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A guide to the different types of kitchen knives

A guide to the different types of kitchen knives

Chopping, paring, carving — whatever kind of meal prep you do, different types of kitchen knives can help make the job quicker, easier, and more enjoyable.

Which knife should I buy?

Have you ever wondered about the differences between types of cooking knives? 


Maybe you’re a one-knife-to-chop-them-all kinda chef, or you get overwhelmed at the thought of all the different types of fancy tools available. Either way, having a greater understanding of what each kitchen knife is designed for can help you find the ones that best suit your needs.


All kitchen knives have a similar end goal to cut ingredients into smaller pieces. However, delicately cutting raw fish and chopping through a tough butternut squash will be easier with different knives. Shapes, sizes, construction, and material all affect how well a cooking knife tackles certain foods. 


There’s a perfect kitchen knife for every kind of recipe preparation. The correct knife for the job at hand can help you feel safer and more confident and get the tastiest results.


It’s worth considering what your favourite types of cuisine to cook are. If you like preparing meat dishes, for example, you’ll likely require super sharp, agile knives designed for paring off the excess from the meat. Whereas, if you follow a plant-based lifestyle and chop a lot of vegetables, chunkier knives might be more your style. 


To save you from wielding the same knife from vegetable to steak and prevent you from having a drawer full of unused specialist knives, we’ve put together a handy guide. This advice can help you work out which cooking knives to add to your collection.

Chef’s knife

Chef's knife cutting peppers on a wooden board

As its name suggests, a chef’s knife is a pretty useful tool to have in the kitchen, whether you’re a professional chef or a passionate home cook. These knives are versatile and multi-purpose. Their curved blades are broad at the base and narrow at the top, so you can easily switch from slicing to mincing in one smooth movement.


Designed for busy kitchens, chef’s knives are ideal for chopping and dicing large quantities of ingredients in one go. 


As a great go-to for various everyday meal prep tasks, it might be a good idea to choose a knife with a comfortable, ergonomic handle. The Zyliss Comfort PRO Chef’s Knife also has a helpful indent for the index finger to give you extra precision when slicing. 

Santoku knife 

Santoku knife cutting courgettes on a wooden board

Santoku knives originated in Japan, where they’re still a popular and versatile kitchen tool. Ideal for dicing, mincing and slicing with precision, they have long blades that are slightly tapered. 


Dimples across the flat sides of the blade stop food from sticking to the metal. These indentations make the santoku knife an excellent option for slicing softer, more delicate produce such as fish. They’re often used for preparing sushi, but Santoku knives aren’t just suitable for fish. Their pointed ends make them perfect for more intricate cutting of vegetables, giving you control over each slight movement. 


Another benefit of using a santoku knife is its broad blade, which can help you scoop up ingredients after chopping and transport them to a dish or pan.


If you’re looking for even more agility and precision, why not try a smaller version, like the Zyliss Comfort Mini Santoku Knife

Carving knife 

carving knife and fork next to a cut of beef and roast vegetables

Carving knives tend to be longer than other types of cooking knives. They have a slim blade that tapers to a sharp point. The length of the blade makes carving knives ideal for slicing through larger pieces of meat or poultry. 


With a carving knife, you’re not just limited to meat, however. This kind of kitchen knife makes light work of gliding through big fruits and vegetables, which can be tricky to tackle with smaller blades. In one smooth motion, you can halve a melon or even produce perfectly uniform cake slices. 


Whether you’re slicing thick or thin, the narrow width of a carving knife creates less drag and resistance, resulting in clean, even pieces. In fact, they’re so good at creating consistent slices that they’re sometimes referred to as slicing knives. 


When using a carving knife to slice through big pieces of food, why not make the job even easier with support from a carving fork?

Bread knife 

bread knife cutting a loaf of bread on a wooden chopping board

A bread knife’s long serrated blade helps you saw through soft items of produce like, you guessed it, bread! Perhaps you’ve never tried cutting a fresh slice of chunky ciabatta with a paring knife, but we can assure you, it doesn’t get you far. 


