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Types of Knives

Knives are the most important tool in a chef's kit, and they can be used for just about any food prep task from chopping onions and butchering a cut of beef to opening oysters and slicing bread. But, there are different types of kitchen knives that are designed for various purposes. In this guide, we'll cover the types of knives and their uses, so you can find the right option for your needs.

Types of Knives

There are many different types of knives that are used for various tasks, and it can be difficult to know which knives are essential for your kitchen. We broke down the knife types and provided explanations of each and what they're used for.

Wusthof Classic 10

Chef Knives

You can find chef knives in nearly every commercial kitchen, and they are versatile tools that can be used for a variety cutting tasks. Chef knives have a wide blade that tapers to a point. This point is suitable for a number of prep tasks, such as chopping, mincing, and slicing. Additionally, chef knives can come in several different sizes, although the most popular sizes are between 8"- 12”.

Mercer Culinary Renaissance 5

Utility Knives

Utility knives are a mix between slicing and paring knives. They feature scalloped edges and blades that are slightly longer than standard paring knives. A sharp utility knife is very efficient for slicing fruits and vegetables, and they’re an ideal tool for food prep.

Wusthof Classic 10

Bread Knives

Bread knives are designed for slicing different types of bread, and they feature serrated blades that can cut through crispy crusts. Most bread knives feature offset handles, which are designed to prevent the user’s knuckles from hitting the cutting board. Additionally, you can usually find bread knives between 7"-10” long.

Dexter-Russell V-Lo 3 1/2

Paring Knives

This extremely versatile type of knife can be used for many food prep tasks from peeling vegetables and chopping fruits to deveining shrimp and slicing cheese. Paring knives typically have blades that range between 2 ¼” and 4 ½”, and there are a number of different styles of paring knives. 

Mercer Culinary 3

Spear Point Paring Knives

The top and bottom of the blades on these knives are curved like a spear. Spear point paring knives are designed for small, precise tasks like cutting produce, creating garnishes, or devein shrimp. 

Mercer Culinary Renaissance 2 1/4

Bird's Beak Paring Knives

This type of paring knife, often referred to as a curved paring knife or tourne knife, has a blade that curves downward, mimicking the shape of a bird’s beak. Bird’s beak paring knives are designed for peeling rounded fruits and creating garnishes.

Victorinox 3 1/2

Sheep's Foot Paring Knives

Sheep’s foot knives feature a rounded tip with a straight edge, which make them perfect for chopping and julienning fruits and vegetables.

Dexter-Russell Sani-Safe 8

Butcher Knives

Used for breaking down cuts of meat or trimming fat, butcher knives are typically found in butcher shops and restaurants. This type of knife has a slight curve, which helps with cutting through meat. Many types of butcher knives also feature granton edges, which allow you to easily slice through meat without tearing or shredding the product.

 

 

10

Slicing Knives

Featuring long, straight blades, slicing knives are designed for slicing cooked meats like smoked hams, roasted turkeys, or sirloin steaks. These knives typically have a long blade with a rounded tip. Many meat slicing knives also feature granton edges, which prevents the meat from tearing while cutting.

 

Mercer Culinary Millennia 8

Boning Knives

Featuring flexible, semi-flexible, or stiff options, boning knives allow users to separate meat from bones while reducing the amount of wasted meat. Boning knives come in a variety of sizes and knife styles, so you can find the perfect option for the type of meat you’re working with.

 

Reed & Barton Cabot 12 3/4

Carving Knives

With long blades, meat carving knives are the ideal choice for slicing cooked meats like smoked ham, roasted chicken, or deep fried turkey. Carving knives are much thinner than chef knives, enabling them to carve thinner, more precise slices.

Victorinox 7

Cleavers

With a wide and long blade, cleavers are some of the largest knives a chef will have in their cutlery kit. Despite their size, cleavers feature thin and lightweight blades that can be used for a number of tasks, such as crushing garlic, chopping vegetables, and slicing meat. Cleavers can also be found in many Asian restaurant kitchens.

Mercer Culinary BPX 7 15/16

Flank and Shoulder Knives

Flank and shoulder knives are a variation of boning knife with longer blades that are designed specifically for cutting flank steaks. Their straight, stiff blades are perfect for generating precise cuts while boning, trimming, and jointing.

Stainless steel oyster knife with black handle

Oyster Knives

Essential for any restaurant or diner that serves fresh shellfish, oyster knives are used to open oyster shells and then remove the meat from the shell. There are several types of oyster knives that are used for different sizes and preparations of oysters.

Victorinox 3

Boston Style Oyster Knives

Boston-style oyster knives have long, narrow blades that are effective at opening oyster shells regardless of their size.

