One of the most basic, but important hand tools for any commercial kitchen is the knife. With so many choices, it can sometimes be difficult to decide which knife is best. A quality knife that's matched to the task at hand can increase productivity in your kitchen and provide better results. The WEBstaurant Store offers a great selection of knives to match any task and budget!
BolsterThe bolster is only found on forged knives. It is a thick band of steel between the heel and the handle that helps balance the knife and prevents the user's hand from slipping across the blade.
ButtThe butt is the end of the knife handle.
EdgeThe edge is the sharpened part of the knife blade that extends from the heel to the tip. Maintaining a sharp edge is crucial for user safety and maximum effectiveness.
HandleAlso known as the scales, the handle provides the knife's gripping surface.
HeelThe heel is the rear portion of the blade and is most often used to cut thick or tough products where more force is required.
PointThis functions as the piercing tool of the blade.
SpineThe spine is the top of the blade opposite the edge.
TangThe tang is the part of the blade that extends into the handle and helps provide balance. Full tang blades are considered superior in balance and durability.
TipThe tip is the front quarter of the blade that does most of the cutting and separating. Pointed tips are ideal for piercing and cutting small portions. Rounded tips are ideal for cutting or slicing thin portions.
Forged or Stamped
Every piece of commercial cutlery is constructed using one of two methods, forging or stamping.
Forged blade knives are formed when heated bar steel is roughly shaped under a drop hammer, which compresses the steel under immense pressure. After the basic knife shape is formed, the blade goes through a grinding and honing process to form its final shape and edge.
Have a thicker and heavier blade than stamped knives
Have a bolster between the heel and handle
Are usually stronger and better balanced than stamped knives
Are usually more expensive than stamped knives
Stamped blade knives are formed when a hydraulic press, or die, cuts the desired blade shape out of a flat sheet of steel, like a cookie cutter. Next, the blade blanks are sharpened through a multi- step grinding and honing process.
Have a thinner and lighter blade than forged knives
Do not have a bolster between the heel and handle
Are not usually as balanced as forged knives
Are less expensive than forged knives
Types of Handles
Commercial cutlery is available with a variety of handle types and constructions.
Wood handled cutlery used to be very common, but has fallen out of favor with health inspectors due to food safety concerns. While very attractive and comfortable to use, wood handled knives are not as durable and can trap bacteria.
Stainless Steel Handles
Stainless steel handles are virtually maintenance-free. They are extremely durable and easy to clean. A very large or heavy knife with a stainless steel blade will likely be better balanced than a similarly sized wood or plastic handled knife. However, stainless steel handles do not provide a very good "grip" and can become slippery when wet.
Plastic handles are now the most popular type of handle. They are often very easy to clean and hold up well, but can occasionally crack over time or when exposed to extreme temperature changes. Several types of plastic handled knives are available on our site:
Fibrox - RH Forschner Fibrox handled knives are NSF Listed, dishwasher-safe, and slip-resistant.
Nylon - Nylon handled knives are durable, easy-to-clean, and economical.
Proflex - Proflex poly resin handles provide a safe, no-slip grip, and are NSF Listed.
Resin - Resin handles are lightweight and comfortable to hold.
Styrene - Styrene handles are light weight, sturdy, and comfortable.
White Polypropylene - Knives with white polypropylene handles usually have a textured grip, and are easy to clean.
Riveted POM (Polyoxymethylene) - POM (Polyoxymethelene) handles are more durable than polypropylene and are easy to clean.
Dexter-Russell V-Lo - Dexter-Russell V-Lo handles are durable, easy to clean, and feature an incredibly comfortable, "soft-touch" grip.
Santoprene handles are a blend of synthetic rubber and polypropylene. This provide added slip resistance while increasing the durability of the knife. Mercer offers three collections of knives that feature a Santoprene handle (Millennia, Millennia Primary 4, and Genesis).
Types of Edges
There are four common types of blade edges available on commercial cutlery.
Sometimes called flat ground, a straight edge is the most common, and is formed by grinding the blade in a straight line so it tapers to form a razor sharp edge.
Granton edge knives feature hollowed out sections running along both sides of the blade. When slicing meat, the grooves fill with fat and juices, which permits more contact between the meat and blade. Granton edge knives are often preferred when slicing thin portions of poultry, roasts, or ham.
Serrated edge knives may also be referred to as wavy or scalloped edge. Serrated edge knives feature teeth along the blade edge, which easily penetrate the tough outer crust or skin of the product being cut while protecting the soft inner part from tearing. Serrated edge knives are ideal for cutting bread and fruit.
