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All About Knives

by Ann Hall Every

Kitchen knives are a cook's best friend. Just ask anyone who cooks professionally and they will tell you the same thing. Knives are a cook's most valued tools of the culinary trade whether you are a professional chef or a home cook with skills ranging from novice to experienced. But remember, if your knives are not kept sharp, they will not perform well and you will be working harder to accomplish each knife task. Dull knives are a big factor causing home cooks to become discouraged about their culinary skills. They are also dangerous because a dull knife can slip on the food being cut but still be sharp enough to cut through skin.

Good quality knives should be stored in a wooden knife block or on a wall-mounted magnet strip. Storing knives in this manner will prolong the sharp edges as well as provide a safety factor. Knives stored in a kitchen drawer can be very dangerous and also detrimental to the sharp edge.

A superior knife has six major characteristics:

  • Sharp cutting edge
  • Long lasting cutting edge
  • Proper weight, heft and balance
  • Ease of maintaining a sharp edge by using a conventional sharpening steel
  • Ease of care
  • Comfortable to hold

Here are my choices for certain knife styles that I feel are most useful to the enthusiastic home cook and which will provide optimum enjoyment and performance in the preparation of food.

3" and 4" Paring Knives

Paring knives become an extension of your thumb and index finger for good leverage and balance to efficiently peel small fruits and vegetables.

6" Slicing Knife

A frequently used knife to cut many foods and therefore should fit the user's grip comfortably.

5 �" Boning Knife

For easily separating meat from bone (raw or cooked). The blade should be flexible for boning small meats from the bone as in boning fish or small fowl.

8" Chef's Knife (also known as a Cook's Knife)

For chopping, dicing, mincing and slicing. When mincing, the blade is rocked up and down with one hand while the fingers of the other hand rest lightly on the back of the blade.

8" Slicing Knife

For carving or slicing medium sized roasts and fowl or large vegetables and fruit.

8" Bread Knife (serrated)

For cutting bread or any other food with a soft or hard crust or skin. Not to be used for slicing meat or fish as a serrated edge will not produce a smooth slice.

10" Sharpening Steel

This tool will maintain the sharp edge on your knives for a longer time before you will need to use a sharpener or have your knives professionally sharpened. Using the steel regularly will ensure that your sharp knives stay sharp. This maintenance tool will not be able to sharpen a knife that is completely dull. A sharpener or stone is required to restore a sharp edge to a dull knife. Thereafter, the steel will maintain the new sharp edge when used regularly.

Kitchen Shears

As with cutlery, shears are only as good as the steel they are made from. Good quality kitchen shears have multi-purpose uses in the kitchen: cutting foods such as fish and shellfish, poultry. Cutting string and trimming flowers are other household uses for kitchen shears.

As your culinary skills improve and your needs increase for other knife styles, you may want to add the following styles to your collection:

10" Chef's Knife

A larger blade for chopping, dicing or mincing large quantities of food.

5" Tomato Knife (serrated)

Ideal for slicing tomatoes.

10" Slicer

For straight thin slices of meat cut from large roasts such as turkeys, roast beef and whole hams.

10" & 12" Ham & Roast Beef Slicer (Granton edge)

The special Granton edge allows air between the blade and the sliced meat preventing the meat from sticking to the blade. This unique edge needs to be sharpened by a professional.

7" Filleting Knife

A flexible blade is required for filleting fish and this knife gives a greater sensitivity to the hand for delicate filleting and slicing.

6" Meat/Bone Cleaver

Important elements of a cleaver are weight and balance. A heavy blade is needed for ease in cutting through meat joints and to split bones.

7" & 8" Santoku Chef's Knife (Asian style)

The Asian style of chef's knife has a sharp straight edge (different from the French style of Chef's knife) for cutting meat and fish into small pieces. Also perfect for cutting and chopping vegetables. The wide blade can also be used as a spatula.

Carving Fork

Perfect for holding large roasts or fowl with one hand while cutting and slicing with the other.

Knife Sharpener (not electric)

For use on your knives when the Sharpening Steel is no longer restoring a sharp edge to your knives. Once sharpened, resume regular use of the steel to maintain the sharp edge.

Photo Credit: J. A. Henckels International

Ann Hall Every's Website can be found at:

Note: This information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the businesses in question before making your plans.

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