Wusthof stainless steel frenchman style oyster knife with black POM handle

Frenchman Style Oyster Knives

Frenchman oyster knives have a short, wide blade featuring a sharp edge that is perfect for finding the crease on oyster shells.

Dexter Russel stainless steel Sani-Safe galveston style oyster knife with white textured poly handle

Galveston Style Oyster Knives

Galveston-style oyster knives have longer blades that narrow to a point, and they’re often used for processing medium and large Eastern oysters.

Victorinoz 2 3/4

New Haven Style Oyster Knives

The short and wide blade on New Haven-style oyster knives is designed for small and medium oysters. They’re also designed for serving oysters on the half shell. Additionally, New Haven-style oyster knives point upward, which avoids damaging the oyster meat inside.

Dexter Russell Sani-Safe 2 3/4

Providence Style Oyster Knives

These knives are similar to New Haven-style knives, but they do not have a curved tip. They’re ideal for shucking medium-sized oysters.

Franmara stainless steel serrated cheese knife

Cheese Knives

Cheese knives are specially designed to cut through dense, sticky, and hard cheeses, and they’re the perfect tool for restaurants that offer charcuterie boards. Cheese knives come in a variety of designs that match with specific types of cheeses.

 

Mercer Culinary 10

Cimeter Knives

Cimeter, or scimitar, knives are a type of butcher knife that are used for prepping and cutting meat. Their long, curved blades are ideal for trimming fat off ribs or breaking down a large cut of beef.

Mercer Culinary BPX 7 11/16

Breaking Knives

Breaking knives are a type of butcher knife that are used for cutting large sections of meat into smaller cuts.These types of butcher knives feature curved blades, which gives the user additional leverage when cutting through tough skin, cartilage, and small bones. Additionally, breaking knives are ideal for trimming fat from cuts of meat.

Mercer Culinary 7

Santoku Knives

Santoku knives have a similar shape and construction as chef knives. Additionally, they can be used for a variety of cooking tasks, such as chopping, slicing, and dicing, like chef knives.

 

 

Mercer Culinary MX3 San Mai stainless steel japanese petty knife with black riveted handle

Petty Knives

Petty knives are known for their quality and balance, and they’re excellent utility knives to have in your repertoire. Similar in size and shape to utility knives, petty knives have a few key differences. They are slightly longer than utility knives but shorter than chef knives, which allow you to use them as either a chef knife or utility knife.

 

 

Mercer Culinary 10

Sashimi Knives

Essential for any sushi restaurant, sashimi knives feature long and thin blades that allow chefs to cut thin and precise cuts of raw fish without tearing the meat. Due to their length, sashimi knives can also be used for breaking down large cuts of fish.

Mercer Culinary 4

Deba Knives

Typically found in sushi restaurants and Asian-style operations, deba knives are often used as a light- or medium-duty cleaver. These knives have medium-length blades, and they can be used for a variety of tasks, such as preparing cuts of fish, chopping vegetables, or cubing meat.

Mercer Culinary MX3 8 1/4

Gyuto Knives

Gyuto knives are similar in use and shape to chef’s knives. However, there are several key differences between a gyuto knife and a chef knife. Gyuto knives are lighter and thinner than chef knives, and they have a flatter edge. This allows the knife to have faster push-cutting abilities and makes it easier to handle.

Mercer Culinary 7

Nakiri Knives

Nakiri knives have razor-sharp edges and thin blades that are perfect for cutting vegetables and fish into thin slices.

 

 

Types of Table Knives

Butter knife on wooden cutting board with ramekin of butter

Butter Knives

Featuring a dull and rounded edge, butter knives are typically served with breads in order to spread butter, jelly, or other toppings.

Dessert knife on white napkin next to plate of waffles

Dessert Knives

Resembling a dinner knife, albeit smaller, dessert knives are served with dessert as a fresh alternative to dinnerware that has been dirtied while eating an entree. They are used for cutting through soft items like cakes and cheesecakes.

Dinner knife laid over bowl with burrito inside

Dinner Knives

Dinner knives are versatile knives that are served with entrees. They are typically used for cutting soft foods such as fish and cooked vegetables, or for moving food.

Fish knife on edge of white plate with fish on it

Fish Knives

Smaller than most knives, fish knives are used for removing the tiny bones from delicate pieces of fish.

Steak knife on gray napkin next to plate with steak, green beans, and cherry tomatoes

Steak Knives

With a typically serrated edge, steak knives are served with steak and other pieces of meat that are too thick to cut with a dinner knife.

