No kitchen is complete without knives but how do you know which ones you really need? While a chef’s knife and a paring knife are essential, there are plenty of other specialty knives that can add a bit of creativity to your cooking process.
How Many Types of Kitchen Knives are There?
Think about all the different types of food you eat. Basically, there are the same amount of kitchen knives available.
While there are only a handful of knives that every kitchen needs, there are specific knives for meat, vegetables, oysters, cheese, and so much more.
Don’t get discouraged or panic, thinking you need to spend your life’s savings on kitchen knives. Start with the basics and then add specialty knives for specific food that you consume the most often.
28 Different Types of Kitchen Knives
Despite their name, utility knives are not very common in many kitchens. They are a much smaller cousin to the chef’s knife and are made to be used with food that is too small for a larger tool.
Utility knives have a blade that measures between 4 and 7 inches. It can be used to filet, slice, and trim smaller objects.
Also known as carving knives, slicing knives were developed to cut beautiful, thin cuts of meat. They have very long, narrow blades and are usually serrated on the bottom.
Slicing knives are rather flexible and may have hollows on the side so the meat doesn’t stick when it is being carved.
Above all else, you should have a chef’s knife in your kitchen. This versatile, multi-purpose tool can be used for all manner of kitchens.
A chef’s knife is characterized by its broad blade that ends in a point at its tip. It also has a full tang, meaning the edge of the blade goes to at least the width of the handle, and often times farther down.
Within the category of chef’s knives, there are many subsections.
To begin with, chef’s knives come in many different sizes, ranging from 6 to 12 inches in length. While many people are unsure of what size to get, it’s best to have a larger blade for larger hands and vice versa.
Finally, chef’s knives can be forged, meaning they are made from one piece of steel, or stamped, meaning they are cut out of a larger piece of steel.
A bread knife is another pivotal kitchen knife. The blade is quite long so that it is able to reach into wide loaves of bread.
It is distinguished by its serrated underside that allows you to cut through bread without damaging the loaf.
In addition to cutting bread, bread knives are used on soft fruit such as tomatoes so that they don’t rip the delicate skin.
For the carnivores out there, a boning knife is a kitchen essential. It has a very fine point and a thin blade that curves upwards.
A boning knife works by separating meat from the bone. You can also use it to filet meat.
When you purchase a boning knife, you can choose for the blade to be flexible, semi-flexible, or stiff. Most home chefs prefer a stiff blade because it cuts better and more accurately.
Every home chef should have a paring knife in their kitchen. This small knife is perfect for shaping and peeling vegetables, as well as trimming fat.
Paring knives have small blades that are 3 to 4 inches in length. They have a pointy tip although this comes in slightly different designs.
Not for the faint of heart, cleavers are a must if you regularly chop meat bones. They are also called butcher knives.
Cleavers are designed for power. Their full tang blade hangs rather low and the thick spine gives it full chopping power.
Cleavers are often used for chopping meat bones as well as gourds such as pumpkins and squash.
While fillet knives and boning knives are often mistaken, they are actually quite different. Fillet knives have very thin, long blades that are quite flexible.
If you are trying to fillet fish and separate the skin from the meat, then a fillet knife is the best tool for the job.
Japanese cuisine has its own needs, so Japanese knives have their own sets of purposes. However, many Western chefs are including these knives in their kitchens.
Coming from Japan, Nakiri knives are not very common but they are actually quite versatile. The top has a rounded-square look and a flat blade. There are usually divots in the blade to stop food from sticking while you’re cutting.
Nakiri knives are best for chopping long vegetables, such as celery and carrots.
While the standard for chef’s knives used to come out of European countries, Japanese craftsmanship is now making headway. A Santoku knife is similar to a chef’s knife although its blade shape is different.
The blade of a Santoku knife curves down into a flat bottom blade. Therefore, it doesn’t have the same rocking mechanics that a true chef’s knife has.
You can use a Santoku knife to slice, mince, and dice food.
You will often see it with divots in the blade, which make it easier to cut through meat and fish. The divots allow the meat to fall away from the blade so you don’t have any food sticking to your knife as you cut multiple pieces.
Gyuto knives are another example of Japanese precision. While they mimic the chef’s knife in their versatility, they are shaped quite differently.
These knives have long, thin blades that come to a point. The blade has a slight angle to it, allowing it to carve meat perfectly.
Gyuto knives range in size from 6 inches to 10 inches, although some can even be 14 inches long.
If you’re intimidated by Gyuto knives, then petty knives may be a more appealing option. They are great for many tasks in the kitchen, including chopping fruits and vegetables and slicing meat.
Petty knives have thin blades that are 5 to 8 inches in length. They are easy to control so you can make precision cuts.
There are actually many kinds of cheese knives but they all share the same purpose, to cut cheese so you can devour it.
Soft Cheese Knives
For soft cheese, such as brie and camembert, you will want a knife with holes in the blade. These holes stop the soft cheese from sticking to your knife, so there isn’t a huge mess with them.
Pronged Cheese Knives
When you want to be able to cut a piece of cheese and immediately enjoy it, a pronged cheese knife is the way to go.
This knife has a serrated edge and two prongs on the tip that you can then spear through the piece to eat. Pronged cheese knives are best for semi-hard to hard cheeses such as parmesan and cheddar.
Flat Cheese Knives
Looking more like a plaster knife, flat cheese knives work by using a bit of arm strength. You will want to position the flat side over a brick of cheese and push down until the blade goes through.
Flat cheese knives are perfect for soft to semi-hard cheese such as swiss and provolone.
Cheddar Cheese Knives
Cheddar cheese is a staple in every household, so why not have a cheese knife dedicated to cutting it? This knife looks like a mini cleaver with a rectangular design.
It is solid enough for hard cheese including gruyere, colby, and of course, cheddar.
Amazingly, there are different styles of oyster knives. So, before you host an oyster shucking party, make sure you have the right style of knife for the job.
Boston Style Oyster Knives
Boston Style oyster knives have a long and narrow blade. It also ends in a tip. These oyster knives are best when shucking oysters from the sides and not the hinges.
New Haven Style Oyster Knives
New Haven Style oyster knives have a shorter blade that is also wider. Its tip curves upwards.
If you are planning on serving your oysters on the shell, then this is the knife to use as it won’t damage the meat.
Providence Style Oyster Knives
A cousin to the New Haven Style oyster knives, these too have short and wide blades. However, Providence Style oyster knives are best for medium to large oysters, especially if you are shucking them by the hinge.
Galveston Style Oyster Knives
Similar to Boston oyster knives, these ones have a long blade and a rounded tip. However, they are wider in style.
Galveston Style oyster knives are used if you are shucking medium or large oysters.
Frenchman Style Oyster Knives
These knives mean business. Frenchman Style oyster knives start out straight but then both sides of the knife become sharp, almost meeting at a triangle on the end.
What are The 3 Most Common Kitchen Knives?
While home chefs can go a bit crazy buying up all these innovative knives, at the end of the day, there are only three that you truly need. These include a chef’s knife, a paring knife, and a serrated bread knife.
Every kitchen needs knives. And while you should start with the basics, like a chef’s knife and a pairing knife, there are plenty of other options to inspire your cooking.