Types of Kitchen Knives (For Pros and Home Chefs Alike)

Knife Guides
Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Whether you’re a professional chef, or just someone who likes to cook--one of the most important things you can add to your kitchen is a high-quality knife set. If you’re new to the cooking game, you might be wondering why it’s worth putting out the extra money to purchase something like a knife. Ask any chef or home cook and they’ll agree, knives are worth spending a little extra on! We’re not saying you need to break the bank here, but purchasing good quality knives are an investment that will last you for years to come--and will help you create some truly amazing meals in the meantime.

But how do you know which knife set to purchase, and what types of knives should you have in your kitchen? There are a lot of knives out there, so let’s get started. This article will explain:

Types of Knives

These knives are at the core of every knife set, and should definitely be on your list

The blade of a serrated knife is intended to saw through food items in a back and forth motion, which prevents it from crushing the items.

Serrated Knife

A serrated knife has a saw-toothed blade and it is designed to be used in a back and forth motion--much like a saw. This type of knife is necessary for your kitchen, especially if you require cutting of items like ripe fruits and vegetables, bread, or meat. The teeth on the blade allow the knife to cut through the surface without crushing it downward, making for an easier cut, with less fraying or mess. If you like cooking with fruit or enjoy baking breads, this is an essential knife for your kitchen.

Use this knife for:

Chef’s knives are extremely versatile, and can be used for many kitchen tasks.

Chef’s Knife

Many cooks would agree, the chef’s knife might just be the most important knife in your kitchen. You’re going to find yourself reaching for this knife when you want to chop, slice, dice, and even debone whatever is going into your recipe. The blade is broad in this knife, allowing room for you to chop and dice as needed. Some chef’s knives have indentations on the blade, which is done to create pockets of air between the knife and the item, reducing the chance of sticking. This knife is designed to make back and forth cuts into food items, and so versatile, you’ll find it in your hands for most recipes.

Use this knife for:

An elegant looking knife designed to make cutting through vegetables easy and precise. Image courtesy of Overlord.

Nakiri Knife

Nakiri knives are traditionally used for cutting vegetables, in fact their name nakiri bocho translates to knife for cutting greens in Japanese. Nakiri knives resemble cleavers-- as that’s the same kind of cut they accomplish--just on different items. The wide blade allows you to cut all the way down to the cutting board, without the need to saw back and forth. The thin blade is ideal for moving through vegetables seamlessly, but you could also use this knife for very thin cuts of meat, or even scoring ice in a bar.

Use this knife for:

The utility knife is a general, multi-purpose knife that excels at chopping, slicing, and dicing. Image courtesy of Cutlery and More.

Utility Knife

Many kitchen tasks can be completed by a combination of the chef’s knife, the paring knife, and the serrated knife--so what is the need for the utility knife? Think of it as meeting in the middle of both the chef’s and the paring knife. The utility knife is designed to be smaller than the chef’s knife, making it portable and highly maneuverable. It is also large and sturdy enough to take care of tasks such as cutting potatoes, that a paring knife just can’t handle. It’s a great multi-purpose knife that combines the best of both the chef’s and the paring knife.

Use this knife for:

Paring knives are very useful in the kitchen and can be used for all kinds of tasks that require control and precision. Image courtesy of Overlord.

Paring Knife

Next to the chef’s knife, many cooks agree that a paring knife is an essential knife in any kitchen, big or small. Some jobs are too intricate for the large blade of a chef’s knife, making the paring knife an indispensable addition. Paring knives almost look like mini-chef’s knives, with a wider blade and pointed tip. This makes them perfect for tasks that are more detailed oriented, such as peeling potatoes or preparing peppers to be cut. Because of their smaller size, you’ll find you have lots of control with a paring knife, making them ideal for mincing items or coring tomatoes.

Use this knife for:

Extra Additions to Round Out Your Knife Set

These options can be added to your kitchen cooking arsenal, but aren’t required!

Carving Knife

If you’re interested in cooking a lot of meat dishes-- such as roasts, hams, or bone-in poultry items--then you might want to add a carving knife to your set. This long, thin knife has a narrow blade that extends to the spine of the knife. This allows for very little drag or resistance when cutting thin pieces of meat off of a bone. Although you can use another knife to carve your meat, the thin blade of the carving knife is ideal for elegant, shapely, and even slices of meat--especially helpful around the holidays!

Use this knife for:

Boning knives are a good addition to your kitchen if you find yourself preparing many meat-centered dishes. Image courtesy of FN Sharp.

Boning Knife

Sometimes boning knives are mistaken for filleting knives--and more often than not people use the terms interchangeably. However, a boning knife’s task is to remove the meat away from the bone, while a filleting knife is used to remove the skin (typically of fish) from the meat. The narrow blade and smaller size of the boning knife make it an ideal choice for preparing meat. It is capable of breaking through joints and cartilage, as well as removing skin and fat away from meat as well.

Use this knife for:

Kitchen Shears

While not a knife, kitchen shears are an incredibly useful item in your kitchen. If you purchase a knife set, a pair of shears is usually included. If not, make sure you add this helpful item to your kitchen. Shears make cutting herbs--and other leafy plants such as spinach, kale, and dandelion-- a breeze. They are also incredibly useful when it comes to splitting chickens or cornish hens, as a good, sharp pair will go right through joints.

Use kitchen shears for:

A knife sharpening stone is a great addition to your kitchen, and will ensure that your knives are kept working at their best. Image courtesy of Amazon.

Knife Sharpening Stone

Now that you’re aware of the different types of knives out there, you want to make sure you have a way to keep them working at their best. A knife sharpening stone (or whetstone) is the best way to keep your knives sharp and shiny--and ensure they last. There are a variety of sharpening stones out there, including oil stones, water stones, ceramic stones, and even diamond stones, so it’s important to do your research and choose a sharpener that will compliment your knife set.

How to Store Your Knives, No Matter What Type

Storing knives is important to ensure they stay sharp and will last you for years to come

Choose to keep your knives on a wall-mounted magnetic strip, or in a knife block. Image courtesy of Overstock.

Once you have all the knives you need, you’re going to need a safe place to store them. If you choose to go with a knife set, chances are it might come with a knife holding block, with specific spaces for each of your knives. This is a classic option that allows for easy grabbing of knives and adds a nice element of style to your kitchen. Blocks are a good option if you have the counter space and are looking to house your knives near your work station.

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If you’d rather have a space saving option, maybe a magnetic wall strip would work better in your kitchen. You can place these strips on any wall that’s convenient for you, the backsplash, a cupboard, or even on your fridge. These strips are a popular option because you can always see the knife you need (no need to pull out knives before getting the one you want) and there is no in and out motion that can dull the blade. Just make sure to get the right length you need to store all your kitchen knives and utensils.

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As you can see, there are a variety of types of knives just waiting for you to add to your kitchen. Now that you know the essential basic knives--and some of the add-ons--you should feel more confident when choosing the knives to add to your kitchen!