Unless you are a professional cook or a cooking fanatic, you probably are overwhelmed by all the different types of kitchen knives and what they are suppose to do. Here is a quick reference guide to help you identify and understand what each different knife are designed for.
The Framework of a Knife
- Edge The sharpened part of the knife blade extending from the heel to the tip.
- Handle The handle provides the knife's gripping area for your hand.
- Heel The heel is the rear part of the blade and is usually used to cut thick or tough products.
- Point This is usually use for piercing.
- Spine The spine is the part of the blade opposite the edge.
- Tang The tang is the part of the blade that extends into the handle. Full tang blades provide better balance and durability and can take better punishment.
- Tip The tip is the front part of the blade that does most of the cutting and separating. Different tip are used for different situations.
- Pointed tips are better for piercing and cutting small portions.
- Rounded tips are ideal for cutting or slicing thin portions.
Forged or Stamped
There are two ways to make a kitchen blade, forging or stamping.
Forged blades are made by compressing the heated steel under the pressure of a hammer. After the blade comes to shape it is then grinded and honed to form its final shape and edge.
Forged Knives characteristics:
- Have a thicker and heavier blade compared to stamped knives
- Are usually stronger and better balanced than stamped knives
- Are usually more expensive than stamped knives
Stamped blades are made by a hydraulic press, or die. It cuts the desired blade shape out of a flat sheet of steel. Then the blades are sharpened by going through grinding and honing process.
- Have a thinner and lighter blade than forged knives
- Are not usually as balanced as forged knives
- Are less expensive than forged knives
Types of Handles
There are several different types of handles for kitchen knives. Here are the popular styles
- Wood Handles used to be very popular, but now there are sanitary concerns. Wood can trap bacteria and crack over time. It is the least durable among the popular handle materials.
- Stainless Steel Handles are pretty much maintenance-free. They are very durable and easy to clean. The downside is that stainless steel handles do not provide a very firm grip and can become slippery when wet.
- Plastic Handles are the most popular type of handle. They are very easy to clean and durable and several types of plastic are available.
- Fibrox – Synthetic mineral fiber dishwasher-safe, and slip-resistant.
- Nylon - Nylon handled knives are durable, easy-to-clean, and economical.
- Resin - Lightweight and comfortable.
- Polypropylene – easy to clean, durable.
- Riveted POM (Polyoxymethylene) - POM (Polyoxymethylene) handles are more durable than polypropylene and are easy to clean.
The following descriptions should serve as a basic guide for some of the most common types of knives.
- Chef's Knife all-purpose knife that is curved to allow the cook to rock the knife on the cutting board for a more precise cut. The broad and heavy blade also serves for chopping bone instead of the cleaver making this knife the all purpose heavy knife for food preparation.
- Santoku Knife A Santoku knife is an all purpose knife best suited for slicing, dicing, and mincing. This knife can be used for the same functions as a chef knife.
- Bread Knife use to cut bread and may have a straight or slightly curved blade with a serrated edge that's ideal for bread and hard rind fruits.
- Boning Knife is used to remove the bones of poultry, meat, and fish. Boning knives are not as "thick" as some of other popular kitchen/butcher knives, as this makes precision boning much less difficult.
- Steak Knife : often has serrated blades and are use to cut steak.
- Utility Knife often have a scalloped edge, and can be considered a cross between a paring knife and a slicing knife. A sharp utility knife is very efficient for slicing softer fruits and vegetables, such as tomatoes or squash. Utility knives are also great for cutting large melon rings, cutting heads of lettuce into wedges, preparing cabbage for shredding, and halving citrus fruits.
- Paring Knife rate second in versatility after a chef's knife in a commercial kitchen. There are several common styles:
- Spear point are great for removing corn from the cob, breaking up heads of lettuce, peeling fruits and vegetables, cutting beans, and other similar tasks.
- Bird's beak or curved paring knives, also referred to as tourne knives, feature a downward arching blade that makes peeling round fruit and garnishing a breeze.
Kitchen Shears: used for food preparation, but due to their though nature, it is often used in many other applications.
Sharpener: Used to sharpen all knives, not limited to kitchen knives.