There are so many types of knives, we cover the different blades, characteristics, shapes, sizes, and the knives and their uses. But did you know that each type of knife, each designed for specific purposes?
Whether you're a beginner trying to figure out what knife to buy for your kitchen or an experienced outdoorsman looking for the perfect blade for your next camping trip, this post is for you!
Knowing the best types of kitchen knives will certainly up your chef game!
⬇️ Table of Contents
- Types of Knives
- Knife Physical Characteristics
- Knife Blade Edges
- Chef Knife
- Chinese Chef Knife
- Japanese Knife
- 🔪 Granton Knife
- Boning Knife
- Serrated Knife
- Butcher Knife
- Carving Knife
- Slicing Knife
- Mincing Knife
- Cheese Knives
- Meat Cleaver Knife
- Oyster Knife
- Decorating Knife
- Paring Knife
- Tourne Knife
- Fillet Knife
- Tomato Knife
- Grapefruit Knife
- Knife Physical Characteristics
Types of Knives
There are many types of knives, each with its specific purpose. Here is a list of some of the most common types of knives and what they are typically used for.
Knife Physical Characteristics
There are two common characteristics of knife blade shapes in western chef's knives, French and German. German-style knives are more deeply and continuously curved along the whole cutting edge; the French-style edge of the knife is straighter until the end and then curves up to the tip.
Forged - A forged chef's knife is a knife that is made in a special way. The blade is made from a single piece of metal, which is heated and then shaped. This type of knife is considered to be very strong and durable, and it is often used by professional chefs.
Forged knives are usually more expensive than other types of knives, but they can last for many years if they are properly cared for. If you are looking for a forged chef's knife, you should know that there are many different brands and styles to choose from.
Find a knife that is comfortable for you to hold and that has a blade that is the right size for your needs. It is also important to find a knife that is made from high-quality steel.
Stamped: A kitchen knife made from a stainless steel alloy. This type of knife is known for its sharpness and resistance to corrosion. Stainless steel chef knives are available in various grades, with the higher grades being more expensive and offering better performance. Exotic stainless steel chef knives from Japan are some of the most expensive and sought-after knives available due to their exceptional quality and performance.
Laminated chef knives are kitchen knives made out of different types of materials laminated together. This creates a knife that has the best properties of each material - for instance, a softer-but-tough steel as the backing material and a sharper/harder - but more brittle - steel as the edge material. This makes for a knife that is both durable and sharp, making it ideal for the kitchen. The main benefit of laminated chef knives is that they are able to retain their sharpness for longer than other types of knives. This is due to the harder steel used as the edge material, which is more resistant to wear and tear. Laminated chef knives are also less likely to chip and break than other types of knives, making them a more durable option.
Ceramic Blade Knives
Ceramic blade knives are made of materials like zirconium oxide powder that hold an edge the longest of all but can chip easily and even break if dropped. They also require special equipment and expertise to resharpen, so they are not as commonly used as other types of knives. However, they are known for being chemically nonreactive, meaning they will not discolor or change the taste of food.
The blade of a chef's knife is typically made of carbon steel, stainless steel, a laminate of both metals, or ceramic:
Carbon steel: An alloy of iron and carbon, chef's knives made of carbon steel are easy to sharpen and hold an edge longer than stainless steel knives, but they can rust or corrode if not taken care of. Some professional cooks prefer carbon steel knives for their sharpness, but others find them too maintenance-intensive in a kitchen environment.
High Carbon Steel
They are made of a stainless steel alloy that has a relatively high amount of carbon compared to other stainless alloys. This increased carbon content allows the knives to maintain a sharp edge for a reasonable amount of time and resist discoloration or staining. While they may be more expensive than other types of knives, they are often made of higher quality materials that increase strength, edge-holding, and cutting ability.
Stainless steel: An iron alloy, approximately 10-15% of chromium, nickel, or molybdenum, with only a small amount of carbon. Lower grades of stainless steel cannot take as sharp an edge as good-quality high-carbon steels but are resistant to corrosion and inexpensive. Higher grade and 'exotic' stainless steels (mostly from Japan) are extremely sharp with excellent edge retention and equal or outperform carbon steel blades.
Laminated: A laminated knife tries to use the best of each material by creating a layered sandwich of different materials—for instance, using softer-but-tough steel as the backing material and a sharper/harder - but more brittle - steel as the edge material.
Ceramic blades hold an edge the longest, but they chip easily and may break if dropped. They also require special equipment and expertise to resharpen. They are sintered to shape with zirconium oxide powder. They are chemically nonreactive, so they will not discolor or change food taste.
