What Knives Do Chefs Need

What Knives Do Chefs Need?

The 5 Essential, Must Have Kitchen Knives

By Bobby B. | December 23, 2019  | Blog

There’s no doubt everyone would love to have one of each and every type of kitchen knife made.  You’d obviously never find yourself without the right tool for any job in your kitchen, but quite frankly, that’s not practical or necessary. 

A majority of the tasks you face day in and day out in the kitchen are simple and be performed with just a few essential knives.  The outliers can often also be done with these knives.  It might just not be perfect, or you might even find that you need to use a combination of these knives, but it can be done.  So what knives do chefs need in their kitchen really? 

The 5 Essential Knives Chefs Need

At BladeAdvisor, we believe any chef should be able to get by with just the following knives in their kitchen if pressed by a budget or constrained by storage space.

1. Chef’s Knife

2. Paring Knife

3. Serrated/Bread Knife

4. Slicing Knife

5. Boning/Fillet Knife

1. Chef’s Knife

chefs knife

This is the staple of most kitchens.  At roughly 8 to 10 inches in length, it can cut medium to large foods.  Its shape and weight make it very “all-purpose”, so it can take on numerous different kitchen tasks.   A chef’s knife can slice, dice, chop, mince, and more.  It works great on vegetables and meat alike.  I can also disjoint larger cuts.  This is unlike the remainder of our list that typically all have a specific job that they’re intended for.

There are German styles and French styles, both considered “Western” chef’s knives.  But, one of our favorites is the Japanese-style chef’s knife, also called a Santoku. Santoku knives are unique in their shape, but like most chef’s knives provide cooks with an all-purpose knife.  The biggest difference between santoku knives and chef’s knives are their shape.  Chef’s knives are great for cutting with a rocking motion, whereas santoku knives are great at slicing!

2. Paring Knife

paring knife

Paring knives are likely to be the smallest knife in your kitchen.  They are perfect for cutting up small fruits and vegetables quickly and easily.  The blade on a paring knife is typically between 3″ and 4″, making it easy to even cut food while in your hands rather than using a cutting board.  Due to their small size and the fact that you probably want to have a few paring knives in your kitchen, this is the most common knife chef’s end up going cheap on.

Our advice…get at least one good paring knife and then maybe a few cheaper ones.  You’ll find that the cheap ones break early and often and can’t keep a sharp edge.  Sure, they’re only half the price, but if you’re constantly replacing them, that doesn’t do you any good.

Utility knives are similar to paring knives, only they have slightly longer blades.  While not a necessary tool in your home kitchen, they’re also nice to have for larger fruits and vegetables that aren’t easily cut by a smaller paring knife.  They provide a good, flexible (the reason for the name “utility” knife) option for a wide variety of tasks in the kitchen.

3. Long, Serrated Bread Knife

serrated bread knife

You might be thinking…I don’t make bread. Why do I need a good bread knife?  Whether for bread, tomatoes, or numerous other items, serrated knives are a staple in the kitchen.  The sawing motion of a serrated knife allows the blade to do all the work.  This type of blade is perfect for anything that has a hard outer shell and soft insides (like bread!). 

You don’t have to spend an arm and a leg on a bread knife, but don’t skip over them either.  We know there’s a stigma out there about sharpening serrated knives, but it’s not as hard as you think.  They do a job in the kitchen that nothing else does well.  Have you ever tried to cut a loaf of freshly baked bread with a chef’s knife?  If you have, you know that it just smashes it and tears it to pieces!  That’s a terrible feeling after you took so much time to bake the bread or make your sandwich.  Use the right tools and you’ll be happier.

4. Slicing/Carving Knife

Slicing carving knife

For large cuts of meat (think brisket, whole hams, etc), you’ll want an extra long slicing or carving knife.  If you’ve ever been to a wedding or nice buffet and seen the carving stations you know what we’re talking about.  You know the guy carving the meat with that funny tall, white, paper hat on his head?

Again, no need to spend a lot of money on this particular knife.  You probably won’t use it often in your home kitchen, but you’ll be glad you have one when you need it.  It can make light work of something that would otherwise be very difficult to cut without this tool.  Plus, if you try hard enough, I’m sure you can make yourself one of those funny looking white paper hats too!

5. Boning or Fillet Knife

fillet boning knife

Last, but not least, you’re going to want a fillet knife around.  Similar, but slightly different is a boning knife.  Both are handy to have, but you probably only need one of these knives, and I’ll help you choose.  Do you prepare more fish or large chunks of red meat?  A fillet knife is slightly flexible, which makes it perfect for filleting fish.  Slightly less flexible, the best boning knives are more substantial for more dense meat and cuts where you might encounter bones.

Just so there’s not confusion, boning knives are NOT FOR CUTTING BONES! They are merely for cutting meat away from the bones so it can be used easily.

What About the Other Knives?

Yes, there are many many many other types of kitchen knives.  Are they great to have?… Yes.  Are the essential?… No.

With all the different knife brands making products now, there are new knives coming to market everyday.  Even we’ve never heard of some of them, and we spend our days learning and writing about kitchen knives!  Our recommendation is to start with these five.  That is unless, you opt for a kitchen knife set.  This is your opportunity to get a matching set that includes several different types of knives.  In this case, you might end up finding a good deal on a set that includes a few auxiliary knives not on our list, and that’s okay.

There are German styles and French styles, both considered “Western” chef’s knives.  But, one of our favorites is the Japanese-style chef’s knife, also called a Santoku. Santoku knives are unique in their shape, but like most chef’s knives provide cooks with an all-purpose knife.  The biggest difference between santoku knives and chef’s knives are their shape.  Chef’s knives are great for cutting with a rocking motion, whereas santoku knives are great at slicing!

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