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How to Choose the Right Kitchen Knife for the Right Job

If reaching for the nearest knife in your block to tackle a cutting job is your idea of knife skills, it’s time for a little re-education! Matching the right blade to the task will help speed up prep time and produce the best results. Ready to sharpen up your knife know-how?

Here’s how to use four common pieces of cutlery:

The Chef’s Knife

Let’s be honest – using a large knife in the kitchen is fun and makes you feel kind of fancy. Lucky for you, we know just the knife you need that’s big, yet useful: the chef’s knife.

What it is: This tool tends to be about 7 to 10 inches long and about 1.5 inches wide. For people with smaller hands, stick with a shorter length. You’ll have more control, and it’ll fit better in your palm.

What it’s used for: This knife is extremely versatile. For example, you can use it to cut carrots, onion, fish and meat, just to name a few. You can also use this knife for a variety of cuts, such as chopping, dicing and julienne.

The Serrated Knife

Smooth blades are useful and they look sleek, but sometimes a serrated blade is a better option.

What it is: Various knives come with serrated blades, but you should at least have a serrated utility knife in your kitchen. This tool is about 4 to 7 inches long, which makes handling the knife easy.

What it’s used for: The rough edge grips fruit or vegetable skin easily and provides stability when cutting. A few examples of what this knife should be used to cut include tomatoes, peppers, oranges and flaky pastries. You’ll mostly use this blade for slicing because the serrated edge of the knife means you have to use a back-and-forth motion when cutting.

The Paring Knife

What it is: This style of knife tends to range in length from 2 to 4 inches and tapers to a point at the end – the small size makes it feel like it’s an extension of your arm, so it’s relatively easy to handle.

What it’s used for: You can use this tool for a variety of small tasks, but it’s most commonly used to peel and slice soft fruits and vegetables (such as mushrooms and strawberries) and for deveining seafood. The sharp blade can quickly remove skins without squishing the fruit, and its size will allow you more control with those delicate jobs.

A pepper and paring knife on a cutting board.
The right knives make food preparation faster and easier.

The Bread Knife

Homemade bread is amazing – the crisp crust and soft center are enough to bring your kids running to the kitchen as soon as the bread comes out of the oven. However, a good loaf can be ruined in seconds if you don’t use the proper knife.

What it is: Trying to cut your slices using a normal blade will put too much pressure on the bread and result in a flattened loaf, or you’ll end up shredding the delicate insides. For fluffy, even slices, use a bread knife. A bread knife is about the same length as a chef’s knife, but the tool has a serrated edge.

What it’s used for: Along with bread, this knife can be used to prepare other foods that have a firm skin and soft inside. For example, melons and soft desserts like meringue work well with this blade.

A loaf of bread and a bread knife on a cutting board. Use the proper knife when slicing bread so your pieces come out even and round.

How To Choose the Best Knife

Choosing knives for your collection should be done with care. You’ll be using these tools for a long time, so here are a few things you should look for when picking the best cutlery:

Full tang: Choose a full-tang knife, in which the metal runs from the tip of the knife through the covered handle. The construction provides extra stability.

Blade construction: Knife blades can be forged or stamped. A forged blade’s metal was hammered into the shape of a knife before being heated and cooled for hardness. These blades tend to be less flexible and are less likely to bend after years of use.

Stamped blades, on the other hand, is stamped or cut from a flat sheet of metal. This tool is usually lighter and a little cheaper than the forged blade.

Handle: If you can, hold the knife you’re interested in before buying it. This way, you can determine if the handle fits well in your palm and feels well-balanced.

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6 Responses to How to Choose the Right Kitchen Knife for the Right Job

  1. Heather July 11, 2016 at 6:41 pm #

    I just need to the proper way of cleaning my pampered chef knife, I seem to remember you should use a certain water temp and can not use the dishwasher.

  2. Kathleen Bellow August 22, 2016 at 1:21 pm #

    Hi Heather

    Here is the best and recommended care for your awesome knives.

    Wash knife immediately after use; rinse and towel dry immediately. Hand-wash only.
    Wipe outside of cover with a damp cloth prior to first use and towel dry thoroughly.

  3. Esther October 26, 2016 at 4:25 pm #

    I bought the knife and block set not sure about all the different knives and what to use, the above comments were not too helpful. Also do I need to store my knives in the cover or is the block ok?

    • Crystal November 21, 2016 at 11:49 am #

      Ester,

      You made a excellent purchase. Our knives are some of my favorite products and I even had a very nice block set that I received as a wedding gift (I never use those anymore). It may help you to go to our product page and read about each knife and see the pictures showing the knife in use.

      To answer your other question. It is perfectly fine to store your knives in the block. Hold on to the covers though, they are great for when you want to take your knife to a picnic, camping, etc.

    • Kirsten Griffith December 6, 2016 at 2:29 pm #

      Esther,

      I don’t know if you’ve receive the answers you are looking for but thought I’d try to help.
      The Utility Knife-your most commonly used knife. Use it for general cutting, like meats, veges, fruit (not large ones like melons), and even cheese (though a cheese knife is my choice for cheese).
      The Paring Knife and Petite Paring Knife-for small cutting jobs. Use it for jalapenos, butter, strawberrries, etc.
      The 5″ and 7″ Santoku Knives- use for similar cutting jobs as the Utility Knife plus melons (my favorite knife is the 7″ Santoku). These knives are for dicing, chopping, and mincing. Use it for veges, melons, and cheese. If you watch any cooking shows, you’ll see they often use knives similar to the Santoku Knife. With practice, you may even be able to chop like them! I like the 7″ Santoku for watermelon and honeydew melon because the “dimples” on the side of the knife help prevent it from getting stuck in the middle of the big melon. I’ve gotten stuck with the Chef’s Knife doing it! LOL! While some people use these knives for cutting meats, I don’t. I like the Chef’s Knife better for that purpose.
      The Chef’s Knife-great for meat and carving. You can use it for a lot of the same purposes as the Santoku knife and the Utility Knife. It works great for carving turkey, chicken, etc. (if you don’t already have the Carving Set which is no longer available), ribs, roasts, and hams.
      The Serrated Knife-similar to the Utility Knife with a serrated edge. Use it for cutting meat, veges, and fruit. I like it for slippery, raw chicken. The serrate edge helps ease cutting due to the kind of edge it is. I also works great on smaller loaves of bread like French bread. You don’t have to apply much pressure as you cut so you don’t squish it.
      The Bread Knife-great for breads and cakes. Again, the serrated edge of the knife makes cutting into softer food, like bread and angle food cake, easy so you don’t squish it as you are cutting. You’ll use a sawing motion to gently work your way through.
      The Boning Knife-more of a specialty cutting knife. It has a slightly flexible blade to make trimming meat easier. Some cuts of meat (like pork tenderloins) come with a tough membrane than should be removed prior to cooking (it becomes tough with cooking and is not really meant to be eaten). It can also be used to debone fish (I’ve never done this because I have never processed whole fish).

      Cleaning is easy. Wash soon after use in hot, soapy water and dry right away. Never put them in the dishwasher.

      Store your knives after completely dry in either the original storage covers or in the Bamboo Knife Block. Save your covers in case you need to transport your knife somewhere.

      Hope this helps!! Enjoy your knives! They are a kitchen essential.

  4. M.Mayer from smartlyreviewed.com December 15, 2016 at 8:41 am #

    Hi,
    What kind of cheese slicer do you recommend for bulk cheese cutting ?

    Thanks

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