A Beginner’s Guide to Kitchen Knives & When To Use Them
Having premium ingredients on hand is the first step in creating a chef quality meal, but using the right knife for the job is step two. With this helpful guide and infographic, we’ll teach you the basics of cutlery, and most importantly, which knives to use and when.
The Cutting Edge
There are three main styles of knife edges that we typically see in an American kitchen.
A serrated edge is superior for foods that are soft on the inside with a harder shell such as bread, lemons and tomatoes. The teeth perform a sawing technique which prevents the food from smooshing or ripping.
Straight edges are great for making clean cuts into raw meats, fish, and vegetables.
Ideal for cooked meats, the granton edge has indented grooves on the side of the blade in an oval or teardrop shape. These little indents capture the fat and juices as you slice, which helps to cut through the meat evenly without tearing.
Types of Must-Have Kitchen Knives:
- Chef’s Knife: Arguably your most versatile and important knife. Used for everyday chopping, dicing and slicing. It is also commonly used to chop fresh herbs.
- Paring Knife: This shorter knife is mainly used for peeling and slicing small fruits and vegetables.
- Boning Knife: The inward curve of the blade allows for precision control when removing bone from meat, poultry and fish.
- Cleaver: With a single, downward stroke, the meat cleaver can cut through bone and cartilage easily. This knife is arguably losing some of it’s popularity amongst Americans as most meat now comes packaged without the bone or cartilage intact. The butcher however, would need to use this knife to package the meat that way, which is why it’s also referred to as a Butcher Knife. This knife can also be used to cut root vegetables and fruits like coconuts and melons.
- Bread/Serrated Knife: This long serrated knife is most commonly known for cutting through bread (hence the “bread knife” name). However, it can also be used for cutting fruits and vegetables like lemons, limes, and tomatoes.
- Carving Knife: Most people are familiar with a carving knife because of it’s popularity on Thanksgiving. This knife features a long and thin blade to easily slice large cuts of meat into thin slices. Carving knives are great for slicing cooked poultry, roasts, hams, and other large meats.
- Utility Knife: Larger than a paring knife but smaller than the chef’s knife, the utility knife is used for everyday tasks such as chopping and slicing vegetables.
- Santoku Knife: A blend between the meat cleaver and the chef’s knife, it's used for slicing, dicing, and mincing. This is the only Japanese knife on our list, however, it is commonly found in American kitchens.
Quick Tip for Current and Future Customers:
If you’re looking to replace your old knives or simply buy a set, talk to your culinary assistant about our Montrose Commercial Quality Cutlery during your next consultation. We have three sets available:
- 8 Steak Knives w/ Steak Knife Block
- 22 Piece Set
- 38 Piece Set (Includes the 22 piece set, 8 additional steak knives and knife block, and 7 piece deluxe stainless steel utensil set)
Purchasing either the 22 or 38 piece set would give you a 10% discount on future food orders (up to 45% off).
Sharpening Your Knives
Using a Honing Rod
A honing rod (also referred to as a sharpening steel) is the best way to keep your straight edge knives sharp! A honing rod realigns the metal in a blade, massaging small nicks, indentations, and flat spots away. For instructions on how to use a honing rod click here.
Choosing a Cutting Board
One of the best reasons to install a granite countertop is because you can cut directly on them! But what the kitchen store may have failed to tell you during their sales process is that the granite can actually harm your knives quicker than that cheap cutting board that you used to use. We recommend using a cutting board on top of your granite countertop to keep your knives in tip top shape!
Not to mention, cutting on a granite countertop can actually cause bacteria growth and cross contamination on your kitchen surfaces. If you have a granite countertop, make sure you read this guide to learn how to clean your granite countertop the right way.
Plastic Cutting Boards
Choosing between a plastic and wooden cutting board is not easy. For one, the plastic cutting boards won’t harm your knives as fast, but after years of cutting into the board, bacteria from meat and poultry can soak into it the grooves left from the knife. If you choose to use a plastic cutting board to make your knives last longer, make sure you sanitize using hot soapy water and replace your board when it starts getting worn.
Wooden Cutting Boards
A wooden cutting board may dull your knives faster than a plastic cutting board due to the hard texture of the wood. However, wooden cutting boards are usually easier to sanitize. We recommend using a wooden cutting board when cutting things like cheeses, bread, and vegetables where you don’t need to press the knife into the board as much.
There are so many different types of knives to choose from (not to mention the Japanese have a completely different set) but this beginners guide should help understand the basic knives that you might find in your kitchen set. Download this printable infographic to hang on your fridge to use as a quick guide when cooking in your kitchen.