It has taken centuries to perfect each and every type of knife used in today’s kitchens. Each knife has its own, unique and individual function and it is important to use it for what it was intended. Many people assume that “a knife is a knife”. This is not true. A beautiful loaf of bread or the perfect filet of meat can be ruined with one slice from the wrong knife. Just to make sure everything is clear; here is an explanation of what each knife is made for.
The first, and most widely known and used knife is the chef’s knife. A powerhouse knife, it can accomplish ALMOST any job in the kitchen. Don’t get me wrong, this is an article about how each knife is important and useful. Don’t go thinking you can just buy a chefs knife and be set. The broad blade and heavy handle makes it ideal for cutting through thick items, while the curved blade makes it perfect for mincing as well. The length of the blade is extremely important. The longer the blade, the more difficult it is to control. So, if you are a petite person, go for a shorter blade, maybe eight to ten inches, rather than a twelve inch monster!
The most delicate of all the cooking knives, the paring knife is meant for precise food preparation. Everything from peeling an apple to digging the eyes out of potatoes, this knife is meant for smaller projects. However, the most important thing to remember when it comes to paring knives is that there are three different type, and all are necessary in a professional chef’s kitchen. The first is the birds beak paring knife. Slightly rounded, this is the perfect tool for trimming and peeling fruits and vegetables. There is also the spear point parer. This knife is meant to be a smaller version of the chef’s knife and act as an extension of your hand for easy and quick chopping. Finally, there is the traditional paring knife, seen most commonly, features a straight, thin blade for quickly cutting small ingredients like celery.
Carving knives are designed to be used with meats. With a long, straight blade, the carving knives is generally eight to fourteen inches in length and is much heavier than the traditional chef’s knife. Many carving knives have hollowed out spaces on each side of the knife. These hollows create air pockets so that the meats don’t stick to blade, making for more efficient cutting. For all holidays, this knife is a staple that should be found in every kitchen, professional and home, including yours.
When a chef’s knife is too big and a paring knife is too small, there is the utility knife. Ranging from five to six and a half inches in length, this knife is also known as the sandwich knife for all the moms out there. It has small serrations along the blade making it easy to cut through tomatoes and other soft fruits. However, this knife doesn’t leave clean cuts due to the teeth, but is ideal for slicing through lunch meats.
Made especially for fish, the boning knife is perfect for de-boning or working around bones. If your boning knife is thin and the blade is flexible, then it has been designed to help cut around the joints and bones in the fish. If it has a rigid blade, then it is perfect for either de-boning a fish or cutting through the joints.
The knife almost everyone already known how to use, is the bread knife. With its serrated edge and blunt tip, the bread knife is made especially for one thing, bread! The teeth make it easy to cut through the soft bread without smooshing it.
The source of many people’s nightmares happens to be the most heavy duty knife. The cleaver is not made for slicing or cutting. Its one purpose is to whack through bones and joints in meat. This knife is not usually found in household kitchens but if you do have one, please be very careful, as this is the thickest and heaviest blade of them all.
The final knife is seen most commonly on the dinner table and not in the kitchen. The steak knife has a thin and narrow blade, made to cut steaks and other cooked meats into small bites. Some steak knives have serrations, but most are straight.
There are other specialty knives that are useful for more specific tasks. To learn more about those knives, check out the article entitled “Specialty Knives Revealed”.