Do you know when to use a chef knife? When should you pull out your stamped knives set in place of your boning knives? With so many different types of knives available, it can be confusing to choose.
We've created a guide that describes each type of knife and when to use them. Keep in mind that chef's knives are different from Santoku knives. You can also use this information to learn how to best maintain the condition of your knives. Be sure to also check out our selection of the best Japanese Damascus chef knives for your kitchen.
Our Top Pick
- Best All-Around Knife: Chef's Knife
Different Types of Kitchen Knives and Their Uses
Understanding the different types of knives and what they are used for is a good step in choosing the right ones. Here are a few different types of kitchen knives:
A chef's knife is a versatile, crucial part of your knife collection. Chef's knives can be used for a variety of cutting needs including meats and vegetables.
Chef's knives are made with a broad blade that slopes upwards to a point. This unique design allows it to rock back and forth, giving you control when chopping ingredients.
A chef's knife can be forged or stamped and they are usually between six and 12-inches in size. The total size of the chef's knife usually varies, depending on the chef's hands.
Most chef's knives also come with a full tang design which means the blade extends the whole length of the knife, offering you better durability. A chef's knife also has a slightly curved blade, running from the handle to the tip. To keep your chef's knife with a sharp edge, you may need to invest in a sharpening device.
- Between 6-12-inches in size
- Usually includes a full tang design
- A larger handle gives you more control
- The overall size of the chef knife depends on the chef's hand size
Uses: Chef's knives are used for chopping and dicing a lot of vegetables at one time. It can also be used for thicker foods like potatoes or onions. If you're looking for a specific chef knife, we recommend checking out the Misen Chef Knife.
Paring knives are about 3-4 inches in length with a very thin blade. They have a pointed tip that you can use to cut or peel fruits and vegetables. The knife is short, slim, and lightweight. A paring knife is good for intricate cutting.
There are also many different types of paring knives including spear point or sheep's foot.
- Paring knife is smaller in size for intricate cutting
- Different types of paring knives to choose from
Uses: The paring knife is good for fruits and vegetables. It is ideal for tougher foods, like potatoes or peeling and removing seeds from vegetables. This peeling knife is also often used for slicing tomatoes.
A utility knife is typically between 4-7 inches in length and is used for cutting smaller ingredients. It may not be good at cutting larger items because of the small blade size, but does an exceptional job with smaller ingredients. Utility knives are also a popular choice for fileting meats.
- Thin blade perfect for fileting tougher meats
- Small blade is ideal for small-sized ingredients.
Uses: Utility knives are good for chopping smaller foods, like shallots. A utility knife is also ideal for precise cutting work, making it a good choice for any cooking project in which a chef's knife is too large to use.
Kitchen shears may not technically be a knife, but they are a must in any kitchen for cutting. They are primarily used for snipping herbs and cutting open food packaging. Some chefs may also use them to snip bacon or break down poultry.
The best kitchen shears have thick, strong blades.
- Can sometimes be used in place of a cook's knife
- Features thick, durable blades
Uses: Kitchen shears are most commonly used to open food packaging. However, they may also be used to snip herbs, section chicken, prepare shrimp, or cut smaller ingredients.
A boning knife's primary purpose is to separate meat and filet fish. Boning knives are traditionally between 3-8 inches in length and have varying blade widths. It is a slim knife with a flexible blade that is used to cut delicate meats. Flexible blades help keep the boning knife in good condition.
- Comes in varying blade widths, depending on the chef's preferences
- Flexible blade design can be used when cutting delicate meats
Uses: The boning knife is good for cutting meat bones and trimming meats before cooking.
Bread knives, as the name implies, are primarily used for slicing bread. It is between 7-10 inches in length with a serrated edge to carve different thicknesses of bread. The bread knife also tends to be less sharp since you will usually use bread knives with a cutting board. If the knife were too sharp, it could leave marks or ruin the board.
- Between 7-10 inches in length
- Includes a serrated edge to slice through bread products
Uses: The bread knife is most often used for bread but may also be used for cutting cake or other types of bread ingredients.
A carving knife is long and slim with a sharp point. A carving knife is sometimes referred to as a slicing knife as it is long and thin, allowing chefs to create clean, uniform slices. They are especially beneficial in cutting dense meats.
- Long, slim design is ideal for dense meats
- Allows chefs to cut meat in uniform slices
Uses: A carving knife is used for serving meats. This includes poultry or pork but may also be a good option for vegetables, like melons.
A butcher knife, or cleaver, is a knife with a flat blade that is a rectangular shape. It comes in a wide variety of sizes so you can use it for different items. Butcher knives tend to be heavier than other knife blade materials to handle larger cuts.
- Large, flatter blade design is heavier than other knives
- Is most often used to cut meats
Uses: Butcher knives are ideal for cutting raw meats. They may also work for cutting certain smaller ingredients, like clover.
Fillet knives are comparable to a boning knife except that they cut thinner slices of meat. Instead of a thick blade, it features a narrow blade that is longer and perfect for cutting thin fish.
It can be difficult to tell the difference between the boning and filet knife, which means some home cooks may only choose one in their knife set. In most cases, these versatile knives can be used interchangeably. Some knife manufacturers have also begun to combine them into a single-use knife type.
