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Cooking Knives And Their Uses – 20 Different Types!


In my constant search to stay healthy and happy, I have found it much more reasonable to prepare my meals myself and by learning the different types of kitchen knives and their uses I have been able to capture some of the traditional charm found in old world cooking.  Like many other art forms, the culinary artist has their particular tools of the trade that allow them to take their cooking creations to new heights.

When I was in college I didn’t pay much attention to my diet but once I decided to purchase my home I quickly found myself shopping for quality kitchen utensils.  Over the last couple of years, I have done my homework and I feel as if I have emerged with a better understanding of what each type of kitchen knife is used for and when it is ideal to use it.  This is what I have learned on my journey to find the best kitchen knives for my home.

One thing is for sure, if you going to try and eat out every day, you better begin preparing your budget for some serious adjustments.  It didn’t take long for me to realize that it was time for to get serious about my diet.  Especially since I am now starting to get out of my 20’s and a homeowner.

I found that learning about the different types of kitchen knives and their uses is the first step to becoming a better chef.  Over the last century, many different knives have been developed to tackle the myriad of tasks found in the modern kitchen.  Many of us prefer to prepare dishes from around the world and due to the delicacy of certain cooking styles, specialty blades have begun to spring up in kitchens around the globe.  These blades may have been developed hundreds of years ago but they still serve the foods they did all those years ago.

Some of these blade date back to ancient cultures, while many display more recent designs that were developed to tackle very specific scenarios.  No matter what you plan to cook, there is the perfect knife for the job.  There is literally hundreds of types of kitchen knives in existence today and understanding the different types of kitchen knives takes a brief investment of your time.

Kitchen knives come in a variety of different materials and depending on your intended use you may find one type of steel better suited to tackle the task.  These are the most commonly found kitchen knife materials.

Carbon Steel – This steel is made by mixing iron and carbon.  It is common to see other elements such as manganese added to the mixture to enhance strength.  This type of material holds its blade well over extended use and is easy to sharpen when it is time for maintenance.  This type of blade requires lubrication after every use to prevent rusting and discoloration.

Stainless Steel – This steel mix consists of iron and alloy.  Nickel is another common ingredient found in this type of steel.  This style of steel has very small amounts of carbon and is known for its inexpensive but reliable design.

Hard Carbon Stainless Steel – This high-grade stainless steel alloy mix combines the best attributes of carbon steel with the rust resistance of stainless steel.  This style of steel can hold its edge longer than traditional stainless steel and it can reach a sharper edge than stainless steel as well.

Laminated – This type of still is extremely hard but can be sometimes brittle due to this extreme hardness.  This style of manufacturing sandwiches hard steel between protective layers that allow a sharper edge to be achieved.

Titanium – This is the lightest and most wear resistant steel found in the kitchen.  Because of the extreme cost of titanium cutlery, it is very rare to find this type of metal used in household kitchens.

Ceramic Knives – This style of knife material is constructed to be very hard and have excellent edge retention capabilities.  Ceramic knives stay sharp longer than other materials and they are well suited for cutting boneless meat, vegetables, and fruit.

The modern day kitchen is a hodge-podge of cooking utensils and ingredients from around the world.  Gone are the days of one type of cuisine and today we enjoy a worldly platter that would make our ancestors drool with jealousy.  These are the most commonly found kitchen knives.

You may be familiar with some of the more popular styles listed below, especially the ones that have been made famous by Hollywood horror flicks, but I can assure there are many on this list you may have never heard of.  A large variety of these knives have no known inventor and instead are accredited to a country and a time period.  After a little research, you can see where and when the culinary renascences took place around the globe.

In case you don’t have time to go through the entire post, we have condensed all the good stuff in an infographic for the 20 different types of cooking knives and their uses.


20 Types of Kitchen Knives and Their Uses – An infographic by Asharpslice.com

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20 Types of Kitchen Knives and Their Uses

 

What is a Birds Beak / Peeling Knife Used For?

