Kitchen Cheats: Choosing The Right Knife

by Edwan S. Photography CK on Wed, October 08, 2014

The correct knife won't only make food prep quicker and easier but is often a joy to use. Let's check out what kind of knives you should get to know. Get this right then your food prep will be more efficient, meaning you save time and energy!

Sharp blades make a better cook...

Knives are often said to be the most important tool that a cook can have. It doesn’t matter if you’re a professional chef or a home cook. A good knife will make prep for cooking so much easier and more efficient. So today let’s take a look at the basic types of knives you would find in the kitchen, and what they’re normally used for. But first, what do you look for in a knife? There’s a lot that can be said when it comes to choosing different steel types or shape and size. But let’s just get the really basics right.

What To Look For In A Knife

First, think of comfort. Choose a knife that feels comfortable in the hand and isn’t slippery or causes cramps. Next, check out the size and weight and think about what kind of prep do you do most at home. Buying a huge cleaver when you’re mostly just cutting vegetables isn’t helping! Finally, affordability. I know some of you might scoff at the idea of buying an expensive knife but think of it as an investment. A better quality knife will stay sharp and last longer. Shop around and find out what best suits your usual cooking prep.

Now moving on to types of knives.

The Chef or French Knife
Uses: General purpose cutting

This knife is so called because it is probably the most common knife that chefs use. It’s easy to see why. The chef knife is designed with versatility and comfort in mind. Even the blade is designed to do many functions: nearer the tip is suitable for cutting softer, delicate foods while the broad middle part is for meats or large items. Blade sizes vary, but an 8-inch blade is a good starting point.

The Paring Knife
Uses: Cutting smaller or softer foods, carving, precision cutting

The paring knife is a small knife with a blade often not exceeding 4 inches. It is light and can easily be used with one hand. The primary purpose of the paring knife is the cutting and peeling of vegetables and fruit, as its small blade is less likely to exert too much pressure and damage the food. However you can also use the paring knife to prepare seafood or fish, as well as smaller animals such as chicken or rabbit. You can find paring knives with serrated blades, too.

The Fillet Knife
Uses: Boning out fish, poultry and meats

The fillet knife has a slender blade that is designed to cleanly cut meat off the bone. Often the blade is flexible to allow easy maneouvering between bones and joints. You might also find a thin, stiff bladed variety called a boning knife. Because fillet knives are thin and slender, they’re also good knives to use to cut soft fleshed fruits or vegetables.

Serrated or Tomato Knife
Uses: Cutting soft foods, pastries and baked goods

Almost all knives come in a serrated variety, but we thought it good to just put it here. Serrated blades are sharper and more efficient at cutting as less pressure is used to push the blade through the food. This makes it excellent for cutting soft foods like tomatoes (hence the name), fruits and breads and pastries. However serrated blades are difficult to keep sharp. In fact, once it goes blunt, it probably isn’t of any use anymore!

The Cleaver or Chopper
Uses: Heavy duty chopping and cutting of bone in meats and seafood, mincing

This is the favourite knife of angry Asian housewives – Er, we mean, the cleaver is the heavy artillery of knives. The broad heavy blade is most suitable to chop bone in meats and seafoods. It is also a good knife to use for making hand-minced meat. Some experts, especially Chinese cooks, can even use this knife for delicate work like julienning and slicing vegetables.

There are more kinds of knives to be honest but we thought these five basic ones are good to start off with. Just remember to keep knives sharp! A sharp knife not only eases your cutting but is safer as well because you're using less pressure. So the knife is less likely to slip and uhm... cut you. But if you can only have just one, we recommend you go for a sturdy, comfy to hold chefs knife. That should take care of your general food prep needs.