- Versatile knife that can cut thinner slices of meat
- Is often compared to boning knives
Uses: Filet knives are ideal for cutting most types of fish.
A Santoku knife is similar to a Western-style chef's knife but features a Japanese design. It is a little shorter and thinner and is most often used to cut many of the same ingredients like Japanese Damascus knife.
A Santoku Knife also translates to “Three Virtues”, which means it offers three distinct purposes, which include slicing, dicing, and mincing.
The Santoku knife has a flatter blade and sometimes, a hallow edge. When comparing this to a chef's knife, it usually means it does not do as well at mincing smaller ingredients, like herbs.
However, it may be better with cutting vegetables. Santoku knives are available in many different designs.
- Features a Japanese-style design
- Short and thin design that is ideal for cutting smaller vegetables
- Flat blade makes it easier to cut through without rocking
- Offers three distinct purposes, slicing, dicing, and mincing
Uses: Santoku knives are good at cutting fish. They are especially beneficial as a peeling knife for preparing sushi or other raw fish.
A Nakiri knife is a Japanese-style knife that is most often used for cutting vegetables. It features a thin, wide blade with square tips. This straight edge, long, sharper knife is ideal for cutting longer vegetables, including carrots. It is also often a common tool for chefs when cutting thin, circular slices of tomatoes or cucumbers.
- Design is ideal for cutting tougher vegetables, like tomatoes
- Includes a long, straight blade design that also cuts carrots
Uses: Nakiri knives are beneficial mostly for cutting vegetables. Vegetable knives tend to have a smaller size but closely resemble a meat cleaver. Nakiri knives are also useful for cabbage and lettuce.
Tomato knives, as the name implies, are mostly used for cutting tomatoes. A tomato knife is a small knife, usually between 6-7 inches in length, and is lightweight. The tomato knife also has a rounded blade with a serrated edge to get the best cut. This makes it easy to handle, giving you good control for cutting tomatoes.
- Design is between 6-7 inches in length, ideal for smaller vegetables
- The gripped handle gives you control with tougher ingredients
Uses: Tomato knives are mostly used for cutting tomatoes.
A steak knife, also as the name implies, is typically used to cut thick pieces of meat, like steaks. Steak knives are smaller with stiff blades and a sharp blade edge. Steak knives also come in either serrated or non-serrated and choosing one is usually a matter of preference.
However, serrated knives do tend to stay sharper longer which means you don't have as much of a need for a knife sharpener. You can use steak knives for cutting meats of all types, including chicken, steak, and fish.
- Thick blade design is perfect for cutting thicker meats
- Both serrated and non-serrated designs are available
Uses: Steak knives are used to cut steak.
Some people choose to add all the knives to their collection at one time. Others may choose to add one type of kitchen knife to their collection, eventually collecting all the cutting tools they need.
Why Does the Type of Knife Matter?
Having the right type of knife can make all the difference in the world when cooking. You will find preparation time to be shorter and easier when you have the right kitchen tools.
Safety is also an important consideration when using kitchen knives. You want a kitchen knife that is designed to handle the type of ingredients you're cutting. This can make cutting and chopping safer. The right kitchen knives can also make cutting and chopping safer.
Parts of a Kitchen Knife
It can also be helpful to take an in-depth look at the different parts of a kitchen knife. This can not only help you choose the right types of kitchen knives, but it can also help you understand when to use each.
A kitchen knife is made of the following parts:
The point is the very tip of the knife. Most knives have a pointed tip but some may have a rounded or rectangular-shaped edge. The durability and size of the tip will often determine the type of ingredients you can use it with. Smaller points are better suited for smaller cutting needs, like small herbs.
The blade is one of the most important parts of the knife. A blade should have a sharp edge always and some may also have a curved blade. A rectangular-shaped blade is also be found in some designs, especially in larger knives.
Most blades are made with steel but they can also come in ceramic or titanium. Some cheaper knives may also come with a plastic blade.
The edge is the shaper part of the blade. This is the primary part of the knife that cuts or slices your ingredients. Different types of kitchen knives have different sharpness levels. You can also sharpen the edge further with knife sharpeners.
When it comes to different types of kitchen knives, you can expect them each to have different types of edges, including:
- Straight blade edges
- Serrated edges
- Scalloped edge
- Hollow ground edge
These edges refer to the type of cutting they do. Straight blades are most often found on a chef's knife or utility knife for all-purpose cutting. A serrated edge is most commonly used with bread products.
The tang is the part of the blade that is not sharpened. It gives kitchen knives an even balance, giving you more control when chopping vegetables or meats. The tang may come in different designs, including a rat-tail, tapered, or hidden design.
The handle is designed for comfort as it is the part of the knife that you hold. The handle comes in many different types and materials, usually based on the chef's preference. For example, you may choose a knife handle with finger grooves for better comfort. You might also choose a flat handle for better knife rocking motions.
The bolster is the raised area that lies between the handle and blade. Its main purpose is for safety, preventing your fingers from sliding down onto the blade when cutting.
