A Cut Above: Choosing the Right Knife

by zesty on August 16, 2012 · 19 comments

Well the end of the week is here and what a week it was.  Lets end the week with an educational post to take you through the weekend.  I get a lot of questions about what knife to use when you are chopping versus what knife to use to slice bread etc.

This post will give you the basics of what knife to use depending on the task in the kitchen.  Just be aware that not all knives are created equal.  The length, width and edge of the blade as well as the shape of the tip are suited for specific culinary tasks.

Before you slice; think twice.

Slicing Knife

slicing Ranges roughly from 8-18 inches in length, with a thin, narrow blade to ensure smooth slices with a single stroke.  This is excellent for carving meats on Sunday dinner or when cutting those huge vegetables or even cakes and pastries.

Bread Knife

slicing Pretty self explanatory, the serrated or scalloped edge is designed to cut cleanly through tough materials such as bread crusts and some vegetables.  It is ideally used on food that has a  hard outside and a soft tender inside such as a loaf of homemade bread.

Chef’s Knife

slicing Maybe the most used knife in the kitchen – the chef’s knife is ideal for a large range food preparation.  It is usually around 8 inches in length, the cutting edge is shaped to allow a rocking motion on a cutting board  – making it the chopper of choice.  I also like to use the blade to crush garlic and other herbs.  The tip is good for paring and peeling fruits as well.

Santoku Knife

slicing I place this knife somewhere between a chef’s knife above and a butchers knife.  It is great for cutting. mincing and slicing.  The indentations on the blade are designed to prevent food from sticking to it as you slice.  I love that feature.

Utility Knife

slicing As the name states… is really a must have in the kitchen for all jobs.  It is great for peeling, slicing and cutting.  It is traditionally about 5-7 inches in length.

Paring Knife

slicing Highly versatile and a must have as well.  The paring knife is great  for cleaning, paring, peeling and slicing of small fruits and vegetables.

In Summary

So there you have it.  That is my take on the 6 common knives in the kitchen.  As for me- I feel if you only have three types of knives… they should be the:

  1. Chef’s Knife
  2. Bread Knife
  3. Paring Knife

I hope you have a great weekend! I have a few fun and delicious things in store for you for next week – Stay tuned!

Take care

zesty

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{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Beth @ CrossBorderCravings

Thanks for the tutorial! My household is in serious need of a good knife. I just bought a bread knife, but I think a chef’s knife is next up!

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2 Andrea@WellnessNotes

Thanks for the useful info! Knives can be intimidating…

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3 Leah @ L4L

This is great! What do you recommend as far as a brand for good, not ridiculously priced knives for an amateur chef?

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4 ZestyCook

@Leah – I use the J A henckels knives and I love them. They are not out of this world expensive either. There are so many too pick from – best suggestion would be to avoid the really cheap ones.

zesty

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5 Pam

Nice post…great info….thanks!

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6 Seth @ Boy Meets Food

I LOVE my santoku. It’s easily my favorite knife. I think it even makes a great alternative to a chef’s knife (especially for people with small hands).

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7 Marisa (Trim The Fat)

Great info! I need some new knives…

Tried your dinner rolls last night; they were a hit!

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8 ZestyCook

@MARISA – That is great news! I am so excited they were a hit!

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9 Sarah @ The Foodie Diaries

Of course, the three knives I don’t have in my kitchen are your top three haha. Guess I’m in the market for some new knives!

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10 Morgan (lifeafterbagels)

This is helpful, since I usually just end up using steak knives to cut everything for some reason. I do own ALL of those types of knives too. My friend is a chef, she bought them for me since she was sick of using crappy knives at my house.

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11 Lainie

I have really good knives but they are insanely dull. I’ve tried sharpening them but I swear, it makes no difference. Any tips?

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12 BroccoliHut

Great tutorial! Now if only I had the chopping skills to go along with my newly acquired knife knowledge…

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13 Jennifer

Bread knives are really great for slicing tomatoes.

I love my Wustof and Henckels knives too. I think finding a handle that you like is really important too. Both Wustof and Henkles have a bunch of different lines of knives in the same price range and the difference is the handles.

But for a less expensive option, a cook-friend of mine gave me a 10″ chef’s knife a bread knife made by Forschner. They are actually really good knives even though they’re made from the less expensive stamping process. I’ve since had other chef’s recommend them also. And they’re about 1/3 the price.

I completely agree with you on your top 3 knife choices. Although I think a santokou could be swapped for a chef’s knife.

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14 ZestyCook

@Jennifer – Thanks for the great summary! I have never tried the Forschner line. I will have to look into it.

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15 Averie (LoveVeggiesAndYoga)

My comment just got munched….argh.

Short story is there’s alot of karma or something goin’ on b/c that just today I bought a new Henckle’s Santoku 7 in knife and just now I saw your post, courtesy of strolling over here after your guest post on Gena’s blog. Guess I was destined to find you! haha

I am wondering now if I made the right call on the Santoku b/c I sense you dont think they’re all that…But, I have a 6 & 8 inch Henckle’s chef’s knives but they arent quite cuttin it lately. I’m high raw, all vegan and do so much chopping…What would be your knife recommendation for me?

I also just left you a question on Gena’s blog on blanching vs. microwaving when pressed for time.

Averie

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16 Sues

Great advice! And I agree that J A henckels are some of the best!

There’s nothing quite like a set of new knives :)

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17 Pam (Highway to Health)

I’ve always wondered about some of those knives. Thanks for the post!

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18 Amy Green (Simply Sugar & Gluten-Free)

I agree – those 3 are indispensable. I wouldn’t willingly give up my other various kitchen gadgets because I *love* them so much, but if I had to I could make fabulous food with those three.

And I love Henckels – another great brand is Wusthov.

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19 Kathleen Richardson

I was glad to read your tutorial and find that I have and am using the proper knives in my kitchen. Luckily I once worked for a short time in a cafe and the owner treated her knives like gold, teaching me their proper use and care. I still struggle with the care and sharpening aspect. Perhaps you could do a tutorial on that subject, Zesty.

Keep writing…

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