The even width across the length of a bread knife’s blade achieves uniform slices of baguette and loaves. Halving rolls or bagels is a doddle with a high-quality bread knife and results in deliciously even toasting. The grooves on the bread knife’s serrated edge enable you to carve through soft and crumbly textures without crushing the bread. 

Utility knife

utility knife chopping mushrooms on a wooden chopping board

Similar to a chef’s knife, a utility knife has a smooth, slightly curved blade, making it a good option for a host of recipe-prep tasks. However, utility knives tend to be smaller and slimmer than chef’s knives, making them perfect for preparing smaller food items. 


Sometimes, a large chef’s knife can feel a little too big and cumbersome for chopping and finely dicing vegetables or alliums, like shallots and garlic. In those situations, a utility knife is the perfect solution. Many utility knives also include a sharp tapered tip that helps with more intricate cutting.


The Zyliss Comfort Slim Utility Knife has a contoured, non-slip handle for ultimate dicing accuracy, even with wet hands. So no need to worry about safety when chopping different ingredients and washing your hands in between.  

Paring knife 

paring knife chopping a lime on a wooden chopping board

Paring knives might be little, but they have a whole host of tricks up their sleeves. Such versatility makes them a popular kitchen staple in many households, and they’re a standard feature in a number of our kitchen knife sets.


Paring knives are also lightweight, so you can easily zip about when carrying out delicate cutting work. Their short, slim blades are evenly sized all along and taper to a sharp point. Whether you’re finely dicing herbs and spices or cutting round pastry for a neat pie top, a paring knife gives you control and precision. 


Though they are small, paring knives have robust blades that can chop through harder ingredients, as well as neatly slice, peel, and trim vegetables. If you’re looking to cut through soft fruits like kiwis, a serrated paring knife is a great option. The textured blade can grip the flesh and remove the skin. 

 

Cleaver

cleaver with cut meat and pestle and mortar on wooden chopping board

 

Cleavers are some of the broadest and heaviest knives available. They are quite distinctive-looking, with a flat, rectangular blade that’s incredibly sharp.

 

The primary use for a cleaver is to chop raw meat, so it makes sense that they are also commonly referred to as ‘butcher’s knives.’ The blade on a cleaver is so sharp and has so much heft to it that it can even cut through bone. They can be used in the butchery process and to divide meat up into smaller pieces before cooking.  

 

Generally, cleavers are reserved for raw meat, which is tough to cut through.  The heaviness of the blades can damage softer cooked food. However, some chefs use the broad, flat side of the blade to crush garlic, ginger, or other roots against a chopping board to release their fragrant oils and flavours. 

Nakiri knife 

nakiri knife with apple on wooden chopping board

A nakiri knife looks a bit like a mini version of a meat cleaver. They are smaller, lighter, and slimmer than cleavers but have a similarly broad, rectangular shape and sharp blade.

 

With its origin in Japan, the nakiri is sometimes known as a Japanese vegetable knife. As this term indicates, nakiri knives do a great job of chopping vegetables. The square shape makes them ideal for cutting straight through large, tough veg, which can be tricky to slice neatly with other types of kitchen knives. In one swift motion, you’ll get a neat slice of pumpkin, squash, or sweet potato, with no need to rock the knife backwards and forwards. 

 

As well as hacking through big vegetables, you can also use a nakiri knife more dynamically. Their flat blades make them a great option for finely shredding cabbages and lettuce. Because the blade’s edge is so sharp, they can create thin, even slices for slaws and salads. Investing in a knife sharpener is a brilliant way to keep all your kitchen knives, including nakiri blades, ship-shape. 

A knife for every cooking occasion
knife block with a variety of knives, one chopping herbs

At Zyliss, we like to think we present a kitchen knife for every type of cooking preparation. We take pride in ensuring our kitchen knives are crafted from high-quality stainless steel, making them rust-resistant and dishwasher-safe.

 

As a bonus, most Zyliss knives come with blade covers to protect you from any accidental nicks when reaching into the utility drawer. If you prefer to keep your cooking knives separate from the rest of your cutlery, a knife block is a helpful way to store them safely on the side, within easy reach.



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