The butt of the knife is the end of the handle. It is the bottom of the knife and some chefs may use it when cooking to tenderize meats or grind ingredients.
Types of Kitchen Blades
The type of kitchen blades you choose typically depends on the type of ingredients. For example, chopping vegetables requires.
In addition to the different parts of a knife, kitchen knives also come in different materials and designs. Knowing the differences, and their purposes can help you choose the right knife.
Stamped Vs. Forged Knives
Two common types of knives you may find include a stamped and a forged knife. Stamped knives are designed with a single sheet of metal. A stamping machine is used to create the shape of the blade.
Forged knives are forged from a single piece of metal. This design process involves hammering a block of steel into shape before then sharpening and honing it.
As a result, forged knives are heavier and more durable. However, chefs with smaller hands may prefer stamped knives. Forged knives often come with a bold bolster or a wider lip at the end of the blade. A forged knife may also have either a partial or full tang.
Because of the manufacturing process, a forged knife is usually more expensive. This can mean that they are longer-lasting, but this is not always the case. It is more important to consider the type of knife and the manufacturer than whether it is stamped or forged.
The different types of kitchen knives also come in different blade materials, including:
Stainless steel knives are one of the most popular and for good reason. They are durable and long-lasting and are more resistant to rust and corrosion.
Carbon steel blades are made with a steel alloy material that combines carbon and iron materials. Kitchen knives made with higher-quality carbon materials tend to be the most durable knives.
Some blades are made with ceramic materials. A ceramic dinner knife is made with hardened zirconium. This makes ceramic knives lightweight and they are often more stylish than other knife types.
Damascus steel uses different types of alloy that are hammered together to create an intricate, wavy pattern. These types of knives tend to be long-lasting and expensive.
Titanium is one of the most durable materials available. It is also rust and corrosion-resistant, making it one of our favorite types of knives. However, it does tend to be a more dull knife. Because they fall into the dull knife category, they may not be one of the first knives you add to your collection.
Choosing kitchen knives based on blade materials is usually a matter of preference. If you can't decide, you can always buy a single knife in one of these materials before going for a full set.
Kitchen knives also come in different handle types. Here are a few of the most common:
Again, choosing the right handle type is also usually a matter of preference. Some materials may also be dishwasher-safe, whereas others require hand washing.
How to Maintain Your Kitchen Knives
Maintenance is important in keeping your kitchen knives sharp and in good condition. Here are a few tips you can use to maintain your kitchen knives:
Keep them out of the sink
Water can cause your kitchen knives to rust. Avoid leaving them in the sink, even between uses. As soon as you finish using your kitchen knives, rinse them and replace them in their storage location.
Keep them out of the drawer
While storing your kitchen knives in the drawer is certainly better than leaving them in the sink, this is still not the best idea. Your quality kitchen knives belong in a quality knife block.
Keep them out of the dishwasher
First, always find out if your knives are dishwasher safe. Even if they are, avoid leaving them in the dishwasher for too long. The leftover water that most dishwashers leave can lead to your favorite chef's knife rusting. They're also more likely to get chipped or scratched if you leave them in the dishwasher.
Keep them clean and dry
In summary, keep your knives clean and dry. Even if you use your bread knife to slice a clean piece of bread, rinse it, dry it thoroughly, and return it to your knife block. Knives blocks not only maintain your kitchen's organization but also the durability of your kitchen knives.
Keep Your Knives Sharp
The sharper your kitchen knives are, the better they will work. While a minimally dull blade may not initially seem like a big deal, this can actually make your knife dangerous. A dull fillet knife, for example, may cause you to push harder. This also increases the chances of it slipping. With some blades, especially thin blades, you are more likely to break them.
Also, the more pressure that you apply, the more likely you are to damage the structure of the knife's blade. A straight edge may no longer be straight.
Invest in a Knife Sharpener
Some types of kitchen knives come with a sharpening warranty. This means that you can send your paring knife or boning knife back to the manufacturer for free sharpening.
If you want to keep your knives sharp without having to send them off to the manufacturer, you can also invest in a sharpener. Knife sharpeners allow you to sharpen to your preference at home. You can also keep knives sharp by using them for their intended purpose only. For example, only use a bread knife for cutting softer materials. Only use your vegetable knives for cutting vegetables.
Use the Right Cutting Board
Using the right cutting board can also help you preserve your favorite knives for longer. Always choose a cutting board made with quality wood materials. Avoid materials like granite or marble as they are hard and can cause your pointed tip to roll. This can reduce the durability of your knife and lead it to wear out faster.
Invest in a Good Chef's Knife
Are you just starting the process of building your kitchen knife collection? We recommend starting with a good chef's knife.
If you are on a limited budget or only want to invest in one good knife right now, the chef's knife is the most versatile and will handle the most ingredients. You can always add to your knife collection later. The second piece that we recommend adding to your collection as soon as possible is a good-quality utility knife. Utility knives are also versatile and can handle a lot of ingredients.
Now that you have a good understanding of the most common types of kitchen knives, you should also have a good idea of which ones you need. Consider your cooking style and begin to create a kitchen knife collection that matches that. A good starting point is always a good chef's knife as it can cut most cooking ingredients.