The knife is the single most important tool in the world that have existed since millions of years ago. Since they can be used for cutting, lashing, spearing, and pricking, knives have known more uses than it would be possible to count. But they’ve probably made their biggest impact in helping feed us. Presently, knives are primarily used for dining, either to prepare or to serve food. Hunting was once part of dining.
Below are the 40 different types of knives that you should know about.
- Breaking Knife
- Boning Knife
- Bread Knife
- Offset Serrated Bread Knife
- Butchers Knife
- Butter Knife
- Carving Knife
- Cheese Knife
- Chef’s Knife
- Chestnut Knife
- Chinese Chef’s Knife
- Churrasco Knife
- Deba bocho
- Decorating Knife
- Deveining Knife
- Electric Knife
- Fillet Knife
- Grapefruit Knife
- Ham Slicer
- Nakiri Bocho
- Oyster Knife
- Palette Knife
- Paring Knife
- Peeling Knife
- Rocking T Knife
- Santoku bocho
- Skinning Knife
- Slicing Knife
- Steak Knife
- Table Knife
- Tomato Knife
- Usuba Bocho
- Yanagi Ba
Used primarily for breaking down carcasses where you need a longer curved blade to cut all the way through a carcass and need the full range of cutting motion to make a clean cut. Some of the shorter breaking knives, such as the 8 inch blade knives are getting popular among the barbeque crowd for trimming and slicing. It is favored over the traditional butchers knife and cimeter due to the lighter weight, since the blade is not as wide.
The type, whether straight or curved or flexible or stiff, is dependent on the user, but the curved 6 inch semi-flexible is the best seller. The reason lies in the ability of the blade to curve and bend around bone to get smooth cuts with one quick pass. The curved end makes it easier to slice and trim. Moreover, the curved boning knife can also be used as a slicer for loins, skinner on sheep and goats, small breaking knife at leg joints, trim knife to remove hide or fecal material off carcasses, fat trimming knife, and so on.
A decent bread knife of 6 to 10 inches will run you at least US$20, depending where you live and shop. Look for a bread knife with a scalloped blade edge that is thin and tapers gently into the thicker part of the blade, rather than one with big, widely spaced teeth. The thicker, more jagged teeth aren’t good for getting that first slice into a firm loaf and a knife that can’t cut through hard crusts of country-style loaves of bread can slip, which is dangerous.
It uses an offset handle to ensure your knuckles do not touch the cutting surface when the blade has cut all of the way through the food. Made for cutting crunchy crusts that are harder to cut at the bottom.
With the traditional butcher you get a wide blade and curve at the tip, which makes it a great all round knife. For home butchers, a short 7 to 8 inch butcher knife is a great tool. It works well slicing, trimming, and if needed can be used for skinning larger animals without the need to have to purchase a separate skinning knife.
A common knife with a dull blade used for cutting and spreading butter.
A carving knife is used to cut slices of meat from large, boneless pieces of meat like ham, roast beef and sizable fish like salmon. It usually has a straight edge, rather than a serrated one, and is generally 8 to 15 inches. The blade is shorter and wider than a slicing knife, although they are longer than a regular kitchen knife. A carving knife has a much thinner blade than a kitchen knife, which also enables it to cut thin slices of meat.
The design of the knife is created for maximum efficiency and little stress. The blade is extremely thin and often cut with wide holes to prevent the cheese from sticking. This allows the knife to easily slice through tacky and sticky soft cheeses like Camambert, Brie, almost all blue cheeses, and slightly firmer cheeses like Appenzeller. In a pinch it also does a fine job of cutting the rinds off of firm and hard cheeses. The tines at the end allow you to skewer and serve slices of cheese with deft precision.
The most indispensable of knives, a chef’s knife is essential for preparing any meal, no matter how simple. It is a kitchen favorite around the world when it comes to chopping, dicing and slicing. Chef’s knives usually come in lengths from 6 inches to 12 inches and are about 1 inch wide with the most popular being 8 inches. The best chef’s knives are forged from a single piece of steel that runs the entire length of the knife. Quality ones go for around US$150. Don’t skimp on this one.
Chestnuts need to be scored on one end to allow steam to escape. Otherwise steam will build up inside and cause the nut to explode. A chestnut knife has a standard size handle, very similar in size and weight as a standard paring knife. However, a chestnut knife’s blade is much shorter than a paring knife and has a very distinctive curve which gives the chestnut knife its unique appeal and function. It enables the blade to cut through the shell without cutting through the nut inside.
For an all-purpose cutting utensil, nothing beats a Chinese chef’s knife. Every part of the knife is put to use. The sharp edge of the blade is excellent for soft meat and vegetables, while the top blunt edge is used to pound and tenderize meat. Turned on its side, the Chinese chef’s knife is an excellent tool for smashing garlic and ginger. You can even use it to transfer food from cutting board to wok. You can even use the flat end of the handle as a substitute for a pestle!
