Kitchen Knife Types
Whether you’re a professional chef or an enthusiastic amateur, the world of knives can be confusing. At first glance, it seems like there are endless knife types for every specific kitchen task imaginable. But when you break it down, there are a few key types of knives you need to know. In this article, we’ve listed – in alphabetical order – every kitchen knife type you need to know. We’ve also thrown in a few of our favorite task-specific knives that only professional chefs will need.
Bird’s Beak Paring Knife
The names of most knives are chosen based on what they’re used for. The bird’s beak paring knife is the exception – it’s named so because the blade looks like a tiny bird’s beak. Like a paring knife, it’s used for the more delicate tasks in the kitchen. However, this knife has an even shorter blade – 2 to 3 inches – which makes it extremely useful for master chef’s that need accurate tools.
Boning knives have a very sharp point and a long thin blade. As you might have guessed from the name, they are designed to be used on animals. The sharp and flexible blade allows you to get into the difficult-to-reach parts of a carcass and make the most of the animal’s meat. They are also used for skinning animals and have a lot of secondary purposes. Some boning knives are designed for filleting as well, as a multi-purpose knife.
Almost every knife block – both home and professional – will have a bread knife. Their primary purpose is cutting through bread, without compromising the structure of the loaf, but they can be used in a lot of culinary situations. Many professionals chefs will also use them to cut lemons, tomatoes, and other soft foods. The serrated edge is what makes them so effective at cutting through softer foods. They work more like a saw than a knife.
Butter knives have blunt edges and are shaped like a paddle. The reason behind this shape is to allow them to pick up and spread butter without cutting into the toast, crumpets, or whatever else you’re spreading onto. They are sometimes heated up if the butter is hard, which has spawned the phrase: ‘like a hot knife through butter’.
Butcher knives are often confused with meat cleavers (which we’ve featured below). Butcher knives have a wide belly and a clip point (a section that’s clipped from the top of the knife). This provides power and accuracy for trimming large sections of meat. They can also be used on large fruits like melons and pineapple. They’re an essential heavy-duty tool for any professional chef.
Most homes have a carving knife, even if they’re just brought out at Thanksgiving and Christmas. Every man thinks they’re an expert at using a carving knife, but the truth is that a good carving knife will do the job for you. They have a long and slim blade that is tapered to a sharp point. This allows you to make thin and even slices of meat, without crushing the remaining meat.
If you’re a serious cheese lover, you need to invest in a cheese knife. It’s a multi-purpose knife that’s designed to glide through any type of cheese effortlessly. It has a serrated blade that cuts through the cheese easily and holes in the blade to stop soft cheese from sticking to the blade. Plus, it either comes with a pronged end to pick up cheese or a rounded edge to spread soft cheese.
The chef knife is one of the most versatile and well-balanced tools in the kitchen, often made from high-carbon steel. They can pretty much be used for any chopping or slicing jobs, but it’s mainly designed to chop and dice vegetables easily and quickly. You might have seen professional chef’s dicing through vegetables at a mind-boggling pace – that’s down to the perfect design of this knife.
Also known as a table knife, this is the most commonly used type of knife there is. It has a single sharp side and a relatively blunt end, for safety reasons. They’re not designed for preparing food, simply as an eating tool once the food is already cooked or prepared. They generally have stainless steel blades, to make them long-lasting and durable.
Filleting knives look similar to boning knives but have a thinner and more flexible blade. They are generally used for the same purpose, except that filleting knives can be used for even more fiddly bone-removal work. They have a long and sharp edge with a very fine tip, used for piercing skin.
The fish knife is one of the less common table knives. It is designed to help you remove bones from cook fish, as well as being able to cut between the flesh and the skin. They are associated with fine dining and are rarely seen in homes or restaurants – unless they’re fancy.
A meat cleaver has a square-shaped blade with one edge. They are used to separate a carcass into smaller, more manageable pieces. The edge is relatively blunt and made to be super strong so that the butcher can repeatedly swing the knife at the carcass, without damaging the knife. They also have a hole in the blade to allow you to hang the meat cleaver on the wall or a belt.
The nakiri knife is a Japanese vegetable knife that looks a little bit like a smaller meat cleaver. They have a rectangular blade and one sharp edge. They are one of the most effective knives for chopping vegetables quickly because you don’t have to rock them back and forth. Instead, you can just lift the handle up and down.
This tiny knife is designed to open oysters without getting any flakes in the oyster meat. The short and thick blade has a sharp tip that allows you to break open oysters with ease. They are pretty much useless for any other culinary task, but if you’ve ever tried to open an oyster with a kitchen knife, you’ll understand.
Paring knives are one of the most versatile tools in a chef’s arsenal. They are designed for chopping and peeling fruits and vegetables, but the small and flexible blade can be used for hundreds of kitchen tasks. You won’t find a professional kitchen without a stock of these.
Peeling knives are often confused with paring knives. Mainly because they do the same job. Paring knives are much more versatile, but peeling knives are better at (you guessed it!) peeling. They have a short, curved blade that hugs the fruit or vegetable you’re peeling. They normally have an extremely sharp blade to let them move through the skin without any resistance.
They might be called salmon knives, but this tool is used on pretty much all large fish. It has a very long blade with sharp edges on both sides, which makes it easy to fillet and skin the fish with precision. They also have a rounded edge to avoid damaging the fish.
The Santoku knife is Japan’s answer to the western chef knife. The word Santoku means ‘three virtues’, which relates to the knife’s three abilities – chopping, dicing, and mincing. They have a similar rectangular shape to the nakiri knife, which allows them to be lifted and press down very quickly and accurately. And, unlike a chef knife, they have indentations on the blade to stop anything sticking to the blade.
Spatula spreaders are one of the most underrated tools in the kitchen. They are rarely seen in home kitchens, but are a favorite amongst chefs, especially when they’re making sandwiches. The reason is that they can be used to mix, spread, slice, and serve – making them an extremely versatile tool. They have a large, rounded blade with one sharp edge.
The utility knife is the perfect middle ground between a paring knife and a full-sized chef knife. They don’t have a specific purpose but can be used for any miscellaneous cutting. They’re great for cutting large fruits and sandwich meats. Most knife blocks will have one of these because they’re super versatile.
Tomatoes are one of the hardest things to cut correctly. If you use a blunt knife, the delicious juice is squeezed out and lost. Even with a sharp knife, they can be difficult to pierce. The tomato knife is the perfect answer. It has a rounded, serrated edge that slice through the tomato with ease. Plus, it has two sharp prongs on the end, allowing you to pick up the tomato with ease.
The vegetable cleaver is essentially a smaller meat cleaver. It’s primarily designed for chopping through vegetables and has a rounded blade. so you can rock through tougher vegetables. You can use it on smaller cuts of meat but it’s not designed for hacking through bones.