Titanium is lighter and more wear-resistant than steel, making it a good knife material. However, it's not as hard as steel, so it might not be the best choice for a chef's knife. Titanium knives are typically more expensive than steel knives, but that may not always be the case. If you're looking for a titanium knife, be sure to shop around and compare prices.
Some people believe that using a plastic knife is safer than using a metal knife because it won't cut as deeply into the flesh and therefore cause more bleeding. However, plastic knives can still cut or scratch the skin and should be used cautiously.
Knife Blade Edges
The edge may be ground in different ways:
- Double grind, V-shape, single or double Bevel.
- Convex edge.
- Single grind or chisel edge.
In order to improve the chef's knife's multi-purpose abilities, some owners employ differential sharpening along the length of the blade. The fine tip, used for precision work such as mincing, might be ground with a very sharp, acute cutting bevel; the midsection or belly of the blade receives a moderately sharp edge for general cutting, chopping, and slicing, while the heavy heel or back of the cutting edge is given a strong, thick edge for such heavy-duty tasks as disjointing beef.
A technique for the use of a chef's knife is an individual preference. For more precise control, most cooks prefer to grip the blade itself, with the thumb and the index finger grasping the blade just to the front of the finger guard and the middle finger placed just opposite, on the handle side of the finger guard below the bolster. This is commonly referred to as a "pinch grip". Those without culinary training often grip the handle, with all four fingers and the thumb gathered underneath.
For fine slicing, the handle is raised up and down while the tip remains in contact with the cutting board and the cut object is pushed under the blade.
Types of chef's knives, Chef's knife is a cutting tool used in food preparation. The chef's knife was originally designed to slice and disjoint large cuts of beef. Today it is the primary general-utility knife for most western cooks.
Let's look and cover popular kitchen knives and their uses.
A chef's knife generally has a blade eight inches (20 centimeters) in length and 1 1⁄2 inches (3.8 cm) in width, although individual models range from 6 to 14 inches (15 to 36 centimeters) in length.
Chinese Chef Knife
A Chinese chef's knife is a type of knife that is multi-purpose and used in Chinese cuisine to prepare meat, fish, and vegetables. It is also known as a Caidao or "vegetable knife", "Chinese cleaver," or "chopper." The knife is typically rectangular in shape with a thin blade designed for slicing, chopping, and mincing. Heavier Gudao or bone knives are also produced and used to prepare larger sides of the meat. However, these heavier knives are not as common in the West.
Caidao Chinese Cleaver
Caidao or the 'Chinese cleaver,' is not a cleaver, and most manufacturers warn that it should not be used as a cleaver. It is more properly referred to as a Chinese chef's knife and is a general-purpose knife analogous to the French types of knives or the Japanese santoku.
The confusion arises from the fact that Chinese chefs' knives are rectangular and that some (particularly older, traditional knives made of carbon steel) have somewhat heavy blades. Also, the blade is heavier toward the tip encourages skilled Chinese chefs to use a swinging or "tapping" stroke and a "pushing" stroke.
However, the edge has the gradual bevel of a chef's knife and will most probably be damaged if used for splitting a bone. Actual cleavers in China have the same profile as chef's knives but have much thicker blades with a sharp bevels and heavier handles.
Modern Chinese Knives
Modern Chinese knives are general-purpose kitchen knives that vary in the thickness of the blade. The three types of Chinese knives are slicers, choppers, and cleavers. Slicers are thin and sharp and are used for cutting vegetables and mincing herbs.
Choppers have thicker blades than slicers and are used for slicing, chopping, and mincing meat, vegetables, and herbs.
Cleavers have the thickest and heaviest blades and are used for chopping through thin, soft bones such as fish and poultry or hard-shelled seafood such as lobsters.
The Santoku has a straighter edge than a chef's knife, with a blunted sheep foot-tip blade and a thinner spine, particularly near the point. From 12 cm to 18 cm (5 to 7 inches) long, a Japanese Santoku is well-balanced, normally flat-ground, and generally lighter and thinner than its Western counterparts. This construction allows the knife to slice thin-boned and boneless meats, fish, and vegetables.
Many subsequent Western and Asian copies of the Japanese Santoku do not always incorporate these features, resulting in reduced cutting ability. Some Western Santoku-pattern knives are fitted with Kullen/Kuhlen scallops on the sides of the blade above the edge to reduce the sticking of foods and reduce cutting friction. In recent years, a standard in Asian (especially Japanese) kitchens, the santoku, and its Western copies have become very popular with chefs in Europe and the United States.
