Most Commonly Used Knives and Why

In a previous blog article, we discussed some of the most useful specialty knives: boning knives, santoku knives, and carving knives. In this post, we thought we’d look at some more common knives.

Chef’s knives, paring knives, and bread knives are kitchen must-haves. Here’s why.

Chef’s Knife

If there’s one knife everyone with a kitchen should have, it’s a chef’s knife. The chef’s knife can do just about every slicing, dicing, and chopping task under the sun, tackling anything from fruits and vegetables to meat. It’s possibly the most important tool that a home chef can have.

Because the chef’s knife is so integral to the kitchen, it’s essential to find one that works for you. Look for a chef’s knife designed for general-purpose use. It should have enough curve along the blade to chop repetitively with smooth ease. (Fun knife fact: A more curved blade is typical in traditional German knives, compared to Japanese knives like the santoku.) It should be hefty enough to cut through meat as well, and it should have a handle that permits a steady grip over extended use.

Your chef’s knife should also be rust and stain resistant, to ensure that it’s in it for the long haul. Taking care of your chef’s knife will also help with durability. Don’t use it to cut on hard surfaces like glass or metal, which will wear away the blade. Keep your knife sharpened, and store it in a safe place — such as a knife block, instead of a cluttered drawer — to protect the blade.

Paring Knife

A paring knife is a small knife used to do fine cutting work. Its talent is in the detail work it can do — because of its size, it can get into nooks and crannies with agility. And because its blade is super sharp, once it gets into those nooks and crannies, it can slice away precisely and easily.

Don’t underestimate the paring knife because it’s small. Like Muggsy Bogues, its size is critical to what makes it such a key player. Some of the tasks that a paring knife is great for are coring and peeling an apple or tomato, mincing garlic, zesting citrus fruit, and deveining shrimp.

Bread Knife

“‘A loaf of bread,’ the Walrus said, ‘is what we chiefly need: Pepper and vinegar besides are very good indeed.’” — Lewis Carroll, “The Walrus and the Carpenter”

With all due respect to the Walrus, we think he’d do better to swap out the pepper and vinegar for a solid bread knife. How can you enjoy a seaside meal of oysters and bread if you can’t cut the bread?

A bread knife is serrated to cut through loaves with measured force. If you eat bread, it’s a kitchen essential; non-serrated knives just don’t make the cut, so to speak. Even if you do manage to slice through a loaf with a non-serrated knife, the results will be choppy, and the blade may end up being damaged by the effort.

A good bread knife is sharp enough along its serrated teeth to cut through even the thickest of crusts, and long enough to allow easy yet firm handling. The best part about a well-designed serrated bread knife is that even though it’s strong enough for a thick crust, it doesn’t mangle the soft bread interior. It lets you enjoy the combination of textures that makes bread so eternally wonderful.

You can use a well-made serrated bread knife for any bread type, from soft, airy focaccia to a hard ciabatta roll, baguette, or sourdough loaf.