From weird names to complicated, odd-looking blades, the world of kitchen knives can be confusing at times. But then again, is there not a way to simplify the whole lot and cut them down a few essentials only, or do you really need a knife that’s specifically designed for each activity you engage in in the kitchen? How many kitchen knives do you really need?
The optimal number of kitchen knives for any home cook needed to perform the vast majority of necessary tasks in the kitchen is 4. This includes a chef’s knife, bread knife, carving/slicing knife, and a pairing knife. A sharpener is also considered a necessity to keep your knives’ blades as sharp and effective as possible.
But there are so many more kitchen knives to choose from? Yes, we will take you through the entire list of kitchen knives in this article, giving you an overview of each one’s functions and uses. And if you’re looking to buy a new set of kitchen knives, then we’ve got our bonus section at the end of this article where we will give you our top 5 pics for kitchen knife sets for you to pick from.
Which Kitchen Knives Do You Really Need?
As I’ve just mentioned at the beginning of this article, there are 5 essential, must-have knives any home cook needs in their kitchen, which are:
- Chef’s knife. The most-used, versatile, all-round workhorse knife that any chef or home cook needs to do everything from cutting, chopping, slicing, and dicing fruit, vegetables, meat, and more.
- Bread knife. Essential for easily sawing through cakes and bread, and can even be used for sawing through meat, poultry, and more.
- Carving/Slicing knife. Flexible and long, essential for carving or slicing cooked meat like roasts.
- Pairing knife. A kind-of smaller version of a chef’s knife, perfect for handling the smaller tasks that is tricky for a chef’s knife to get to.
- Sharpener. Finally, a sharpener is technically not a knife, of course, but an absolute must-have for any home cook to keep all your knives in tip-top shape and sharp as they can be.
There are so many more knives that didn’t make the cut (pun intended) on our list of essential knives to have that chefs and home cooks use daily as part of their cooking arsenal. So let’s take a look at all the types of kitchen knives and their uses.
What Are The Different Types Of Knives And Their Uses?
If you’ve ever felt intimidated by the multitude of options when it comes to kitchen knives or even wondered what you would need and use them all for, we’ve got you covered.
Here is our breakdown of the most common kitchen knives along with their functions:
When it comes to kitchen knives, the chef’s knife is the absolute king of the kitchen. This 6-12 inch knife is any chef’s workhorse and can be seen as an extension of them, almost like an extra limb. The chef’s knife can be used to cut almost anything from meat to chicken to vegetables, and the long blade with an upward curving tip at the end makes it perfect for chopping and dicing just about anything. The chef’s knife is a must-have in any kitchen.
The santoku knife is a Japanese-style knife that can and is sometimes used to replace the chef’s knife. It’s typically has a shorter, thinner knife than the chef’s knife and has a smaller, lighter blade with the top of the tip of the blade curving downward. Like the chef’s knife, the santoku knife can be used to cut, chop, slice and dice pretty much anything in the kitchen with precision, thanks to the blades dimples or Granton edge, which prevents meat and other foods from sticking to it.
The bread knife is typically between 7 – 10 inches long with “teeth” along the straight, serrated blade, turning it into a less sharp kind of saw. This makes it perfect for cutting (or sawing) cakes and bread without pushing too hard down on it, but it can also be used to cut seafood, poultry, and meat. I would definitely consider a bread knife as another critical item for any kitchen.
The carving or slicing knife is typically around 8 – 10 inches long with a rounded tip and is used to carve or slice cooked meats. Perfect for carving roasts, and if roasts are not a regular thing for you, then this is the knife you’ll see around thanksgiving time to carve that beautiful brown turkey. The blade is quite narrow but long, making it very flexible and therefore easier to carve any size roast with its swaying motion.
This 4 – 7 inches long narrow blade, small tip knife is perfect for any food that might be too small for your chef’s knife to get to. The utility knife is excellent for filleting and trimming and to get those thinner cuts. However, don’t try to cut, chop, slice, or dice any big items; you’ll need your good old trusting chef’s knife for those.
Now you’ll notice that some of the knives’ names kind of give it away as to what they would typically be used for, and the boning knife, as the name suggests, would be used for cutting up meat, separating the meat from bones, or filleting fish. They can also sometimes be used for trimming vegetables, depending on their size. The blade is usually thinner than a carving knife, around 3 – 8 inches long, flexible like the carving knife. However, you get semi-flexible and stiff variations as well, with the stiff blade being the most popular.