Sashimi Bōchō Knife
Yanagi ba (left) and Tako hiki (right)
Tako hiki, yanagi ba, and fugu hiki are types of knives are long thin knives used in the Japanese kitchen, belonging to the group of Sashimi bōchō to prepare sashimi, sliced raw fish and seafood.
Similar to the nakiri bocho, the style differs slightly between Tokyo and Osaka. In Osaka, the yanagi ba has a pointed end, whereas in Tokyo the tako hiki has a rectangular end. The tako hiki is usually used to prepare octopus. A fugu hiki is similar to the yanagi ba, except that the blade is thinner. As the name indicates, the fugu hiki is traditionally used to slice very thin fugu sashimi.
The length of the knife is suitable for medium-sized filleting fish. For large fish such as tuna, longer specialized knives exist, for example, the almost two-meter-long oroshi hocho, or the slightly shorter hancho hocho.
Nakiri Bōchō Knife
Nakiri bocho, or Nakiri knife, is Osaka style on the left and Tokyo style on the right
Nakiri bocho and usuba bocho are Japanese-style vegetable knives. They differ from the deba bocho in their shape, as they have a straight blade edge suitable for cutting all the way to the cutting board without the need for a horizontal pull or push.
These knives are also much thinner. While the deba bocho is a heavy blade for easy cutting through thin bones, the blade is not suitable for chopping vegetables, as the thicker blade can break the vegetable slice. The nakiri bocho and the usuba bocho have much thinner blades and are used for cutting vegetables.
Nakiri Bocho Knives
Nakiri bocho are knives for home use and usually have a black blade. The shape of the nakiri bocho differs according to the region of origin, with knives in the Tokyo area being rectangular in shape, whereas the knives in the Osaka area have a rounded corner on the far blunt side. The cutting edge is angled from both sides, called ryoba in Japanese. This makes it easier to cut straight slices.
Usuba Bocho Knives
Usuba bocho are types of knives used for vegetable knives by professionals. They differ from the Nakiri bocho in the shape of the cutting edge. While the nakiri bocho is sharpened from both sides, the usuba bocho is sharpened only from one side, a style known as kataba in Japanese.
The highest quality kataba blades even have a slight depression on the flat side. This kataba style edge gives better cuts and allows for the cutting of thinner slices than the ryoba used for nakiri bocho, but requires more skill to use. The sharpened side is usually the right side for a right-hand use of the knife, but knives sharpened on the left side are also available for left-hand use. The usuba bocho is also slightly heavier than a nakiri bocho, although still much lighter than a deba bocho.
🔪 Usuba Bōchō Knife
Usuba knives are Japanese knives used primarily for chopping vegetables. Both the spine and edge are straight, making them resemble cleavers, though they are much lighter.
🔪 Deba Bōchō Knife
Deba knives are Japanese knives used primarily for cutting fish. They have 18 cm to 30 cm (7 to 12 inches) long blades with a curved spine.
🔪 Granton Knife
Away from the edge, a knife most simply has either a rectangular or wedge-shaped cross-section (saber grind vs. flat grind), but may also have indentations, whose purpose is to reduce the adhesion of the food to the blade. This is widely found in Japanese knives and, in the West, is particularly found in meat carving knives, knives for soft cheese, and some for vegetables.
These indentations take many forms:
Granton knives have semi-circular scallops ground into the edge that alternate on either side of the knife and extend from the edge to the middle of the blade. This design was developed and patented in 1928 by Wm.Grant & Sons Ltd. A similar design, kullenschliff (kulle is Swedish for hill (or -more likely- a misspelling of the German word "Kuhle" meaning "hollow" or "deepening"); schliff meaning "cut" or grind in German), has oval scallops (kuhlen) hollowed-out of one or both sides of the blade above the edge. The Granton design is normally found on meat carving knives but have recently appeared on other types of knives, especially Western variations of the Japanese santoku. The indentations require a certain thickness, so they are more frequently used on thicker, softer blades, rather than on thin, hard ones. The design of scallop-sided blades is an attempt to ease the cutting and separation of meats, cheese, and vegetables.
Urasuki is a common feature of Japanese kitchen knives. While Japanese kitchen knives initially appear as a simple chisel grind (flat on the side facing the food, angled on the other), the flat side is subtly concave to reduce adhesion, and, further, the apparent chisel cut of the edge is a small bevel, as otherwise the edge would be weakened by the concave area above.
A knife for soft cheese, with holes to reduce adhesion.