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What is a Birds Beak / Peeling Knife Used For?

 

Birds beak knives get their name from their distinctive downward curve that resembles the beak of a bird and it takes one second to notice the resemblance.  This knife is also referred to as a Tournée or peeling knife and it can be characterized by its

  • 2″ – 3″ Blade
  • Downward Hooking Blade

This type of knife is often used to make decorative cuts into

  • Carrots
  • Potatoes
  • Squash
  • Onions
  • Cucumbers

This knife was designed to add to the presentation of your meals and using it will add a unique feel to your dishes.  Mercer is known for making an excellent birds beak knife.  Bird beak knives are relatively inexpensive and they can make small tasks like peeling much easier.  This style of blade is designed to be used when holding the vegetable in your hand rather than on a cutting board.  If you are ready to take your presentation to the next level, you should consider getting a quality birds beak knife.

 

What is a Boning / Fillet Knife Used For?

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What is a Boning / Fillet Knife Used For?

 

A boning knife is used for food preparation. This style of knife was first developed by medieval chefs around the 16th century. This blade is extremely useful in removing bones from

  • Fish
  • Pork
  • Beef
  • Poultry

Boning knives can be distinguished by these characteristics.

  • Under 7″ Length
  • Narrow Bladed
  • Sharp Point

The thinner blade makes precision boning more efficient. Stiffer boning knives are intended for boning pork and beef, whereas thinner blades are better suited for use with poultry and fish. In fish specific boning knives, the blade is arched to enhance the single pass performance when deboning. These are often referred to as filet knives. The idea behind this blades unique design is to give you the best possible access to the small areas where the bone is attached to the meat.

Boning knives work great for prepping chicken in particular. Boneless chicken breast is one of the most expensive cuts and because of this; you may find it very helpful to learn how to debone properly.

 

What is a Breaking Knife used For?

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What is a Breaking Knife used For?

 

Breaking knives have been around since medieval times.  This blade was designed by medieval butchers to break down leg quarters into smaller roasts.  You will usually find this purpose built blade in your local butcher shop.  This type of knife can consist of

  • 7″ – 11″ total length
  • Slight Curvature Upward Towards the Blade Tip

You can use this blade to cut these meats into sections that are more manageable and this blade is usually used after the cleaver to clean your cuts up.

  • Poultry
  • Pork
  • Beef

The curve of the knife makes this blade ideal for cutting through skin, cartilage, and small bones.   Victorinox is the biggest manufacturer of breaking knives currently and their models can be found in kitchens throughout the globe.  If you are preparing your own meat, this type of knife can save you time and effort.

 

What is a Cheese Knife Used For?

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What is a Cheese Knife Used For?

 

Cheese knives have been in use for over 100 years in their modern design.  Germany is credited with this design as cheese is a popular breakfast in that part of the world.  This unique looking knife is designed with a few easy to spot characteristics.

  • Hollow Blade
  • Blade Curves Upward
  • Dual Tip
  • Curved Spine

The hollow curved design allows this knife to cut through cheese without sticking.  This reduces drag and friction and allows you to cut more cheese with less effort.  Many versions feature deeply serrated edges that further reduce sticking while slicing.  This Type of knife is perfectly designed for slicing

  • Cheese

Cheese knives may vary depending on the softness of the cheese they are designed to cut.  Some cheeses require serrated non-serrated edges to prevent crumbling.  The two-pronged tip on the blade can be used to move already cut slices around with ease.  Inexpensive quality cheese knives can be found from a couple manufacturers such as Prodyne and Gunter Wilhelm.  If you serve a lot of sliced cheese this is going to be the knife best suited for the job.

 

What is a Chefs Knife Used For?

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What is a Chefs Knife Used For?

 

A chef’s knife, or cooks knife, is primarily designed slice through large cuts of beef.

The chef’s knife concept originated as far back as the cavemen. In those days, a sharp rock was the primary form of hacking through meats and vegetables. This design lasted for many centuries and even the ancient Egyptians used this design.

