There are so many varieties of knives. But do you know the purpose of each? Here's a guide on each type.
This knife is an all-purpose one used for slicing, chopping, dicing, and crushing. The blade is broad, curved and firm to allow the cook to rock the knife on the cutting board using the tip as a stationary pivot.
The 'back' of the knife can be used to break chicken bones and scrape food from the cutting board while the flat side can be used to crush ingredients like garlic. Because of its sheer size and firmness, it can also be used to slice a watermelon or pumpkin.
Chef's knives are available in sizes ranging between 6 and 12 inches, though the 8-inch one is the most common.
Ideal for peeling, this is a small knife with a plain edge blade. It is designed to be an all-purpose knife, similar to a chef's knife, except it is smaller. Paring knives are usually between 2.5 and 4 inches, as anything larger than about 4 or 5 inches is typically considered a utility knife.
Also known as a turning knife, this one has a pointed tip with a downward curving short 4-inch blade. It is used similarly to a paring knife. It can be used to cut decorative garnishes, for close-up jobs like eyeing potatoes, slicing soft fruit, peeling skins and to cut a turned vegetable. It is not advisable for big vegetables or fruit where its use can be hazardous.
A slicing knife is long and narrow, 8 to 12 inches in length. Slicers are designed to precisely cut small and thin slices of meat, hence are quite flexible.Most chefs find them best suited to slicing fish or barbecued beef. Some slicers have a curved tip to help in tight spots such as between the wing and breast of chicken.
Roast meat slicer
It is akin to a slicing knife but has serrations on the blade, which can carve very thin slices of roast meats without messing up the dish or the table.
Smoked meat or cold cut slicer
It is a very flexible slicer and in the UAE is mostly used for slicing shawarma meat.
Serrated or bread knife
Bread knives are usually between 6 and 10 inches, with 8 inches being a common length. The serrations on the blade make it ideal for slicing bread and other foods like tomatoes. They are very easy to handle and are used in a saw-like motion.
It is like a bread knife but with shallower serrations and is used to slice cakes, pastries especially those with fruit and cream toppings.
It is like a paring knife but with a little bend at the top and a long blade with doublesided serrated edges. Used as its name suggests.
An all-purpose knife has a long serrated edge and blade between 5 and 6 inches long. This knife is generally used in domestic kitchens. It is used to cut and trim meat, large vegetables and sandwiches.
A cleaver is a large, thick rectangular knife that is used to cut meat. The blade, approximately 6 inches long, is very broad and heavy, with a thick spine, enabling the knife to chop through the bone and joints with relative ease.
It is a multipurpose tool used in Asian kitchens. Most varieties are thinner in crosssection than their Western counterpart. The Chinese cleaver is produced in many different sizes and thicknesses for slicing and preparing a wide variety of meat, fish or vegetables.
It is of Japanese origin and is used for chopping, dicing and mincing. It ranges in size from 5 to 7 inches and sports a unique styling like a narrow-bladed cleaver allowing full-blade use. One special feature is the 'granton edge' release pattern (scalloped) on the blades that helps to release thin slices and sticky food after slicing.
Designed to remove bones from raw meat and poultry, this knife has a narrow, rigid blade which curves upwards, making it easy to work the blade around the bones. Its blade is usually between 4 and 7 inches long, which allows the knife to get into small spaces. A stiff boning knife is good for beef, but a flexible boning knife is preferred for poultry and fish.
It is a very flexible boning knife that is used to fillet and prepare fish. It has a blade that is longer than the boning knife, between 7 and 10 inches, allowing it to move easily along the backbone and under the skin of a fish.
This mincing knife, uniquely designed, comprises a half moonshaped blade within a similarly shaped handle or handles perpendicular to the cutting surface. It makes a good rocking motion and is ideal for mincing herbs and nuts. Some models have two blades that are parallel to each other to increase their mincing power.
Clam and oyster knife
An oyster/clam knife has a short thick blunt blade, 1 to 3.2 inches in length, which is used to open and separate oysters from their shells. It can be purchased with or without shields, which protect the chef's hand if it slips.
Other speciality knives
This knife generally has a thick blade with holes in it to prevent the cheese from sticking.
These knives generally have a straight serrated blade that works in a sawing motion and are mainly used in the domestic kitchen for slicing bread and roast meat.
A very expensive knife, it has a very long blade with only one side sharpened to cut thin slices of Sushi/Shashimi fish at one go. It is so sharp that it can even slice paper.
How to buy a knife
Always buy a good quality knife even if it is slightly expensive.
A heavier knife has better control.
Buy specific knives for specific functions.
Make sure that the knife is comfortable to hold, use and maintain.
Before purchase, ask to hold and use the knife on a cutting board.
Know about care and maintenance to keep the edge sharp and if possible ask for a demonstration.
Knife sizes usually indicate the length of the blade.
Regularly re-align the knife edge.
Be gentle while sharpening.
Choose a good quality sharpener.
Always soak stone in water.
Always hold the knife at 15°angle.
Put the stone on some kind of anti-skid cloth or surface.
Don't push too hard.
Don't use sharpener attached to can-opener.
Don't put hand on stone.
Don't get distracted.
Don't talk while sharpening.
Put the hand under the sharpening steel handle.
Styles of cutting
Hold the knife firmly and in such a way that your nails are behind your knuckles. Start cutting by using the whole body of the knife.
For vegetables, cut from back to front and for meat cut from front to back.
Always keep the knife sharpened as a sharp knife goes where you want it to go and a blunt knife goes where it wants to go. Also you get tired fast if the knife is blunt as it requires double the pressure and effort.
Care, safety and maintenance
Cleaning It's advised that you wash a knife manually. Though most knives are dishwasher safe, they are exposed to harsh detergents and high temperatures with a greater chance of colliding against other utensils. If washed in a dishwasher, or otherwise, knives should be immediately dried after washing to prevent corrosion. Soap and hot water should be used to clean the knife after it has been used to cut poultry, meat or fish.
Storage To protect the blades, knives should be stored in a knife block (in a slanted block with vertical openings) with their edges up, or in sheaths or on a magnetic wall rack.
Sharpening There are mainly two kinds of sharpeners - stone and steel, and all cooks should use them to keep blades in good condition. Knives should always be sharpened away from the body.
Stone knife sharpener
They are small blocks with one side rough and the other smooth. The stone should be soaked in water and should be wet/damp while sharpening. When using a stone, the knife should be rubbed softly at a 15°angle along the stone, making sure to rub both sides of the knife evenly (20 to 30 strokes on each side).
These are like rods which come in different styles like round, oval and grids. Most common are round rods. While sharpening, start from the heel of the knife and rub the knife to the point. It is also good to give knives a good sharpening occasionally with a good professional knife sharpener.
Utensils with sharpeners at pre-set angles, such as crock sticks and hand-held sharpeners, should also be used sparingly, since they usually are made of ceramic or other hard substances that will remove a lot of metal.