- Holes may also be found in a blade, further reducing adhesion. These are mostly found in knives for soft cheese, which is particularly soft and sticky.
A boning knife is a type of kitchen knife with a sharp point and a narrow blade. It is used in food preparation to remove poultry, meat, and fish bones.
Generally 12 cm to 17 cm (5 to 6 ½ in) in length (although many brands, such as Samoan Cutlery, have been known to extend up to 9 ½ inches), it features a very narrow blade. Boning knives are not as thick-bladed as some other popular kitchen or butcher knives, making precision boning easier, especially deep cuts and holes. A stiff boning knife is good for boning beef and pork, but a very flexible boning knife is preferred for poultry and fish.
Some designs feature an arched blade to enhance the ease of a single-pass cut in removing fish flesh from its bones.
Serrated knives are able to cut soft bread without crushing it; one was exhibited at the World's Columbian Exposition in 1893 in Chicago by the Friedrich Dick company (Esslingen, Germany). One design was patented in the United States by Joseph E. Burns of Syracuse, New York. His knife had sections of grooves or serrations, inclined with respect to the axis of the blade, that form individual small cutting edges that were perpendicular to the blade and thus cut without the excessive normal pressure required of a scalloped blade and without the horizontal force required by positive-raked teeth that would dig into the bread as a wood saw. There were also sections of grooves with the opposite direction of inclination, separated by a section of the smooth blade, and the knife thus cut cleanly in both directions in both hard and soft bread.
Bread knives are usually between 15 cm and 25 cm (6 and 10 inches).
An offset bread knife 'doglegs' the handle above but parallel to the blade (rather than inline with it, although some are angled), providing clearance for the user's knuckles. This design makes it easier for the user to cut fully through the loaf without using an awkward grip, angling and 'see-sawing' the blade, or needing to position the knife handle over the edge of the counter or cutting board. While fairly specialized and unnecessary for most kitchens (and breads), the offset design is well-suited for high-volume/'production' work where much bread - particularly e.g. crusty loaves of baguette-type bread - is cut regularly and/or over long periods, to reduce fatigue. An alternative seen mostly in Europe is a baguette "chopper" or "guillotine" - not properly a knife, and prone to produce more of a "crushing" cut depending on the bread - but serving the same function.
Today the butcher knife is used throughout the world in the meat processing trade. The heftier blade works well for splitting, stripping, and cutting meat. The French chef's knife is a derivation of the butcher knife and is used as a general utility knife. Other similar meat-cutting knives include the carving knife and the cleaver. The carving knife usually is designed for slicing thin cuts of meat and often has a blunt or rounded point, with a scalloped or Granton blade to improve the separation of sliced cuts of meat. The cleaver is similar to the butcher's knife but has a lighter and thinner blade for precision cutting.
From the late 18th century to the mid-1840s, the butcher knife was a key tool for mountain men. Simple, useful, and cheap to produce, they were used for everything from skinning beaver, cutting food, self-defense, and scalping. During this time John Wilson, of Sheffield, England, was a major exporter of this type of knife to the Americans. These knives can be identified by brand markings and the stamp I. Wilson.
Heavy cleavers were traditionally hung on a hook blade up for ease of access. Hook through the blade keeps the it under control and leaves easy access to the handle when hung at chest height or a little higher carving knife.
A carving knife is a large knife (between 20 cm and 38 cm (8 and 15 inches)) that is used to slice thin cuts of meat, including poultry, roasts, hams, etc. A carving knife is much thinner than a chef's knife (particularly at the spine), enabling it to carve thinner, more precise slices.
A slicing knife serves a similar function to a carving knife, although it is generally longer and narrower. Slicers may have plain or serrated edges. Such knives often incorporate blunted or rounded tips, and feature kullenschliff (Swedish/German: "hill-sharpened") or Granton edge (scalloped blades) to improve meat separation. 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 ham, roasts, fish, or barbecued beef and pork and venison.
Also known as a Mezzaluna (Italian: "half moon") because of the shape, a mincing knife is a semicircular highly curved blade with a handle that can be rocked back and forth repeatedly on a hard surface. This rocking motion is ideal for mincing and chopping. Some mincing knives are supplied with a wooden cutting board with a circular bowl-shaped indentation that matches the curvature of the knife. Some models have two blades that are parallel to each other to increase their mince power.
Large mezzaluna-like knives with shallow curves are sometimes used to cut pizza, though the rolling pizza cutter is more common for this purpose.
Cheese is varied and can be a challenge to cut. Accordingly, various types of cheese knives and cheese cutting utensils have been developed. A wire, rather than a knife, is often used to cut cheese.
