note: See Sheep’s Foot Paring knife.
  • Butcher’s knife (E)(Long curved blade. ~Used to make larger pieces of meat easier to cut down to size.)
  • Boning knife (E)(A very long and thin blade. ~Designed for removing bones from meat.)
  • Slicing knife (*Utility knife)(Long serrated blade with a rounded tip. ~Ideal for generally slicing cooked meat.)
  • Cleaver (*Butcher’s knife/Utility knife/Chef’s knife)(Large rectangle knife made with a thinner blade. ~Chopping knife for all types of foods.)
  • Oyster knife (~A large variety of oyster knives vary from across the world, but generally the knife is small and rounded to a spear-like point for prying oyster shells open.)
  • Cheese knife (~This special blade has a “W” fork shape at the very tip and typically has holes within the blade. Cheese tends to stick to the blade, so the holes allow the cheese to peel off easier as you cut. )
  • Breaking/Cimeter knife (This blade is slightly wider and curved with a long and pointed end. ~Used to process large pieces of meat into smaller pieces. It also has a specialized use to trim fat from meat easily.)
  • Kitchen shears (E)(~Sharp food-grade scissors used to cut all manner of things like packaging, twine, herb stems, and even fat from a stubborn piece of meat.)
  • Mezzaluna knife (A curved two-handled rocking knife; sometimes has a double blade. ~ Used for chopping herbs, nuts, salad leaves, or chocolate. Usually best to use with a “bowl” cutting board. This allows the curved blade to work less against the flat surface of a cutting board and to keep all of the herbs in the bowl to chop over. This knife is effortless and probably my new favorite.)
  • Pizza knife (A circular knife used to cut flat-breads and pizza.)
  • Mandoline (The Guillotine of food. ~For consistent cutting of foods like vegetables, fruits, etc. Caution: This tool is incredibly sharp. If you use a tool like this I highly recommend you wear a Kevlar glove or a cut-proof glove when slicing anything. The hand that slices the food across the blade should be wearing the glove. I have lost the tip of my finger to one of these monsters, and this is my least favorite knife tool.)

Knife Accessories

  • Cutting board (E) (Large rectangle block made of wood or food-safe material/plastic. ~A cutting board should never be harder than the knife blade. If it is, the blade is sure to chip and break.
    1. Wood can last you a very long time if you take care of your cutting board. (For example: Properly cleaning, drying, routine oiling of the board, and keeping it out of standing water) This is the softest of the materials listed.
    2. Bamboo isn’t considered to be wood, but a grass. It is a common inexpensive material that is becoming popular. With it becoming more affordable, available and it’s lightweight design, it has been a big favorite recently on all types of cooking outlets and online stores. Be sure to keep the bamboo from sitting in standing water, have it dry thoroughly, and routinely oil it like a wood cutting board. If not, bamboo boards may break, chip, or warp out of shape.
    3. Plastic boards do well for inexperienced cooks, and the surface can be easily cleaned and sanitized. Some boards are flexible and lightweight too. One big minus, however, is that plastic may break, chip, or warp out of shape if misused or placed near/on a hot surface.
    4. Miscellaneous materials can be used like particleboard, recycled wood, recycled plastic, and other leftover items repurposed to cut on. These are thoughtful for incorporating a second chance for materials that would easily become trash in a landfill.
  • Note: You should always cut on a cutting board. -To not use one would risk your knives, and whatever surface you are cutting on to serious damage or breakage. Be safe and always use a cutting board.
  • Knife sharpener (E)(Diamond sharpening steel)(An oval, flat, steel rod with a handle. ~Used to create a new edge for knives, scissors, etc.) When you use the rod, it shaves off a thin layer of metal from the blade to create an angled edge to hone and detail sharpen. This type of sharpener usually has a layer of diamond abrasives that take off a dull edge. This tool can be mistaken for a honing rod, so be careful not to mistake one for the other. This tool isn’t usually found in a knife block set. Some Knife honers have a “new edge” sharpener on the handle. This is a basic sharpener without the extra tool.
  • Note: When you are finished with sharpening your knife always wipe the blade and rod down with a damp cloth. We don’t want metal shavings in your food!
  • Knife Honer (E) (A round steel rod with a handle and handguard. ~Sliding your blade through a honer keeps your blade edge straight and removes jagged edges like burrs.) Some consumer-grade rod sharpeners also have a ceramic honing piece on the handle for finer sharpening. The honer extends the life of your last sharpening job and will be your most used asset to keeping your knives sharp without creating a new edge. This tool is usually found in a knife block set.
  • Note: Honing your knife before every use is very important. Always wash your knife and wipe the blade down with a damp cloth.