This “baby chef’s knife” is perfect for cutting and peeling all kinds of vegetables and fruits and great for trimming meat and fat with immaculate precision. The 2 – 4 inch blade usually comes with a few pointed tips, including a spear point, sheep’s foot, or bird’s beak. The pairing knife is another one on the must-haves list in any kitchen to complement your chef’s knife with the smaller tasks.
Kitchen shears are a strong, thick-bladed pair of scissors used in the kitchen. Now, if you’re wondering what a pair of scissors is doing on our list of kitchen knives, it’s because kitchen shears are extremely useful in replacing knives to fulfill specific tasks. Fun fact: kitchen shears are actually the favorite for many home cooks as their preferred way to slice pizza, believe it or not. Kitchen shears are typically used to cut up or section chicken, snip herbs or prepare various seafood like prawns, shrimp, lobster, and octopus.
The biggest, bulkiest, baddest blade of the kitchen, the cleaver knife, can do the same what your chef’s knife can do. It’s also designed to hack through tough meats and bones that your other knives could never dream of getting through. It has a very wide blade, making it great for squashing and crushing things like garlic, chopping through thick vegetables like squash or pumpkin, or pulverizing meat, chicken, or fish. Although this is not a must-have on our list of kitchen knives, it’s definitely a fun one to own if you have the extra cash to spend.
Similar to a boning or carving knife, the name gives this one away. The steak knife, or table knife, is used as part of your table cutlery for cutting cooked meat in particular. Steak knives typically come with 3 types of blade edges – serrated, semi-serrated, and non-serrated. They can also usually go for a long time without needing sharpening, depending on the type of edge and the amount of use.
The fillet knife is designed to cut thinner slices of fish with its thin, long, flexible blade. Aside from that, the fillet knife is very similar to the boning knife and is often used interchangeably. Boning knives just tend to have a bit thicker blade and be more durable.
The 2nd Japanese style knife on our list, the Nakiri Bocho, has a long, thin, straight, and wide blade with a squared-off tip. It’s typically used for cutting, chopping, slicing, and dicing vegetables, and because of its long blade, it’s perfect for longer veggies like eggplant, cucumber, or carrot.
The tourne knife takes the prize for the most bird-like of all the knives on our list and has a short, curved, bird’s-beak-like blade. This is mostly used for removing skin or peeling fruits and veggies but can also be useful in impressing guests with some round goodies like football-shaped foods etc.
I would consider a sharpener another must-have item on this list. Although it’s not technically a knife, it gives back the life in your knives and therefore deserves to be there. You get so many different types of sharpeners like manual and electric ones or sharpening stones. Needless to say, manual and electric sharpeners are more beginner-friendly, whereas sharpening stones require a bit more practice. Whetstones is a favorite type of stone for this purpose, but if you’re new to sharpening knives, a decent manual sharpener will do the job just fine for now. Sharpeners can be used to sharpen just about anything from your steak knives, chef’s knife, pairing knife, cleaver, to even your new favorite pizza-cutting kitchen shears.
Honing steel are long metal rods used to realign or reposition a knife’s edges before and after each use. Although they do not actually sharpen the blade or remove any metal from it, they make a knife’s blade more effective when being used. You also get sharpening steel rods designed to sharpen a blade, similar to a sharpener.
Our Picks For Some Of The Best Knife Sets
Here are our picks for the best and coolest-looking knife set that you should own:
Zwilling Pro 7-Piece Knife Block Set
This knife set not only has a collection of high quality, sharp, durable blades that you will probably never have to replace, but it also’s very ergonomic and looks and feels great. If you’re in the market for a knife set to last you a lifetime, this is the perfect set to own. Check it out on Amazon here.
Dalstrong 5-Piece Shadow Series Knife Block Set
One of the slickest looking knife sets you can buy is this dark, stealth-fighter-jet-looking masterpiece. It has tons of great features, which you can check here on Amazon, but it’s on our list cause it’s one of the coolest-looking sets around.
Mercer Culinary Genesis 6-Piece Forged Knife Block Set
Another great quality yet awesome looking knife set that we highly recommend. Once again, some amazing features that you want from your knife set, but it is its looks that got it onto our list. Check it out on Amazon here.
And there you have it. The complete guide to all the kitchen knives you would ever need, along with each one’s ins and outs and the shortlist of the 4 essential kitchen knives you should own.
So if you don’t already own a good-quality kitchen knife set, now is as good a time as any to get started.