If you want to cook like a 5-star chef, you need to have the right tools. There are specific kinds that a chef needs to have to get the job done when it comes to kitchen knives. Without the proper tools, making delicious food can quickly become a tedious task that nobody wants to do.
Many different kinds of knives get used in the kitchen. However, a chef only really needs three types of knives to work with:
- A chef’s knife, used for many things
- A paring knife, for delicate tasks
- A serrated knife, which is more commonly known as a bread knife
Every type of knife has a particular purpose. Other than the three main knives mentioned before, chefs use a few additional kitchen knives to help make their job easier. When used correctly, they can make cooking great meals feel effortless. Read on to learn more about what kinds of knives chefs use and their purposes.
The Three Essential Knives and Their Uses
There are several types of knives that chefs use while working in the kitchen. However, only three are necessary: a chef’s knife, a paring knife, and a serrated knife. The combined uses of these three knives are the primary tools every chef needs to get the job done.
Each knife is used during different tasks while cooking. Here are each of the three main kitchen knives and their uses:
The Universal Chef’s Knife
One of the only knives you need to have in your kitchen is the chef’s knife. Also known as a universal knife or cook’s knife, it’s anywhere between 8 and 10 inches long with a tip that begins to slightly round. In fact, if you could only have one knife as a chef, the this would be the one. It has many uses, including:
- Chopping fruits and vegetables
- Dicing and mincing fresh herbs
- Cutting meat, such as chicken or beef
A variation on the traditional chef’s knife is the Santoku knife which is a lighter Japanese knife with a shorter blade and a razor sharp blade.
The use of the chef’s knife can be pretty universal. However, it’s not recommended to use it for peeling or carving fruits, vegetables, or cooked meats.
The Paring Knife
The paring knife is a small knife of only about 3 to 4 inches in length and is usually used on produce items. Despite its size, it’s a very sharp little knife. Here are some of the paring knife’s uses:
- Peeling, skinning and trimming
- Core and seed removal
- Carving, slicing and chopping small pieces
- Shucking shellfish
While using the paring knife to score vegetables and meat is okay, it’s never a good idea to try to cut large produce or pieces of meat with it. It’s too small, and the sharpness of its blade can cause serious injury if it slips.
The Serrated (Bread) Knife
The serrated knife, commonly called the bread knife, is about 8 to 10 inches long. It has teeth-like ridges on its blade. Those teeth make it perfect for cutting through things with tough exteriors with soft insides. Here’s what the serrated knife cuts through with ease:
- Lemons, limes, grapefruit, and oranges
- Cutting tomatoes
- Bread, especially with hard crusts such as baguettes
- Crumbly baked pastries
- Layered cakes
It’s never a good idea to try to peel or carve with a serrated knife. It’s also not a good idea to cut meat with it either. Its jagged blade will tear and shred through the flesh, making a not very precise or even cut.
Other Knives Chefs Use in the Kitchen
Although not considered a necessity, there are a few other kitchen knives with different uses to make cooking a breeze. These knives get used for more specific things and often have certain techniques to use them.
Other knives a chef may use in the kitchen include:
The Slicing Knife
The slicing knife has a long blade that ranges anywhere between 8 and 14 inches long. The edge is also sometimes, but not always, serrated. Tips vary, and can be either blunt, rounded, or pointed. Here’s what a slicing knife is the best for:
- Cutting fruits and vegetables
- Slicing thin pieces of meat
- Carving brisket or roasts
The slicing knife is considered to be similar to the carving knife. The difference being though the slicing knife’s blade is much more flexible.
A cleaver is a heavy-duty knife, sometimes comparable to a small hatchet. Its large rectangle-shaped blade is anywhere between 6-8 inches. It also often has a small hole on the upper tip of the blade. A chef uses a cleaver for:
- Cutting large pieces of meat
- Splitting through soft bones
- Crushing food
- Scooping up diced/minced food
A cleaver is a knife commonly used by a butcher. It’s also a helpful tool in the kitchen for chefs, with many non-cutting-related uses.
The Boning Knife
Boning knives can have a blade up to 9 inches long, but their standard blade size is usually only 5 to 6 inches in length. They have a straight slimmer blade and a pointed tip. Here’s what the boning knife gets used for:
- Deboning cuts of meat
- Cutting through tough parts such as connective tissue and joints
- Removing the skin from fish
- Helps reduce waste with precise cuts
Remember that when using a boning knife, you cut around the bone, not through it. Doing so can cause the blade to slip, and boning knives have incredibly sharp edges.
The Mincing Knife (Mezzaluna)
A mincing knife, sometimes called a Mezzaluna or a rocking knife, has a blade anywhere between 5 and 14 inches long. It has a curved shape and two handles, one on each end of the blade. It’s used in a rocking motion and is best for:
- Dicing tiny pieces of fruits and vegetables
- Cutting herbs and spices
- Mincing garlic, onion, and chives
The mincing knife can sometimes have more than one blade, making mincing much quicker and more thorough. An ulu knife looks similar to a mezzaluna knife, but has additional utility in the kitchen. Be sure you have a solid grip on both handles of either type of knife as the blade or blades tend to be very sharp!
The Fillet Knife
The fillet knife has a long skinny blade that ranges between 4 and 9 inches long. The blade is mostly straight, with a very slight upward curve and a sharp, pointy tip. As its name indicates, it’s meant for filleting. Here’s a list of things a fillet knife gets used for:
- Filleting small to medium-sized fish
- Mincing onions and shallots
- Filleting scallops
- Delicate and precise cuts
It’s often recommended that a glove gets used when working with the fillet knife. The need for a glove is because fish are very slippery, and the fillet knife has an extremely sharp blade. So, be sure to use it with care to avoid any unwanted accidents or severe injury.
Knife-Related Kitchen Tools
The Honing Steel
Although not a knife, this is an essential tool to have if you own any kitchen knives. While some people refer to it as sharpening steel, it doesn’t necessarily sharpen the knife. The honing steel realigns the edges of the knife’s blade, which is an essential part of keeping your kitchen knives in good shape.
The Knife Sharpener
Like the honing steel, this may not be a knife, but this tool will surely come in handy if you have one. When knives aren’t sharp enough they should not be used until they are properly sharpened.
Also, you don’t want to be using a dull knife because it can be dangerous. Dull knives are more prone to catching and slipping on whatever it is you’re trying to cut. The blade may not be sharp enough to cut through your food, but it can still cause injury. So, it’s best always to make sure you’re using adequately sharpened knives before you begin preparing your meals.
There’s quite a variety when it comes to different types of kitchen knives. A real chef knows what each one is and all of its uses. Ultimately, a chef only needs to use the chef’s knife, the paring knife, and the serrated knife to create a mouth-watering meal.