Recently this commonly seen kitchen knife has evolved into a general utility blade that is used for everything from smashing garlic to slicing fresh cuts of meat. A chef’s knife can be easily distinguished because it has…

  • 6″ – 14″ Blade Length
  • Wide Spine
  • Sharp Pointed Tip
  • Non-Serrated Edge

There are many different styles of chef’s knives such as German, French, and Japanese.  Japanese chef’s knives have taken center stage because of their extreme sharpness and ease of use.  Hanzo and Ginsu are two of the world’s leading Japanese chef’s knife producers.

Today’s chefs knives are designed to be extremely versatile and because of this, they continue to grow in popularity around the globe.  Chef’s knives come in four main blade variants Carbon Steel, Stainless Steel, Laminated, and Ceramic.  Ceramic blades are the sharpest but are the most difficult to sharpen and can chip easily.  Chef’s Knifes can be used to slice and cut…

  • Vegetables
  • Sea Food
  • Fruits
  • Meats
  • Eggs
  • Cheese

What is a Cimeter Knife Used For?

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What is a Cimeter Knife Used For?

 

Cimeter knives first saw use in the medieval butcheries of Europe.  The word Cimeter also means saber and it is believed the name originated from the long blade this knife possesses.  Cimeters have

  • 8″ – 14″ Blade
  • Curves Upward Towards the Tip

The design of this blade makes it ideal for cutting larger pieces of meat into retail cuts and because of this the butcher is the most common place you will see this knife.  This blade is commonly used to cut

  • Beef
  • Pork
  • Chicken

Wusthof manufacturers traditional German Cimeters that are designed to last and they have been growing in popularity for the last decade.  As more and more people get into preparing their own cuts of meat, this style of knife is sure to make a huge comeback.  The medieval butcheries helped to develop a number of useful knife designs that still see use today.

 

What is a Clam / Oyster Knife Used For?

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What is a Clam / Oyster Knife Used For?

 

Oyster knives can trace their origin to small fishing communities in North America around the turn of the 20th century.  This intuitive design allows you to pry oysters and clams apart.  No two oysters are the same and because of this, no oyster-opening machine has ever been able to replace a skilled worker.  This type of blade can be characterized as having

  • Short Thick Blade
  • Bulbous Handle

There are a few variations to this blade including a thinner bladed version used in France to shuck Ostrea Edulis, there most common oyster.  The New Haven variant is wider than the original and the tip is slightly curved.  A providence version is longer and narrower to accommodate for their larger oysters.  This type of blade is used on

  • Oysters
  • Clams

If you are planning to shuck some oyster or clams, nothing is going to be the convenience and timesaving abilities of this blade.  There is no clear industry leader in terms of oyster knives but UJ Ramelson Co.  Has a very popular version that can be purchased with an oyster glove to give you the ultimate oyster shucking experience.

 

What is a Cleaver / Chopper / Butcher Knife Used For?

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What is a Cleaver / Chopper / Butcher Knife Used For?

 

A cleaver or butchers knife is designed to split or cleave meat from the bone. This type of blade is thicker than the majority of kitchen knives and can be easily distinguished by its large rectangular shape.  The majority of us have seen this menacing looking blade used by Hollywood in horror films.  The Majority of cleavers will have

  • Thick Blade
  • Sharp Beveled Convex Edge
  • Large Rectangular Shape
  • 6″-9″ Length

The design of this blade makes it ideal for cutting with a solid swing of the blade.  Any chef that is looking to prepare his or her own meats needs to invest in a solid cleaver.  For home use, a lighter cleaver is ideal.  These light duty cleavers are usually around 6″ in length.

There are a couple variations of this blade including a lobster splitter designed specifically for shellfish.  There are also vegetable cleavers that feature a slight bend to the blade to allow for rocking cuts.  Cleavers can be used to cut.

