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Kitchen Knife Types: What Are the Different Types of Knives?

Are you missing one or two kitchen knife types in your kitchen? Whether you are new to cooking and setting up a house, or are a cooking whiz with a chopping, dicing and slicing problem – what your kitchen maybe lacking is one or more than one of the kitchen knife types. Let us explore the whole shebang of kitchen knife types out there so that you can get the ones you need most, first…

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kitchen knife types

Kitchen Knife Types

So how many kitchen knife types do you need in your kitchen? Frankly, that depends entirely on you. How much cooking do you do, what sort of cooking you do and how good are you with knives… Most of us already have 3-5 kitchen knife types, even if we do not know the names. So let’s explore the essential knives we all need in the kitchen, their names, and their uses.

The Five Must-Have Kitchen Knife Types

Let’s begin with the five must-have kitchen knife types we all need if we want to be efficient in the kitchen. Remember, a sharp knife is a safe knife so make sure you maintain your knives well.


1. The Chef’s Knife

Call it a chef’s knife, or a cook’s knife – the thing is that this is probably the most important knife in the kitchen. It is mostly a broad blade that tapers to a point. This allows the knife to rock back and forth on the chopping board for fast chopping and slicing. Of course, it’s a learned process and knife amateurs cannot match the knife professionals. It does come in different lengths – ranging from about 5 inches to 13 inches. For newbies, shorter knives will grant better control while longer lengths are for better slicing, chopping, and mincing. You can also choose a serrated chef’s knife. Remember to hold and feel a knife before buying – if it feels heavy, it isn’t for you.

What can it do: Frankly, what can’t it do? It can chop, cut, dice, slice, and mince and be used on meats as well as vegetables and fruits. It’s a must have and the first knife you should buy for your kitchen because it can be used to do just about anything.


2. The Kitchen Shears

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Kitchen shears are basically a fancy name for a pair of kitchen-related multi-use scissors. The blades are usually very strong and terrifically sharp but there are thinner and weaker versions of the same available too. The latter comes in handy for nothing more than the snipping of herbs like cilantro, green onions, chilies, and more. The tougher ones can do more things like chopping vegetables and even section boneless meats like chicken and fish. Shears also come with multiple blades sometimes, but these blades are flimsier than usual and again meant for doing the lighter stuff.

What can it do: Chop, slice, and cut soft and thin vegetables, meats, and herbs.


3. The Utility Knife

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The utility knife, as the name suggests, is perhaps the most utilitarian of all kitchen knife types. In fact, it multitasks so much that you can call it a mini chef’s knife. It’s smaller than most chef’s knives though and is mostly 4-7 inches in length. The utility knife looks like a chef’s knife and has a broad blade that tapers toward a sharp point. Again, it can come in both straight and serrated types and you can get the one that suits your kitchen needs better. Many utility knives also come with scalloped edges for better cutting. Always remember sharp knives can slice more than just the intended target, so always practice kitchen safety tips.

What can it do: Like a chef’s knife, the utility knife can cut, chop, dice and slice vegetables as well soft meats. Think tomatoes, squash, lettuces, cabbages, and sandwich meat.


4. The Cleaver

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We all know what a cleaver is and we’ve all seen it go to work at the butcher shop. It is the bulkiest, the heaviest and the most menacing of knives in the kitchen. Mostly, vegan or vegetarian kitchens can do without the cleaver. Though it can come in handy to chop hard and thick veggies like pumpkins or squashes. Basically, a cleaver works well because it can chop through bones and meat in a clean and swift manner because the blade is sharp and heavy enough. You can also use the flat of the blade to crush things like garlic and ginger better. Remember though, the cleaver is heavy and sharp so use it with lots of care.

What can it do: Chop through meat and bones, crush garlic and other things with the flat of the blade and pulverize whatever else you have in mind.


5. The Santoku Knife

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The Santoku knife looks pretty much like a chef’s knife and is Japan’s answer to the Western knife. Santoku means “three virtues” and in the kitchen, these virtues are slicing, dicing and mincing. The difference between a Santoku knife and a chef’s knife is that the former is shorter and thinner than the latter, and it’s mostly a flat blade rather than a tapering one. So this one doesn’t rock on the chopping board like a chef’s knife but is no less handy. The Santoku is a better option than a chef’s knife for those with smaller hands. Plus the hollow edge allows for more precision in cutting, minus any tearing. Like the chef’s knife, the Santoku is an all-rounder too.

What can it do: It has slightly limited mincing capabilities since it cannot rock back and forth on the chopping board the way a chef’s knife can, but it can do everything else pretty well. Frankly, because of the smaller but sharper blade that can have a hollow edge, the cutting has more precision.

The Good-To-Have Non-Essential Kitchen Knife Types

For those who really like to have all their tools at hand and prefer to be fully equipped, these are five more kitchen knife types to think about if the need arises. Remember you don’t need to buy them all, just the ones that you think you need and cannot do without.


6. The Paring Knife

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The paring knife comes in handy for precision peeling, ribboning and trimming. So it does come in handy for those who cherish the presentation as much as the taste. A paring knife is small, with a 3-4 inch blade and usually comes with a sharp point. The points vary and so do their names – sheep’s foot, bird’s beak, and spear point – the names depend on the shape of the point. So if you love to ribbon up those tomatoes or lemon zest for that perfect garnish, you need a paring knife.

What can it do: It can peel, ribbon, and cut fruits and vegetables, and also trim any excess fat from meat.