Soft Cheese Knife
Soft cheese knives are specially designed for slicing soft cheese. They generally have holes in the blade to prevent the cheese from sticking. Wire cheese cutters are also used.
Hard Cheese Knife
Hard cheese knives are specially designed for slicing hard cheese. They are sharp, so they can cut exact slices, and often have a forked tip, allowing them to be used as a serving utensil as well. Cheese slicers are also used.
Parmesan Cheese Knife
Parmesan cheese knives are specially designed for portioning very hard cheeses. They have very short, thick blades that are forced into the cheese and then used as a lever to break off smaller portions. (Slicing hard cheese is considered improper by connoisseurs, since the cheese - when broken apart - has more surface area, and thus more air contact, which strengthens the apparent scent and taste of the cheese.)
Meat Cleaver Knife
A meat cleaver is a large, most often rectangular knife that is used for splitting or "cleaving" meat and bone. A cleaver may be distinguished from a kitchen knife of similar shape by the fact that it has a heavy blade that is thick from the spine to quite near the edge. The edge is sharply beveled and the bevel is typically convex.
The knife is designed to cut with a swift stroke without cracking, splintering, or bending the blade. Many cleavers have a hole, in the end, to allow them to be easily hung on a rack. Cleavers are an essential tool for any restaurant that prepares its own meat. The cleaver most often found in a home knife set is a light-duty cleaver about 6 in (15 cm) long. Heavy cleavers with much thicker blades are often found in the trade.
A "lobster splitter" is a light-duty cleaver used mainly for shellfish and fowl which has the profile of a chef's knife. The Chinese chef's knife is sometimes called a "Chinese cleaver", due to the rectangular blade, but it is unsuitable for cleaving, its thin blade is instead designed for slicing; actual Chinese cleavers are heavier and similar to Western cleavers.
A cleaver is most popularly known as a butcher knife which is commonly used by chefs for cutting big slices of meat and poultry.
An oyster knife has a short, thick blade that is used to pry open oysters and separate their meat from the shell (shucking). Some models have a shield built into the handle that prevents the knife (and hand) from slipping and going too far into the shell. The handle is normally thick and short, with a bulbous end.
Some notable styles include:
- French: Has a straight, thin blade suited to Ostrea edulis, a common oyster in France.
- Providence: This type is long and narrow.
- New Haven: The blade is fairly wide and blunt. The tip is angled upward
A decorating knife has a blade designed to make a decorative cut. The most common pattern is a simple zigzag. Decorating knives are used for making fancy cuts for garnishes and presentations.
A pairing knife is a small, thin knife used for precise work, such as paring fruit or vegetables. It is typically between 2 and 4 inches in length. Pairing knives often have a blunt tip, which makes them ideal for peeling or slicing fruits and vegetables with delicate skin. The small size of the knife also allows for more control when working with small items.
A tourne knife is a type of kitchen knife that has a specially curved blade. This design allows the knife to be easily rotated around its own axis, making it ideal for performing delicate slicing and chopping motions.
Tourne knives are often used by professional chefs to create intricate garnishes and decorations. However, they can also be used for more basic tasks such as slicing vegetables or chopping herbs.
Fillet knives are very flexible boning knives that are used to fillet and prepare fish. They have blades about 15 cm to 28 cm (6 to 11 inches) long, allowing them to move easily along the backbone and under the skin of fish.
A tomato knife is a small serrated kitchen knife designed to slice through tomatoes. The serrated edge allows the knife to penetrate the tomatoes’ skin quickly and with minimal pressure without crushing the flesh. Many tomato knives have forked tips that allow the user to lift and move the tomato slices after cutting them.
Serrations are not required to cut tomatoes – a sharp straight blade works – but the serrations allow the knife to cut tomatoes and other foods even when dull. This is because most of the cutting takes place in the serrations themselves. Some knives have serrations on both sides, allowing easy slicing for both left-handed and right-handed users. Bread knives and steak knives are similarly serrated.
A grapefruit knife has a long, flat, dull blade that is used to separate the flesh of a grapefruit from the peel and inner membranes. The blade is usually serrated with a blunt tip. Some knives even have a different blade style on each end of the handle – one for the inner membrane, one for the peel – and some have a double blade at the inner membrane end to cut on both sides of the membrane.
Knife Physical Characteristics
Knife blades are typically measured in inches or millimeters. Knife blades have a thickness or width typically measured in fractions of an inch. Knife blades can be either hollow ground or full flat ground.