  • Chicken
  • Pork
  • Beef
  • Fish
  • Vegetables

A cleaver is more often found in professional settings such as restaurants and butchers.  If you are not planning to prepare your own cuts of meat, you probably don’t need to run to the store and purchase a cleaver today but you may find it helpful to have one when the time comes.

 

What is a Deba Knife Used For?

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What is a Deba Knife Used For?

 

The Deba knife design originates from ancient Japanese culture and its name literally means pointed carving knife.  The first version of this knife can be traced to the Edo period when it was used to behead and fillet fish.  This blade can be described as having

  • 7″ – 12″ Blade
  • Thick Blade
  • Curved Spine
  • Long Angled Edges

This knife is used to prepare

  • Fish
  • Beef
  • Pork
  • Chicken

Carbon steel blades are preferred but they do require maintenance to prevent rust from forming.  Recently stainless steel versions have hit the marketplace but they lack the sharpness of carbon steel.  Manufacturers such as Yoshihiro and Wusthof produce well-recognized blades.  The styles and steel may differ slightly between German and Japanese Deba knives.  Japanese are considered the traditional and sharpest.

 

What is a Deli Knife Used For?

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What is a Deli Knife Used For?

 

 

A deli knife is designed to cut cleanly through fruits and vegetables without tearing them. A serrated deli knife is perfectly suited for small slicing jobs such as tomatoes or bagels. Because of this, deli knives are also called tomato or sandwich knives.  This type of blade can be recognized by looking for…

  • 4″ – 7″ Blade Length
  • Serrated Blade
  • Slight Curvature from the Spine to the Tip

Serrated utility knives can be used to cut and slice a number of sandwich toppings including…

  • Tomatoes
  • Avocados
  • Onions
  • Bread
  • Lettuce
  • Cheese
  • Eggs

It is very common to see this knife in your local sandwich shop because it is well suited for all the slicing sandwich fixings may require. The serrated edge allows this blade to penetrate the tomatoes skin with the least amount of effort. You don’t need a serrated edge to cut a tomato but knives with serrated edges will cut even when they have become dull. Serrated edges are more difficult to sharpen so this is an important factor to consider as well.  A Deli knife can handle all of your sandwich fixing needs.

 

What is a Mincing Knife Used For?

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What is a Mincing Knife Used For?

 

A mincing knife or Mezzaluna makes a great addition to any kitchen.  This very unique looking blade first became popular around the 16th century but it wasn’t until the modern hamburger that mincing knives became commonplace.  This type of knife can be easily recognized because of its unique design that features…

  • Large Swooped Blade
  • Dual Handles

This interesting blade gets its unique name from the crescent shaped blade it showcases.  Its two-handed design is intended to be rocked over your herbs to create the perfect size pieces for soups, sauces, and salads.  This type of blade can cut delicate leaves such as basil without bruising them.  This blade is used to mince

  • Garlic
  • Onions
  • Peppers
  • Cheese
  • Meat
  • Seasonings
  • Lettuce

Over the last 50 years, some innovative variations to this blade have come forth.  One version utilizes three blades to give you added cutting space.  The unique design of the Mezzaluna allows it to cut twice as long as a regular knife.  Wusthof makes a traditional Mezzaluna that is has become very popular due to its high-quality construction and extreme sharpness.

 

What is a Nakiri Knife Used For?

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What is a Nakiri Knife Used For?

 

Nakiri knives originated from Japan during the Edo period out of a need to prepare fine slices of vegetables for delicate dishes.  Japan has managed to maintain their cooking techniques and styles for hundreds of years with relatively no difference.  This gives this blade its traditional look and feel.  Everything about the design of this blade makes it ideal for this task.  These knives are known to have a

  • Thin Blade
  • Straight Blade Edge
  • Deep Angled from Both Sides
  • Rectangular Style Shape
  • Light Weight

This type of blade is known for making very thin slices of

  • Carrots
  • Cucumbers
  • Potatoes
  • Celery
  • Cabbage

Unlike the deep bevel of a Deba knife this style of knife utilizes a thin blade to allow for deeper cutting without tearing.  Enso is recognized as creating some of the best Nakiri knives on the market today and if you are making traditional Japanese cuisine, you should definitely consider getting one of these handy blades.