Because the blade geometry of a Chinese chef’s knife is so similar with the western meat cleaver, a lot of people make that mistake and end up using them like a meat cleaver to chop bones and other hard items.
Also known as a Churrascaria knife, the Churrasco knife is designed specifically for Brazilian style steakhouses where large chunks of meat are sliced directly from the spit onto plates of hungry customers. The blade starts wide and narrows at the tip. The Churrasco knife is a blend of slicing and carving knives. If you didn’t know, the Churrasco is one of Brazil’s 4 unique national food.
This is another take of the butchers knife used for trimming, breaking down cuts, slicing and so on. The blade on the cimeters are wider than a breaking knife, and add weight. In the processing environment, some prefer the wide blade to help keep the cut portions together during slicing, so a uniformed slice is easier to achieve. Used by larger beef processing plants on the cut-up side to trim fat and cut larger pieces down to smaller hunks.
Similar to the butchers knife, but has a lighter and thinner blade for precision cutting.
Literally translated as “pointed carving knife”, the Deba bocho is a heavy and thick knife designed for cutting and filleting fish. This famous Japanese knife’s defining characteristic is its single edge, allowing for greater pitch and, as a result, effortlessly tear through intended tasks. Keep in mind that the part of the blade nearest the handle is meant to cut through harder surfaces like lobster shell and frozen fish, not the tip of the knife. High quality Deba bochos that cost around US$300 are incredibly durable, so much that you need not be concerned of chipping it!
A decorating knife is any knife with a decorative blade. The most common pattern is a simple zigzag. Decorating knives are used for making fancy cuts for garnishes and presentation.
The deveining knife, also known as a devein tool or deveiner, is a small sharp knife with a narrow tip. The widest part of the knife is right at the handle. The blade then gets progressively narrower until it merely forms a small sharp tip. The deveining knife makes cleaning shrimp a simple and fast three step process. Just pass the tool under the shell along the back, peel off the shell, and rinse off the vein.
Electric knives take most of the work out of carving game, roasts and thick loaves of bread. The main advantage of using an electric knife is that it produces thin, even food slices, with no tears or shredding. They can also cut closer to the bone than a conventional knife, giving you more meat on the platter. Apart from thinner slices of meat, an electric knife can also be used on bread, cake and sandwiches. Machines that come with 2 separate blades, one for meat and one for bread, perform better than the ones that come with a single blade.
Fillet knife blades average between 4 and 9 inches in length as they are made in correlation to the size of fish they are used for. The most popular is the 7 inch blade as it allows you to fillet small and large fish satisfyingly. Because the fillet knife is razor sharp, flexible, and thin, the blade can easily get into places that would be impossible for a typical kitchen knife. Moving through the flesh and gently separating it from the bone and skin means there is much less effort exerted and the chances of getting more usable sections are greatly increased. The result is thin and evenly sliced sections that are all ready for grilling, battering, frying, or baking.
Makes cutting grapefruit a dream. Much better than a grapefruit spoon as you’ll have relatively no juice squirted into your eyes. The grapefruit knife is made small with a unique curved serrated blade, designed to hug the curves of the grapefruit. This is used to separate the outer edge of the segments from the rim of the fruit.
A ham slicer is long blade with a rounded tip that comes in sizes of between 9 to 15 inches. They are specially tailored to cutting ham, as they are generally thinner and more flexible. The dimples (called grantons) in the blade help keep product from sticking to it and also help channel heat away from the edge when slicing hot foods. Another use can be for bigger fruit, like watermelon, cantaloupe, and honeydew.
A knork combines the four prongs of a fork with the sharp edge of a knife. Made of stainless steel, it has been designed with very slight curved edges, so the bladed section will not easily cut someone reaching into the cutlery drawer, or even worse, cut their tongue while they are eating. Korks have a really nice weight to them and it helps to cut through food with ease.
The mezzaluna, literally translated as “half moon” in Italian, is a knife consisting of a curved blade with a handle on each end. Because both hands are off the chopping surface, gripping the handles, it is actually impossible for children or clumsy people to cut themselves. It is often used for chopping herbs or very large single blade versions are sometimes used for pizza or pesto. You can also use it for cutting food that irritates the skin like chili.
Literaly translated as “knife for cutting greens”, the Nakiri Bocho with its thin straight blade is an excellent tool to chop vegetables. Fast, rhythmic and full chopping strokes right down to the board are possible thanks to its lightweight and wide blade design.
An oyster knife is a short-bladed, dull knife designed to shuck oysters. The tip is flat and pointed enough to penetrate the tightly closed hinge of an oyster shell, but rounded enough on the tip that it doesn’t cut into the oyster’s flesh.
The palette knife is most often used to spread cream, icing and cake fillings, and to smooth toppings for baked dishes. It is also thin enough to slide under cooked cakes, biscuits or pastry cases when you want to turn or lift them. The palette knife is also useful for loosening food stuck to tins.
