Ever try working out in a dress suit or jeans rather than proper workout clothes? Then you too have experienced what you are missing when you are using the wrong knives in the kitchen. Having the right equipment can improve your experience tenfold!
When you have the right knives in your kitchen, your cooking experience will improve in not only technique and speed, but also taste!
When you purchase a knife set, you are bound to get a smattering of each type; different knives accomplish different things.
It is not that you necessarily need to get an entire set of knives that cost the same as your mortgage, but arm yourself with 2 or 3 good knives that get your primary culinary work done with precision and ease. If you love fishing and preparing fish, having a good filleting knife would be a good choice for you. Love tomato season? Adding a good serrated number to your knife set is a good way to go!
If you are buying your knives a la carte, start with a great chef’s knife. Not all knives are well suited for every job, but a few knives out there can do many jobs well! Purchasing a chef’s knife can be quite personal; the handling, the feel, the weight – it is truly a custom experience. There is no one-knife-fits-all, and there is no correct knife choice – there is only the right one for you.
First let’s go over the basic parts of a knife and what they do.
The Anatomy of a Knife
The point of the blade that can be used for precision cutting or quick slicing.
The unsharpened top of the blade opposite the cutting edge.
The wide, flat part of the blade that can be used for crushing or transporting food. Perforated versions of a blade face create air when slicing to help release food.
Where you grip the knife. There are two types of handle styles:
- Western: sandwiched tang with visible rivets
- Eastern: rounder, sword-like handle with no rivets
The end of the handle away from the blade.
The part of the blade that extends into the handle.
The sharp edge of the knife blade.
The piece of steel between the handle and blade. Balances the knife and acts as a finger guard. Only found in forged knives.
Knife care comes into play as well. By keeping your knives sharp, you are less likely to have to apply unnecessary force and grip, which can tear through your food. Corroded, oxidized, dull knives can lead to careless mistakes. Whatever knives you choose, be sure to take care of them per their specifications. Different knives are made from different materials; choosing what kind of knife material you like can be just as personal as the design, and each material type is a mixed bag of pros and cons.
Common Knife Materials
Holds and edges well but is reactive with certain items and oxidizes quickly.
Will not rust or corrode but is brittle and not likely to keep a sharp edge for long.
High carbon stain-free steel
Relatively new to the game and with a hefty price tag. A blend of carbon steel’s best features combined with alloy metals (chromium-molybdenum steel). A very strong metal, and holds an edge. This hybrid will not rust or corrode.
A very hard material, typically affordable, and stays sharp for years. However, you cannot use the flat of the blade for smashing ingredients (like garlic) or the knife tip to open a jar, as it will chip or shatter.
Types of Knives
The most versatile of knives, you will use this slicing, chopping, dicing and mincing.
Smaller than a chef’s knife and larger than a paring knife. Good for everyday tasks, slicing meat, cutting wraps, etc.
A handy knife for smaller culinary tasks like peeling and coring small fruits and veggies.
This knife has a serrated edge that saws rather than tears through soft baked goods. This is also great for a tender tomato as well as citrus slicing.
A blend of a chef’s knife and cleaver, and is used for chopping, slicing and dicing, etc.
The length of this knife is great for slicing nice, even cuts of roasts, fish and other meats.
Thin and flexible long blade, perfect for removing the slippery skin from fish.
This knife blade bends slightly inward and is meant for precision slicing around bones and through joints.
This guy is heavy duty and meant to cut through bone with one swoop. Can also be used on sturdy vegetables.
A bit of a thinner and lighter blade, this cleaver is meant for produce and provides a big surface area for transferring chopped veggies from board to pot.
Japanese-style blade meant for general slicing and dicing using a straight up and down motion, rather than a rocking motion.
Another boning knife, but with an angle and a Japanese style.
Basic Knife Cuts
The right knife cut can create a better taste and texture to your dish when done properly.
Classic knife cuts
Always square off the item first so that you have a flat surface to work from, then cut into very thin stick shapes.
Dimensions: 1-2 mm x 2mm x 4mm
The smallest uniform dice there is, and only one step beyond julienne.
Dimensions: 1/16 in x 1/16 in x 1/16 in
A bigger dice than the brunoise, but also cube shaped.
Dimensions: 1/8 in x 1/8 in x 1/8 in
A thicker julienne slice.
Dimensions: ¼ in x 1/4 in x 2.5 in
The medium dice is one step beyond the batonnet, also cubed.
Dimensions: ¼ in x ¼ in x ¼ in
Cubes cut from the baton shape.
Dimensions: ½ in x ½ in x ½ in
A thin slice from a “stick” shape to produce a very thin and flat square.
Dimensions: ½ in x ½ in x 1/8 in
A technique for slicing leafy veggies and flat-leaved herbs into thin ribbons.