What Are Chef's Knives Used For?

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What Are Chef's Knives Used For?

Learning how to use your kitchen tools correctly is an indispensable skill. Many of us invest in high grade sets of chef’s knives, and rightly so; premium kitchen tools make food preparation and cooking more efficient and more enjoyable. However, not as many of us actually learn how to use our individual kitchen knives correctly.

Chef’s Knives in Action

Let’s take a look at the different types of professional chef’s knives available, how they should be used and how not to use them.

 

The Chef’s Knife

8 inch chefs knife

The classic chef’s knife is the most important tool in the kitchen, most commonly manufactured with an 8inch (20cm) blade (a more compact 6inch (15cm) blade is also available on the market). A premium chef’s knife made from Japanese steel really is a chef’s best friend in the kitchen – both practical and versatile; it can be used for a range of different preparation tasks. The size of the blade can be intimidating at first, but with careful practice and using the right techniques, a sharp chef’s knife is not only a lot more efficient, as the larger blade does more of the work for you therefore minimising fatigue, it is also a lot safer than a slippery blunt blade.

Knife and Peppers

The chef’s knife makes light work of the majority of preparation tasks such as slicing and dicing most fruits and vegetables, poultry, meat and fish. It can also be used for finely mincing garlic, herbs, onions, ginger etc.

This knife should not be used for boning - its large flat blade doesn’t have the flexibility needed, the same is true of carving cooked meats and poultry. Peeling large hard vegetables such as the troublesome butternut squash is also not a suitable task for this knife – its size and shape make it unmanageable and more prone to slipping; a smaller blade is much better suited, reverting back to the chef’s knife after peeling for the chopping and dicing.

Filleting/Boning Knife

Filleting Knife

As its name would imply, this knife is aptly suited to removing or cutting around bones in fish, meat or poultry. It has a long, flexible blade which bends and remains in contact with the contours of the meat or fish when removing bones or trimming a ribcage, it can also be used for filleting fish and poultry.

The boning knife should not be used for slicing through bone, this is knife is for effectively cutting around bone, rather than cutting through it. Its flexible nature also makes it unsuited to a number of other preparation tasks in the kitchen.

Scalloped Bread Knife

Bread knife

For clean and even slices with minimal tearing, the scalloped edged bread knife is the most appropriate tool. Although mainly associated with slicing bread, this knife can also tackle a range of other jobs which the straight edged chef’s knife isn’t suitable for. This can include: soft cheeses, waxy citrus fruits, tomatoes, water melons, squashes, peppers, aubergines and a range of larger fruit and vegetables. The serrated blade is ideal to grip into tougher and crusty surfaces.

As with any type of serrated knife, the scalloped bread knife is not suitable for chopping or dicing – it should only be used for slicing, as it saws through food items rather than cleaning slicing. It is also not suitable for mincing and finely dicing herbs and smaller items such as garlic or ginger.

Paring Knife

Paring Knife

A paring knife steps in when the chef’s and utility knife are simply too large. Its neat and compact blade is ideally suited for delicate work - paring fruits, removing the skins of delicate smaller fruits such as peaches or apricots, hulling strawberries, slicing shallots etc. It can also be used for slicing and mincing items too small for the chef’s knife or the utility knife.

This knife is not suitable for harder items such as root vegetables, a lot of effort would be needed to carry out these tasks effectively; it also causes more risk of slippage and accidental injuries.

The Utility Knife

Utility knife

A fine edged general, all purpose tool - the utility knife is suitable for a wide range of preparation tasks; it is ideally suited to chopping, dicing, mincing and trimming excess fat from meat. Its blade is typically 5inches (13cm), making it a suitable alternative for smaller jobs which do not require the heavier blade of the chef’s knife, many cooks opt for the utility as an easy reach knife due to its nimble size.

Although suitable for a range of tasks, this knife lacks the weight and strength of the 8inch chef’s knife when it comes to chopping and dicing harder items requiring more effort. It is therefore a less efficient utensil for such purposes.