Learn About Kitchen Knives


How To Buy A Knife

Here are some basic guidelines for purchasing a good (or several) good kitchen knives.

Construction: Forged vs Stamped

Forged - A forged knife is made by pounding metal into a specific shape.  The hand is then applied and riveted or laminated onto the blade.

Stamped -  Stamped knives are stamped out of a large sheet of metal.  The handles can be simply formed around the knife or glued on. Stamped knives are typically lighter in weight which can be a good thing depending on what suits you best.

Selecting The Correct Knife For You
Cooks Illustrated noted that the difference between the two types of knives was not so important as the weight and balance of a knife.  Select a knife that feels good and secure in your hand, not too heavy and not flimsy.

Sets vs Single Knives

As a general rule we suggest simply purchasing the knives you will most likely use for your level and style of cooking.  That being said it is best to review sets for betting pricing as long as you don't have to compromise on the knives you will most likely use.

Basic Knife Types

Description Sizes Uses Substitute Tips
Meat Cleaver meat cleaver

9". Chop through bones, skin, cartilage. The flat side can be used for flattening meats. A cleaver should be heavy. Poultry shears Use on a sturdy, thick chopping board.
Vegetable Cleaver vegetable cleaver Vegetable cleavers are great for chopping though thick skinned vegetables like squashes. The flat side can be used for mashing garlic. A cleaver should be heavy Chef's knife Use on a sturdy, thick chopping board.
Santoku santoku knife The santoku knife is from Japan (now made by many companies in various counties. The knife is a slicing, chopping and mincing knife. Similar to a chef's knife. Chef's knife Should not be used to cut tough vegetables like some squashes or pumpkins.
Boning Knife boning knife 5" - 6 1/2" long These thin pointed knives are used to slice through meat joints, cut between bones or to slide between the skin and meat to remove or provide access under skin.
Bread Knife bread knife A long serrated knife used to cut through crust and dense breads without shreddding or tearing.
Paring Knife paring knife 2" - 4"
Chef's Knife chef's knife 6" - 12"
Slicing / Carving Knife, pointed tip slicing knife 8" - 14" long The pointed tip slicer requires more skill to obtain even cuts. Long thin or pointed blades require more agility so this knife is harder to use for the less-experienced carver.
Slicing/Carving Knife, round tip carving knife 8" - 14" long This broader round tip slicer is actually easier to use than the longer pointed tip versions. Use for slicing meats. A 10" knife is a good length. If the knife gets too long then your cuts stand a bigger chance of being uneven.
Tournee / Bird's Beak Paring Knive tournee knife Cutting, peeling rounded fruits and vegetables. It is also used to carve or "tournee" vegetables. Tournee means to cut into "football" shapes. Paring knife
Fillet Knife 6 1/2" - 9" Thin flexible knives used to fillet chicken or fish.
Utility knife
Ceramic Knives These very sharp knifes are great for thin slicing, mincing and chopping. The are dishwasher safe and rustproof. They will break if dropped. They are also sharp enough to cut right through your shoe. These knives are "scarey-sharp". Use them with extreme

Storing Knives

Store knives in a knife block on your counter top or in a divided knife storage tray (wood or lined) in your drawer.  Do not store knives loose in a drawer.  Aside from the fact that is dangerous the blades can become dull when rubbing against one another in the drawer.  You can also use magnetic racks for hanging knives.  Whichever method you choose make sure to keep them out of reach of small children.

Cleaning Knives

We prefer to wash knives by hand but most knives made today can be safely put in the dishwasher.  If you prefer dishwashing make sure the knives you select are dishwasher safe.  When placing the knife in the dishwasher lay it flat on the top shelf with the blade tips facing the back of the dishwasher.  Should the knife slide out when the dishwasher tray is pulled out you are less likely to get poked with a sharp knife tip.

Hand Washing
Never put knives in a sink filled with water.  If you are distracted then plunge your hands in the water you can be badly cut.  Keep the soiled knives on the counter until you are ready to wash them.  Wash with sponge or cloth taking care to always wipe away from your body along the blunt side of the knife. Stains can be removed with a paste made from coarse salt and vinegar or lemon juice. Always wipe dry with a soft cloth before return the knife to the rack.

Barbara Bowman graduated with degree in Foods and Nutrition from San Jose State University. As CEO of GourmetSleuth.com she spends most waking hours writing, cooking, eating, gardening and traveling.