Not all knives are created equal. Using the right knife for the right job doesn’t just improve the quality of your cuts, it’s also a safety measure. If you understand what knives to use for different tasks, you’ll prevent injuries and save yourself time and effort in the kitchen. Students taking cooking classes in Boulder have to familiarize themselves with many different knives to succeed. Here are the different knives commonly used for culinary arts and the best job for each of them:
It’s right there in the name: The chef’s knife is one of the most frequently used and versatile tools in the kitchen. Chef’s knives are typically between 8 and 10 inches, although they can be as short as 6 inches and as long as 14 inches. You’ll use your chef’s knife for most of your slicing during food prep, and in many ways, it will be the most important tool you use.
A paring knife is basically a small chef’s knife, and should be used for the same tasks on a smaller scale. Don’t use this kind of knife for any hard vegetables, since its light weight can cause you to use an unsafe amount of force. Paring knives are great for peeling, mincing and detailed cutting.
Long, thin and strong, this knife is used to remove meat from the bone. Its thinness allows you to move with the curves and bends of the bone and separate the meat effectively, leaving as little behind as possible. When using a boning knife, do not attempt to cut through bones.
Once again, this knife’s name is not particularly subtle. The bread knife cuts through bread. Its serrated edge lets it slice bread without tearing the loaf apart.
Soft cheeses often stick to knives, which is why cheese knives have holes in them. These holes reduce the cheese’s surface contact with the knife, and cuts down on sticking. Be mindful of the sharpness of your knife when cutting cheese, as harder cheese will require a sharper knife.
Tomatoes are notoriously hard to slice because their skin is prone to tearing. Very small serrations on the tomato knife’s blade grip the skin of the tomato and reduce tears, allowing you to slice through easily.
Cleavers are heavy, sharp knives used to cut through bones. Their size and weight help you drive them down through meat and bones, letting you prepare your meat yourself. While this knife isn’t particularly common in home kitchens, many chefs in restaurants use them, so they have total control over their cuts of meat.
A mincing knife is a curved knife that is held with both hands and used by rocking it back and forth. This knife can quickly mince vegetables or herbs into very small pieces with minimal effort.
If a chef wants his or her food to have a designed edge (for example, cut in a zig-zag pattern), he or she can use a decorating knife. Decorating knives have patterns in the blade that appear on the foods it cuts.