  • Knife block/strip (E)(~Magnetic strip, wood stand. etc. This keeps dangerous, sharp knives safely secured, but also conveniently out to use anytime.)
  • Note: A loose knife in a drawer is never ok. You can cut yourself or dull/warp your blade that way.
  • Kevlar glove (E) (~ Protective glove for those who are just learning how to use knives in the kitchen. If you practice safe cutting techniques, you will need this glove less and less; With the exception of the Mandoline. I think the glove is absolutely a must for that tool to prevent injury.)

Q&A

  • Q: I have a glass cutting board, is that acceptable to cut on?
  • A: I wouldn’t recommend it. Though glass has a certain aesthetic, it could be harder than the blade you are using, and cutting on that could break it.
  • Q: Can a honer sharpen my knife?
  • A: No. A honer corrects the blade from straying away from its original straight shape and knocks off burrs (ragged edges) from the knife.
  • Q: How often do I need to sharpen my blade then?
  • A: The knife only needs to be sharpened roughly every 9 months to a year.
  • Q: Can I sharpen and hone my serrated bread knife with a consumer-grade honer and sharpener?
  • A: Unless you have training in how to sharpen these types of knives, I wouldn’t recommend it. Find a local sharpener that can do the job for you, it will save you time and stress.
  • Q: If a honer comes in a knife block set, does it mean that it is high quality and will extend the sharpening life of my knives?
  • A: Yes and No. Just because a honer comes with a knife block set doesn’t mean it is the best tool available. It is great for cooks who are just getting used to caring for their knives through honing (extending the life of their blade’s sharpness). However, this tool is just a peek into how to watch for warping and burrs on your blade. Practice with it and when you feel your blade isn’t benefiting anymore, Get it sharpened by a professional or get a consumer-grade sharpener. I prefer to use an all in one sharpener and honing rod for convenience and to save kitchen space.
  • Disclaimer: This answer addresses beginner sharpeners and honers for new cooks. There are multiple ways to sharpen a blade, but this recommendation is easiest to access and safer for the chef.

If you are interested in knowing how to sharpen your knives, please visit: Caring for your Kitchen Knives for a beginner’s understanding of your knives and their role in your cooking experience.

By no means are these all of the knives and sharpeners available in the world, but if you are interested other articles like “Different Knife Materials”, “Japanese Prep Knives”, ” Safe Cutting Techniques” and “High-end Sharpening” with grit blocks, please feel free to leave a comment in this article or message me on the Contact page.

-Until next time!

S.C.

Header image is from Wikipedia.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kitchen_knife#/media/File:Cucina_012.jpg

Other images are free on pixabay.com

Work Cited:

Webstaurant store, “Types of Knives”, “https://www.webstaurantstore.com/guide/538/types-of-knives.html, © 2003-2020 WebstaurantStore Food Service Equipment and Supply Company, Date Accessed: 07/13/20.”

Home Stratosphere. “24 Different Types of Kitchen Knives – Do You Know Them All?”, https://www.homestratosphere.com/types-of-kitchen-knives/© © 2020 by Home Stratosphere, Date Accessed: 07/10/20.”

Wikipedia, “Mandoline”, “https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mandoline, Wikipedia®, Date Accessed: 07/31/2020.”

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