Parts of a Knife

Understanding the parts of a knife is integral to learning about the various types of kitchen knives and how they're different. The graphic below shows the parts of a knife to help you identify them on your own kitchen knives.

Knife Anatomy

Here's an explanation of the different parts of a knife:

  • Bolster: The bolder is only found on forged knives. It is a thick band of steel between the heel and the handle that helps balance the weight of the knife and prevents the user's hand from slipping.
  • Butt: The butt is the end of the knife's handle.
  • Edge: The edge is the sharpened side of the knife's blade that you use to cut. Keeping your knife's edge sharp prevents accidents while cutting.
  • Handle: The handle is the section where the user holds the knife. This part of the knife may also be referred to as the scales.
  • Heel: The heel is the rear portion of the blade, and it's most often used for cutting tasks that require a lot of force, such as cutting meat or dense vegetables.
  • Point: The point is the tip of the knife. It is often used for piercing through products.
  • Spine: This is the unsharpened side of the knife blade that is opposite the edge.
  • Tang: The tang is the part of the blade that extends into the handle to provide balance. Full tang blades are considered superior in balance and durability. A sub tang or half tang knife is less durable but more economical.
  • Tip: The tip is the front quarter of the blade that does most of the cutting and separating. Point tips are ideal for piercing and cutting small portions whereas rounded tips are ideal for cutting or slicing thin portions.

Knife Handle Materials

From stylish wood and metal handles to durable plastic and nylon handles, there are a number of types of knife handles that you can choose from. Here are some of the most popular options as well as some benefits to each type:
Riveted-on wood handle

Wood Handles

Wood handled knives used to be very common, but they have fallen out of favor due to food safety concerns. While they are attractive and comfortable to use, wood handles are not as durable as other options and can trap bacteria.

Pakkawood is an alternative to traditional wood. It is a composite material that looks and feels like wood, but has added benefits, like moisture and warp resistance.

Textured stainless steel knife handle

Stainless Steel Handles

Stainless steel knife handles are virtually maintenance free, and they’re very durable and easy to clean. Additionally, stainless steel handles provide balance for knives with long blades. On the other hand, stainless steel handles can become slippery when wet.

Black plastic knife handle

Plastic Handles

Plastic knife handles are the most popular type of knife handles because they’re very durable and easy to clean. While plastic is durable, if plastic handles are exposed to extreme temperature changes over time they may start to crack. There are also different types of plastics that you can choose for your knife’s handle, listed below.

Black fibrox knife handle

Fibrox

RH Forschner Fibrox handled knives are NSF Listed, dishwasher-safe, and slip-resistant.

Blue nylon knife handle

Nylon

Nylon knife handles are durable, easy to clean, and economical.

Riveted-on black proflex knife handle

Proflex

Proflex poly resin knife handles provide a safe, no-slip grip, and are NSF Listed.

Black resin knife handle

Resin

Resin handles are lightweight and comfortable to hold.

Black styrene knife handle

Styrene

Lightweight, sturdy, and comfortable, styrene handles are ideal for most kitchens.

Black polypropylene knife handle

Polypropylene

Knives with polypropylene handles usually have a textured grip and are easy to clean. They are typically an economical option.

Riveted-on polyoxyethylene black knife handle

Riveted POM (Polyoxyethylene)

POM knife handles are more durable than polypropylene. They also are more resistant to high heat and water absorption than other types of plastic handles.

Dexter Russell gray and black V-Lo knife handle

Dexter-Russell V-Lo

Dexter-Russell V-Lo handles are durable, easy to clean, and feature an incredibly comfortable, "soft-touch" grip.

Mercer culinary stainless steel pizza cutter with two black santoprene handles

Mercer Millennia Santoprene

Mercer Millennia santoprene handles are a blend of santoprene and polypropylene. Not only do they provide a non-slip, comfortable grip during use, but they also will not break down when exposed to kitchen oils, hot environments, or cold temperatures.

Types of Knife Blade Materials

There are numerous types of stainless steel, and several that are commonly used for making knives. Here are some of the common types of stainless steel used to make kitchen knives and their benefits:
Hand holding Japanese knife and slicing strawberries

VG-10 Stainless Steel

VG-10 steel is a type of Japanese steel that is commonly used to make professional-grade cutlery. While this type of steel was originally intended for Japanese markets, its excellent edge retention, sharpness, and durability made it popular in international kitchens as well. But, due to its excellent craftsmanship, durability, and quality, VG-10 stainless steel knives can be more expensive than other options.

