Chefs Guide to Buying Knives

Posted by Blog post courtesy of Dexter Russell

Chefs are very particular about their knives. It’s got to feel good in your hand and do the job swiftly and succinctly. But not every knife is equal. Each type of knife has a specific function and purpose. When it comes to buying knives, you need to know its proper usage and function. Here’s a breakdown of different types of knives and what they can do.  

Paring Knife
There are four styles of paring knives: curved, spear, sharp, and clip point. For things like finely sliced pepper rings, slivered olives or cherries use a curved or sharp point paring knife. A paring or spear point knife can be used to remove corn from the cob, break up heads of lettuce or cabbage, peel fruit or vegetables, or cut beans. The clip point is used for eyeing potatoes, seeding, peeling, and pitting.

Utility Knife
A sharp 6” utility knife is most efficient for slicing non-solid fruits and vegetables, such as tomatoes or squash. Steel blades are useful for cutting large melon rings, cutting heads of lettuce into wedges, preparing cabbage for shredding, and halving grapefruits and oranges.

Boning Knife
Blades vary in length from 4” to 8”. Many cooks simplify carving and get extra servings by boning out a roast when it is partially cooked. For boning roasts, whole hams, lamb legs, veal legs, and filleting fish, a narrow flexible blade is best. The wider stiff blade is used for cutting raw meat and many other trimming operations on less thick cuts of meat.

Butcher, Cimeter Steak Knife and Cleaver
For the odd jobs in the kitchen, the butcher and cimeter steak knives can be used for dicing salt pork, cubing cooled meats, cutting steaks, or trimming raw meat. Many cooks substitute the favorite forged cook’s knife for jobs normally done with these knives. The cleaver is used for opening lobsters, cutting poultry and joints.

Chef’s Knife (or Cook’s Knife)
Available in lengths for 6” to 12”, this knife has more uses than any other one knife in the kitchen. The blade is wide at the handle and tapers to a point. Deep choil knives protect knuckles when dicing or mincing things like celery, onions, nut meats, parsley, and peppers. When properly used, the chef positions the point of the knife on the cutting board beyond the food to be diced or sliced and, without lifting the point, works the knife in a rocking motion to cut evenly and rapidly. The chef’s knife can be used for carving hot roasts also. The blade may be forged or not forged.

Slicers and Carvers
The most important carving knife is the roast beef slicer, most often used to carve rounds, boneless roasts, boiled briskets, pot roasts, butt roasts, and standing rib roasts. The narrow cold meat slicer or ham slicer is used to slice ham or leftover cold roasts of all kinds. The wide, stiff blade does a better job on hot meats, whereas the narrow, more flexible blade cuts cold meat more efficiently.
Although some knives such as the chef’s knife and paring knife are versatile tools in every kitchen, there are certain tasks that call for specialty knives. But after doing research, you can have the right knife for every kitchen task.

Blog post courtesy of Dexter Russell.

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