Hollow Ground Edge
Hollow ground edges are created by grinding from just below the midpoint of the blade to form concave sides that come to a very thin cutting edge. Since this edge is so thin, it is more brittle and easily dulled. Hollow ground edges are not preferable for heavy cutting tasks, but are ideal for fine cutting such as skinning, preparing sushi, or peeling and slicing fruits.
The Right Knife for the Job
The following descriptions should serve as a basic guide for some of the most common types of knives.
A Carving knife is used to slice thin cuts of meat, including poultry, roasts, hams, and other large cooked meats. Carving Knives are much thinner than a chef's knives, enabling them to carve thinner, more precise slices.
Boning knives are available with blades ranging from 3" to 8" in length and are used to separate meat from bone. For boning roasts, whole hams, lamb legs, veal legs, and filleting fish, a narrow flexible blade is usually preferred. A wide, stiff blade is better for cutting raw meat and trimming thinner cuts of meat.
Bread knives are available in a variety of sizes from 7" to 10". Some feature an offset handle design to prevent the users' knuckles from hitting the cutting board. Bread knives may have a straight or slightly curved blade with a serrated edge that's ideal for bread and hard rind fruits.
A butcher knife usually has a heavy, wide, and slightly curved blade and is useful for cutting, sectioning, and trimming large pieces of meat.
A chef's knife, or "cook's knife" is the most commonly used knife in a commercial kitchen. Available in sizes ranging from 6" to 14" (8" to 12" is most popular), the chef's knife features a wide blade with symmetrical sides that taper to a point. It is suitable for a wide range of tasks such as chopping, slicing, and mincing.
A cleaver features a long, wide blade that is used to chop and cut through thick meat and bone. Cleavers are also ideal for opening lobsters.
Often used as a light to medium duty cleaver, the Deba knife is ideal for cutting fish, meat, and hard vegetables, as well as for chopping.
Oyster Knives are used to shuck the oysters. These knives can be used for opening the oyster as well as removing the oyster from the shell. There are several common styles of oyster knives:
New Haven: The New Haven oyster knife features a short wide blade with a curved tip and is ideal for use on small to medium sized oysters, for half shell consumption. The curved tip offers two advantages:
It provides excellent leverage for opening the oysters
The curved tip tends to travel high inside the oyster, above and away from the tender meat of the oyster, which avoids damaging the oyster meat.
Providence: Features a shorter, wide, straight blade. This serves the same function as the New Haven style, but does not have a curved tip.
Boston: The Boston style oyster knife features a long, narrow blade and is extremely versatile and very effective at opening just about any type or size of oyster.
Galveston: With its long, wide blade the Galveston style oyster knife is excellent for commercial use. This style is often used in processing medium and large Eastern oysters for meat gain.
Paring knives rate second in versatility after a chef's knife in a commercial kitchen. There are several common styles:
Spear point paring knives are great for removing corn from the cob, breaking up heads of lettuce, peeling fruits and vegetables, cutting beans, and other similar tasks.
Bird's beak or curved paring knives, also referred to as tourne knives, feature a downward arching blade that makes peeling round fruit and garnishing a breeze.
A Santoku knife is an all purpose knife best suited for slicing, dicing, and mincing. This knife can be used for the same functions as a chef knife.
Equivalent to a western slicer, the Sashimi knife is perfect for everyday slicing and for cutting large pieces of fish.
Scimitar / Cimeter Knife
A scimitar knife is a cousin of the classic butcher knife. Its upward curving blade makes it well suited for cutting and trimming steaks.
The slicing knife features a long, straight blade that's designed for slicing cooked meats. Slicers are generally longer than a carving knife and often feature a Granton Edge and a round blunt tip. Ham slicers feature a narrower, more flexible blade that makes cutting cold meat more efficient. A slicer should be long enough to permit smooth slicing action.
Usuba / Nakiri Knife
This knife is designed to quickly slice produce paper-thin, especially vegetables without hard seeds.
Utility knives often have a scalloped edge, and can be considered a cross between a paring knife and a slicing knife. A sharp utility knife is very efficient for slicing softer fruits and vegetables, such as tomatoes or squash. Utility knives are also great for cutting large melon rings, cutting heads of lettuce into wedges, preparing cabbage for shredding, and halving citrus fruits.
Care and Sharpening
Dull knives are the single most common cause of commercial kitchen injuries. Because properly sharpened knives cut more easily than dull ones, workers can complete their tasks more quickly. Additionally, the product being cut can be returned to temperature-controlled storage more quickly for increased food safety!
Here are some quick tips for maintaining cutlery:
Regularly wash knives with warm, soapy water and dry them thoroughly.