 

What is a Palette Knife Used For?

Palette knives have been with us since ancient times with many conflicting reports of their origin.  This knife is used for spreading and not to cut, as it has no sharp edges.  This type of knife is well suited for applying spreads.  You can describe a palette knife as having

  • No Sharp Edges
  • A rounded Tip
  • Over 6″ in Length

Because of its length, this knife is well suited for spreading

  • Sauces
  • Creams
  • Frosting

If you are making dishes that have a spread or sauce layered on them this may be the smart choice for you.  There are many palette knife manufacturers currently producing high-quality palette knives on the market.  Azteco has a very popular version of this knife that is very competitively priced.

 

What is a Paring Knife Used For?

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What is a Paring Knife Used For?

 

The paring knife was first developed in ancient times and it was used to assist with preparing salads and peeling fruit.  Over the last couple of centuries, this blade has become a staple in the cooking community.  Paring knives can be distinguished by their

  • 3″ – 4″Blade Length
  • Slightly Curved Blade

Your paring knife is going to be your go-to blade for a number of miscellaneous tasks in the kitchen including cutting and slicing.  This little blade comes in handy for opening food packaging as well.

  • Vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Meats
  • Eggs
  • Cheese
  • Sea Food
  • Packages

Because of the versatility of this blade, this should be of one of the first knives you should get for your kitchen. Pairing knives have a slight curvature to their blade to assist with slicing and their small size makes them the ideal multipurpose blade.

There are many popular pairing knives on the market today.  The main thing to look for in a paring knife is the level of quality in the materials used.  You will want a stainless steel full tang design to ensure the highest durability.

 

What is a Petty Knife Used For?

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What is a Petty Knife Used For?

 

Petty knives are a Japanese design and they were used as small utility knives for centuries in Asia.  This type of knife was very popular during the Edo period and it is still in wide use today in kitchens around the world.  This is sharp point ended knife that can be used for a variety of tasks.  Petty knives come in variety of different sizes and shapes most have

  • 5″-8″ Blade
  • Back of Blade Aligned with Back of Handle
  • Sharp tip
  • Slight Curve to meet at a Point
  • Thick Spine

This knife is not amazing at one task but is instead designed to be good at a number of kitchen tasks including cutting

  • Poultry
  • Pork
  • Beef
  • Vegetables
  • Fruits

This is the original all in one kitchen knife and owning one can help to reduce the number of knives you use when you are cooking.  Yoshihiro Cutlery has been producing high-quality petty knives for over a decade.  This blade can be the perfect addition to your kitchen.

 

What is a Santoku Knife Used For?

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What is a Santoku Knife Used For?

 

The Santoku or Bunka knife was developed in ancient Japan and was used as a general multi-purpose blade.  This is very similar to our chef’s knives of today.  This knife can be described as having

  • 5″ – 8″ Blade Length
  • Flat Edges
  • Sheep Foot Design
  • 60 Degree angle at Point
  • Top of Handle Aligned with Top of Blade

This knife is primarily used for preparing

  • Vegetables
  • Chicken
  • Pork
  • Beef

The word Santoku means three uses.  This name was derived by from the primary three uses of this knife during this time period.  Slicing, dicing, and mincing were the primary functions this blade was used for.  Ginsu makes a popular economical version of this blade that has continued to grow in popularity over the last decade.  Ginsu first saw fame due to an aggressive marketing strategy that featured their blades easily cutting through cans and other difficult items.

On the other hand, If you are looking for a high end Santoku knife, Dalstrong or Wusthof would be your best bet.

 

What is a Sashimi Knife Used For?