7. The Boning Knife

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As the name suggests, the boning knife is used to separate meat and flesh from the bone, and also for making fish fillets (you can watch how to fillet a fish here). It’s sharp, thin and pointy and can also cut up meat pretty well. It can also be a good substitute of a paring knife to peel, trim or ribbon fruits and vegetables. The boning knife is about 4-8 inches in length with a rather narrow blade, though the widths can differ. The blades, being thin and long, can be flexible or stiff with the latter giving more precision in the cutting.

What can it do: Cut up meat and fish and remove the bones. It can also be used to peel and trim fruits and vegetables.


8. The Bread Knife

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Think of this one as a handy little saw for the kitchen. The edge is always serrated – the idea is to saw through anything in a forward and backward motion minus any squishing or excessive force involved (watch how to use a bread knife here). The blades of these kinds of kitchen knife types are usually narrow but always serrated, and the length is about 7-10 inches long.

What can it do: Bread knives, as the name suggests, can cut bread and cakes and such. Plus, if the knife is strong and sharp enough, it can come in handy to cut meat, poultry, and seafood. It can cut boneless stuff better than boned pieces.


9. The Steak Knife

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Steak knives are those ubiquitous knives you get at the table to cut up steaks and other such tough meats. Basically, they are kitchen knife types that are used not just for cutting meat and fish (both raw and cooked) but also for dicing up a mean salad. Or even coating that toast with butter. Most steak knives come with serrated edges though some have smooth edges as well. They are pretty sharp and tend to stay sharp for a longer time because of the way they are built.

What can it do: Cut up steaks (of course) as well as other meat and fish, and dice salad, vegetables and fruits.


10. The Mincing Knife

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As the name suggests, the mincing knife is used for mincing herbs, vegetables and even meats to a fine grain-like consistency. Also called a mezzaluna, the mincing knife looks a lot different from other knives. It is a curved blade in the shape of an arc and has two handles on either side though can have one big handle as well. The purpose of this knife is to rock back and forth to mince up herbs and veggies, period. Watch how to use it right here.

What can it do: Mince vegetables, fruits, and herbs to a fine consistency.


FAQS

Still, have some doubts about which knife to buy and which to skip? We’ll do our best to answer some buzzing questions for you…

Q: Do I Need To Buy All These Knives?

A: Not really, to make a decision, look at the uses of these knives. Also, figure out the kind of cooking you will be doing the most in your kitchen (vegan, vegetarian or non-vegetarian). Then make an informed decision about the kitchen knife types you need. Mostly, if you have a chef’s knife or a Santoku knife, a cleaver, a utility knife and a pair of kitchen shears – you are set and ready to get cooking. You can always add more kitchen knife types later.

Q: What is the difference between forged and stamped knives? And which one is better?

A: The way the knife is made determines whether it is forged or stamped, though the former is often believed to be of better quality and so is also priced higher.

Forged Knives

Forged knives are made via the hot drop forging method – the way they show swords being made in the movies. Steel is turned red hot in a furnace and then pounded into the correct shape manually or in a machine. Finally, it is sharpened and polished into the final product. Forged knives are usually of higher quality and are often the priciest of the lot.

Pros:

  • Has a bolster, so is a stronger blade
  • Is more durable
  • Has a thicker blade

Cons:

  • Is more expensive
  • Is firm and inflexible

Stamped Knives

Stamped knives are literally stamped out of a sheet of steel (think cookie and cookie cutter). They are then hardened, tempered and treated to make the final blade.

Pros:

  • Is lightweight
  • Economical
  • Has a flexible blade

Cons:

  • Does not have a bolster so can snap off at the base
  • The thin blade can bend while cutting

Q: What to do when a knife goes dull and doesn’t cut well anymore?

A: Do not throw away a knife unless it has developed a defect or becomes wonky to handle. A dull blade can be easily sharpened on a sharpening stone or with the help of knife sharpeners that you get online today. You can also sharpen it at home minus any special tools temporarily.

Q: How do I maintain my various kitchen knife types?

A: Always wash your knives by hand, do not plunk them in the dishwasher even if they are dishwasher safe. A quick wash in hot soapy water will take away any odors and food particles away, after which drying them with a cloth will retain the sharpness of the knife. Remember to use your knives, especially the expensive ones on a chopping board. Countertop composites or stone can dull the knives faster.

The Lowdown On Kitchen Knife Types

Basically, you can start your kitchen with about 4-5 knives and then keep adding on more blades as your cooking gets more sophisticated and exhaustive. Some people never share their knives, because they are like an extension of your hand. You use a knife a certain way – multiple users tend to wear down the knife quicker.

Personally, for kitchen knife types, I started my kitchen with a Santoku (fits smaller hands better, remember), a utility knife, a cleaver, and a bread knife. I’ve used both forged and stamped kitchen knife types and prefer the forged knife because of the bolstering. A knife bolster is a joint where the blade connects to the handle. In forged knives, the bolster is a metal bump that makes the knife all the more solid to use. Since stamped knives are stamped out of sheet metal, they often have slightly thinner blades. However, both knives are equally sharp.

A knife is a very individualistic choice and what makes a good knife for you, may not make it a good knife for someone else. Remember to store your knives in a cool and dry place away from water and heat, and make sure they are out of reach from children. Practice kitchen and knife safety tips, and you can brush up on cutting skills here.

You might also be interested in: WUSTHOF TRIDENT VS ZWILLING JA HENCKELS KNIVES

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