With its blade of 2.5 to 4 inches, the paring knife is great for peeling fruits and vegetables, slicing a single garlic clove or shallot, controlled, detailed cutting, such as cutting shapes or vents into dough, and scoring designs and patterns on surfaces of food. Use it for any job that requires precise and delicate work, like removing the ribs from a jalapeno or coring an apple.
Also known as a Bird’s Beak Knife or tourne knife, the peeling knife is a specialized type of paring knife that has a pointed tip that curves downward. It can be used to cut decorative garnishes such as rosettes or fluted mushrooms, slice soft fruits, or to remove skins and blemishes. It is also used to make a cut known as a tourne cut in vegetables such as carrots.
The Rocking T knife is ideal for people with upper extremity weakness or limited wrist movement. It requires minimal effort to use.
Santokus are very useful general purpose knives. Literally translated as “three uses”, the Santoku’s blade is typically between 5 and 8 inches long, and has a flat edge and a sheepsfoot blade that curves in an angle approaching 60 degrees at the point. The ‘three uses’ that the knife performs exceedingly well in are slicing, dicing, and mincing. Unlike a chef’s knife, a Santoku doesn’t have the belly needed for chopping with the classic rocking motion. They are excellent for vegetables and as typical Japanese technique is more slicing than chopping.
Designed basically for skinning. In the beef skinning models you have a curved blade that allows for full cut motion, especially up towards the front which is important during skinning. The blades are wide and usually around 6 inches in length. They are also useful in removing cheek meat. Lamb skinners or legging knives don’t feature as much up turn on the tip, but are useful in skinning smaller animals. They can also be used in gutting animals, as the blunt tip prevents puncture and the slight curve of the blade allows you to cut down the mid-section of the animal to release the internal organs in the main cavities of the body.
A chef’s knife may be an all round knife but a slicing knife is better for portioning, trimming and carving meat. It serves a similar function to a carving knife, although it is generally longer and narrower. Slicers are designed to precisely cut smaller and thinner slices of meat, and are normally more flexible to accomplish this task. As such, many cooks find them better suited to slicing roasts, fish, barbecued beef, pork or venison.
A spife is a tool where the blade of a knife is used as the handle of the spoon. More commonly today, a spife is sold with a handle guard that covers the blade of the handle to prevent injury while using the utensil as a spoon.
Contains all three properties of a spoon, fork and knife. A sporf typically has a spoon shape with fork tines in the middle and flat edges on one or both sides suitable for cutting through soft food. An alternate shape involves the knife part being incorporated into the handle.
Just like a good kitchen knife, for a good steak knife to make the cut, it’s gotta be sharp, comfortable, well-balanced, and sturdy. There are 3 kinds of blade edges namely straight, micro serrated, and serrated. Straight-edged knives cut through a steak like butter, leaving a smooth, clean cut face. Perfectly suitable for wood or plastic surfaces but not hard ceramic plates as it will blunt the edge after about a dozen uses. Micro serrated edges wear down just like straight edged knives. Serrated edged steak knives are the best way to guarantee that your knife will continue cutting through your steaks with ease, even with repeated abuse against a plate.
Table knives are typically of moderate sharpness, designed to cut only prepared and cooked food. The distinguishing feature of a table knife is the blunt, round tips. A fork is normally required to stabilize food during cutting.
Tomato knives are less than 6 inches, have serrated edges much like the finer teeth of a saw and the best ones are forked at the tip to help maneuver tomato slices. They are made to slice cleanly and uniformly through tomatoes without wrecking the delicate flesh inside. A quality one costs about US$30.
An ulu, translated as “woman’s knife”, is an all-purpose knife traditionally used by Eskimo women, both Yupik and Inuit. It is utilized in applications as diverse as skinning and cleaning animals, cutting a child’s hair, cutting food and, if necessary, trimming blocks of snow and ice used to build an igloo. The blades come in sizes of 2 inches, 6 inches and as large as 12 inches. The shape of the ulu ensures that the force is centered more over the middle of the blade than with an ordinary knife so that it cuts hard objects, like bones, more efficiently. Ulus have been found to date as far back as 2500 BCE, which is exactly 4513 years ago at the time of writing this.
The Usuba Bocho is usually around 9 inches long and looks similar to a Nakiri Bocho. However, the Usuba is heavier and the edge of the blade is only ground on one side. For right-handed chefs, the grind is on the right side, and for a left-handed chef it should be on the left side. This allows the chef to create thinner slices than with a Nakiri Bocho.
The very popular Yanagi ba is a long and very thin knife used to prepare sashimi, sushi, sliced raw fish and seafood. In preparing sashimi and sushi, there are very important conditions that the sliced cross section be smooth, shiny and sharp in a microscopic view. Those conditions cannot be met by any other knife. Unlike Western knives that are used to push and cut, the Yanagi Ba, like almost all Japanese knives, is used to pull and cut instead.