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What is a Sashimi Knife Used For?

 

Sashimi knives are another popular traditional style Japanese knife that comes from Japan’s golden era.  This knife is also called a Sushi knife and it is perfectly suited for cutting raw fish.  This knife can be described as having

  • Thin Blade
  • 8″+ Blade Length
  • Spine not Aligned with Handle
  • Thin Long Design

Depending on what part of Japan you go to this blade may be squared at the tip.  This knife is suitable for cutting

  • Fresh Fish
  • Vegetables

As the name implies this knife was primarily used to cut very thin slices of fish Fugu Sashimi.  If you are planning to get into the art of making sushi this is a smart investment to make into your cooking tool set.  Tuo Cutlery makes a professional grade sushi knife that is very popular among sushi chefs today.

 

What is a Slicing Knife Used For?

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What is a Slicing Knife Used For?

 

Slicing knives have been in use for over 200 years.  Slicing knives possess thin blades that are flexible to allow you to get the thinnest slices possible.  This knife is designed to deliver a more precision than that delivered by a carving knife and it is used to cut very thin slices of

  • Ham
  • Roasts
  • Fish
  • Barbequed Beef
  • Venison
  • Pork

This type of knife can be characterized as having a

  • Rounded Tip
  • 8″ – 15″ Total Length
  • Scalloped Blade
  • Flexible Blades

The thin flexible blade allows you to get paper-thin cuts with every slice.  Victorinox is known for delivering high-quality slicing knives that can stand up to heavy use.  This is a great blade to use to cut your ham into sandwich slices or roast into easy to eat slices for serving.  If you bake a lot of larger meals that require slicing, this is a good investment for you to consider.

 

What is a Steak Knife Used For?

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What is a Steak Knife Used For?

 

The modern steak knife design began to gain popularity in America after WWII.  A rise in new manufacturing techniques made working with new metals possible.  This type of knife can be described as having

  • Serrated Edge
  • 5″ – 7″ Blade

Steak knives developed because of a need to get away from the constant upkeep and sharpening pre-stainless steel blades required.  Once stainless steel was common, people were still required to sharpen their steak knives regularly.  By adding the serrated edge, this need for sharpening is reduced.  Steak knives are designed to cut

  • Steak

Having a nice set of steak knives can add to your décor as well as your overall dining experience.  Many manufacturers make dependable steak knives.  Dalstrong produces an extremely high-quality steak knife set that has frequently been on the best sellers list for the last 2 years.

 

What is a Usuba Knife Used For?

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What is a Usuba Knife Used For?

 

Usuba knives come to us from traditional Japanese culinary arts.  Professional chefs first used this blade during the Edo period and it has continued to remain a staple of the Japanese culinary until the present day.  This type of blade can be described as having

  • Thin Blade
  • Bevel Front Side
  • Hollow Ground Urasuki
  • Flat Edge

This knife was preferred by professional chefs of traditional Japan because the single sided edge allowed paper-thin slices to be made from

  • Carrots
  • Potatoes
  • Celery
  • Lettuce
  • Cabbage
  • Beets

Usuba knives are still popular today and manufacturers such as Shun continue to create blades using the traditional methods.  This knife is only sharpened on one side; this allows the blade to be honed to a razor-like sharpness.  The delicacy of Japanese culinary is fascinating and to get a firm understanding of this style of cooking is eye opening.

 

Types of Kitchen Knives and Their Uses – Final Thoughts

During my younger years, I never would have thought about purchasing high-quality kitchen cutlery but as I am now a homeowner, I am dedicated to finding the best quality products for my home.  It took me a couple years to gather the information in this article and I hope that by presenting it to you in this easy to understand format you can get the most out of it.

Any chef’s cutlery collection takes some time to acquire and by following the tips in this blog, you are sure to get quality blades at great prices.  Don’t make the most common mistakes and sacrifice quality for cheaper pricing.  If you own your home, it is time to consider your cutlery as part of that investment.

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