What Knife Do I Need?
What knife do I need? Your complete guide to kitchen knives and their uses.
Everyone loves a sharp, strong, reliable, and long-lasting knife. But how do you know which one to use for which preparation? We want you to get the most out of your knives and have a singular knife or a set that won’t get lost in the draw or collect dust.
To make sure your toolkit is being used efficiently and to its maximum use, we break down everything you need to know about the types of knives available, how to use them and what task they are best suited for. We will also explore forged vs stamped steel and the difference in materials between Japanese Steel, German Steel, and Stainless Steel. Let’s get started!
What are the Different Types of Knives?
What is it: A chefs knife, also known as a cook’s knife, can range in size from 15 – 30cm. Commonly a 20cm blade this knife has a larger heel and longer blade tapering into a pointed tip allowing for a rocking motion on the cutting board for a more precise cut.
When to use it: The chef’s knife is one of the most versatile and perfect all-rounder knives for slicing, dicing, and mincing. This type of knife will do the hard work for you in the kitchen. Ideal for preparing thicker portions and harder foods such as potatoes, pumpkin, and carrots. A mini or small chef knife is useful for making classic cuts such as julienne, dice and fine chop fruits and vegetables.
What is it: Think of the utility knife as the chef knife’s sibling. Just as universal as the chef knife and is used when no other knife will do, or the chef knife is just a little too big for the job. Typically ranging between 10 – 18cm the utility knife has the same shape as a chef knife however it is smaller and slimmer with a slightly higher tip.
When to use it: A utility knife is perfect for smaller foods that still require a bit of depth like slicing meats and cheeses, chopping smaller fruits and vegetables such as peaches or broccoli, or slicing breads and sandwiches.
What is it: Also known as a vegetable knife or peeling knife pairing knives are small in size but packed with punch. Offering precision and useful for more intricate tasks the paring knife is typically 6 – 10cm long.
When to use it: Paring knives are commonly used for tasks such as peeling, trimming, and coring fruits and vegetables. It also the perfect tool for tasks that require precision, such as cutting small garnishes, deveining prawns, or ‘skinning’ mushrooms.
What is it: Native to Japan the santoku knife is becoming wildly popular and be found in more kitchens these days due to their high precision and universal use. The santoku knife features recesses above the blade edge that helps to release thin slices and sticky food after chopping with its large broad blade. This feature is also useful for scooping and transporting chopped food.
When to use it: Often used similarly to a chef’s knife, a santoku knife excels at chopping up hard vegetables and meats, all with the added refinement of a slightly tapered blade for more intricate cutting work.
What is it: Made with a serrated edge the bread knife is designed with specific purpose—to cut bread. The long blade of 20-22cm allows you to easily cut through soft bread and cakes without crushing them. This underrated knife isn’t an essential piece to the toolkit but is exceptionally convenient, efficient and will get used more often than you think once you get started.
When to use it: Unlike other knives, the serrations help when cutting things that are hard on the outside and soft on the inside like bread, cakes, and tomatoes.
What is it: Kitchen shears are the culinary tool you didn’t know you needed until you tried it. Featuring an easy-motion spring loaded action and safety lock, the blade angle is perfect for trimming and snipping whilst being able to power through meat and gristle.
When to use it: Kitchen shears make light work of poultry and meats, with the curved blade allowing for easier cutting around bones and those tricky hard to reach places that knives can’t get to.
What is it: Narrower than a chef’s knife and ranging in size between 20 – 38cm, carving knives feature a curved blade profile, allowing the knife to follow contours and guide meat away from the bone, making for more ultra-precise cuts.
When to use it: The name speaks for itself—a carving knife is essential for carving thick slices of meats, fruits and vegetables.
What is it: Uniquely designed to be flexible and thinner, a filleting knife allows the knife to bend around contours and hard surfaces with ease. A filleting knife is commonly at 20cm in length and is often used to cut through food horizontally around the backbone of a fish rather than vertically.
When to use it: With a long flexible blade, a filleting knife produces a neater, cleaner, and precise cut making it ideal for removing skin and bones and slicing fillets of fish and steaks.
What is it: Also known as a butcher knife, the cleaver is the blade that will change the way you handle meats. With an easy to handle 15-18cm length the cleaver is engineered to be weighted with a wide body to make chopping through bones and joints easier.
When to use it: Cleavers are perfectly designed for portioning larger and smaller cuts of meat and poultry, such as roasts and bigger heavier vegetable varieties.
Types of Knife Manufacturing
Forged steel knives
Forged steel is recognized as being a continuous block of steel hammered into shape using a press before being sharpened making it more durable, well balanced, and strong. Some argue that forged steel is more expensive, however, due to the extra labour involved in creating a forged knife it is an investment that will last a lifetime.
Forged knives can be seen in professional kitchens around the globe and have been made accessible to be in domestic kitchens so the quality of preparation can be matched to those of well renowned chefs.
Stamped steel knives
Stamped steel is made using a single sheet of metal cut out into shape—like using a cookie cutter—which is then processed for hardening, sharpening, and polishing. The process is much quicker and for this reason, stamped steel can feel lighter than forged steel and be more affordable. Due to using a single sheet of metal, the knife will need to be sharpened more often.
Both methods have their pros and cons however the outcome of a quality knife remains.
Types of Knife Blade Materials
While the blades are made differently, it isn’t a matter of which is the better blade, but the performance of the knife and your preferred style.
Japanese steel knives
Japanese steel knives are known for being lightweight with a hollow metal handle and a continuous piece of metal shaped into a thin blade, allowing for a smoother cut. The seamless handles are the most durable of all handles as well as the most sanitary. They are weighted to create balance in the middle of the knife. Japanese steel tends to be a slightly softer steel, however, the plus side is it makes it easier to sharpen.
German steel knives
German steel knives are built with the perception of being tough. They’re a heavy-weighted knife, typically with a triple riveted wooden or polymer handle for support. The metal blade also extends through to the handle allowing for increased force and leverage when cutting. The steel is harder which requires less sharpening, however, as a result can be slightly harder to sharpen.
Stainless steel knives
Stainless steel is reputable for its durability, strength and is most commercially accessible. Knives made of stainless steel are resistant to staining and rust, however, the same care needs to be considered for long lasting results.
Which Knife is Right for Me?
Whatever the task may be, there is a knife suitable for every job and some are more specific than others. Whether you’re a beginner or an aspiring professional, you can agree that every knife has its purpose. When starting a toolkit, you may want to start with a singular more universal knife like a Santoku or chef’s knife, which you can them complement with a few different sizes of utility knives and a bread knife. The downside is finding a safe spot to store the knives. Becoming increasing popular are knife blocks.
What was once considered an unsightly wooden chunk on the benchtop, knife blocks have really evolved into art pieces in their own right. Displaying knife blocks is considered a home kitchen styling statement.
For anyone looking for their first set of knives, we recommend starting with a 6 or 7-piece knife block, which features all your essential knives in one set:
- 1 paring knife
- 1 utility knife
- 1 santoku knife
- 1 carving knife
- 1 chef’s knife
- 1 kitchen shear (optional)
For more experienced cooking enthusiasts with a knife block already, we suggest choosing standalone knives to complement your collection.
By reading this guide we hope you can now make a calculated decision about what you require to create a complete and efficient culinary experience. Check out our selection of kitchen knives to find your perfect match.Back to blog