Knife holding Japanese knife and slicing an apple

San Mai Stainless Steel

San Mai isn’t a type of stainless steel, instead it’s a process of forging and laminating the metal to create a durable blade. This Japanese process involves sandwiching a hard high-carbon steel core with lower carbon and more flexible steel. The result is a blade with excellent edge retention and sharpness, flexibility, and durability.

Cheese knife on charcuterie board with wedge of cheese on point

German Stainless Steel

German steel comprises several types of steel, and it’s characterized by a high-carbon stainless steel construction that is sharp, durable, and excellent at resisting stains and corrosion. These types of stainless steel are common in many types of western knives, especially forged knives. Some common types of German steel include 420, 420HC, 420JC, and 440C, among others.

Forged vs. Stamped Knives

Every piece of commercial cutlery is constructed using one of two methods: forging or stamping.
Hands holding large forged knife above cutting board with orange bell peppers
Hands holding large forged knife above cutting board with orange bell peppers
What is a Forged Knife?

Forged knives are made when a heated bar of steel is roughly shaped under a drop hammer, which compresses the steel with immense pressure. After the basic knife shape is forged, the blade goes through a grinding and honing process to form its final shape and edge.

Pros
  • Forged knives have a bolster between the handle and the heel.
  • They’re stronger than stamped knives.
  • Forged knives have full tang for better balance.
Cons
  • Forged knives are thicker and heavier than stamped knives.
  • Due to the length of the process of forging a knife, they’re more expensive than stamped knives.
Stamped knife on cutting board next to watermelon
Stamped knife on cutting board next to watermelon
What is a Stamped Knife?

Stamped knives are formed when a hydraulic press or die cuts the blade shape out of a sheet of steel. This process creates the basic shape of the blade, called a blade blank, which is then ground and honed to give it an edge.

Pros
  • Stamped knives are thinner and lighter than forged options.
  • They’re less expensive than forged knives.
Cons
  • Some stamped knives have smaller tangs, which can make the knife feel less balanced than forged options.
  • These knives do not have a bolster between the heel and handle.

Knife Care and Sharpening

Dull knives are the single most common cause of injuries in commercial kitchens. 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 faster for better food safety.
Knives with riveted-on wood handles in knife holder

Knife Care Tips

Here are a few tips to maintaining your cutlery:

  •  Regularly wash knives with warm, soapy water and dry them thoroughly.
  •  Wash your knives by hand rather than running them through the dishwasher.
  •  Hone knives regularly with a sharpening steel.
  •  Regularly sharpen your knives with a sharpening stone or knife sharpener.
  • Allow knives to air dry completely before storing them.

Person in white chef coat sharpening knife with knife sharpener

Knife Sharpening Tips

Here are a few tips to effectively sharpen your knives:

  • There are many options for sharpening a knife, including sharpening stones, sharpening steels, and electric and handheld sharpeners. 
  • Electric and handheld sharpeners are simple to use and have designated slots to perfectly hone and sharpen your knife. 
  • When using these sharpeners, you will need to run the knife through a number of times depending on how much sharpening your knife needs.
  • When using a sharpening steel, hold the steel at a 90-degree angle on a solid surface and place the knife against the steel at a 20-degree angle. Pull the knife across the steel and repeat as needed

Knife Care and Sharpening

Knife Sharpening Savings Calculator

Some chefs take their kitchen cutlery to a professional to have them sharpened, but it is much more cost effective to invest in a sharpening stone or knife sharpener and do it yourself. You can use our calculator below to learn just how much money your business can save by sharpening your knives yourself:

Hiring a Knife Sharpening Service
Purchasing an Electric Knife Sharpener
Savings in First Year
Proper knife storage and transportation are essential for the care of your knives and to prevent any accidents.
Magnetic knife holder on wall with knives and ladles attached

Knife Holders

To prevent bacteria from growing and spreading, you want to make sure that your kitchen knives can air dry properly. To ensure that you’re storing your knives sanitarily, we suggest using a magnetic knife holder or knife rack.

Black knife case with red interior filled with an assortment of knives and tools

Knife Cases

Knife cases feature a hard lining that holds its shape when the case is folded or closed. This lining can be water resistant, which adds another layer of protection to your knives. While primarily used for knives, some knife cases and rolls can also fit other kitchen tools like turners, spoons, and whisks. Additionally, many knife bags, cases, and rolls have additional features like holders for business cards, pens, and IDs.

Black knife roll with an assortment of knives and utensils

Knife Rolls

Knife rolls don’t have a lining under the canvas exterior, which takes away that protective layer, but makes them more flexible. When rolled up, they take the shape of whatever knives or tools are inside, which helps them take up less space than cases. As with knife cases, some knife rolls are able to store tools and utensils aside from knives.

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