Knife shopping: size matters

Pictured, from left: carving knife, chef’s knife, serrated knife, boning knife, paring knife

I’m not the only one who has said that a good kitchen knife should be an extension of your hand. Likewise, in the same way that your hand only needs five fingers, a well-outfitted kitchen needs no more than five types of knife. To take the analogy even farther, you’ll likely use two of your knives more often than you use the other three — much the same way most people use their thumb and forefinger more than the other three digits.

1. The Thumb — Chef’s Knife: If you buy just one knife, this is the one to get. Also called a chopping knife, this style of knife has a heavy wide blade that tapers down to a thin point. Its shape makes it ideal for chopping vegetables, herbs and other ingredients. The side of a chef’s knife is often used to flatten thinly sliced meats or to crush garlic cloves.

Although Cosmopolitan magazine may beg to differ, size really doesn’t matter — when it comes to chef’s knives at least. If you feel uneasy brandishing a 10-inch (25 cm) chef’s knife, try an 8-inch (20 cm) or even a 6-inch (15 cm) blade instead. Good knives of any size are made in proportion and most home cooks will be able to chop as much and as fast with any blade size if they use proper technique.

2. The Forefinger — Paring Knife: A small knife for trimming and peeling vegetables and fruit is a kitchen essential you’ll use many times a day. Some paring knives (called turning knives by professional cooks) have curved blades but most have straight blades from 2-inches (5 cm) to 4-inches (10 cm) long.

3. The Middle Finger — Carving Knife: These knives with long, slender blades are excellent for cutting even slices from large pieces of cooked meat; however, carving knives aren’t very useful for chopping since the thin, light weight blade doesn’t facilitate the rocking action necessary for efficient chopping.

4. Ring Finger — Serrated Knife: A is your mystery lettertoday and a large serrated knife is ideal for slicing breads, pastries, citrus and tomatoes. A serrated knife has an edge that is uneven and rippled on the side; its sharpness usually lasts indefinitely but serrated knives can be sharpened professionally if they become dull.

The Pinkie – Boning Knife: these elegant, thin blades are usually about 6-inches (15 cm) long and may be flexible or rigid. Since the tip of the knife is used most, a fine point is essential. When skinning fish or removing the fell from meat, the entire blade of the knife may be used (which is why a flexible blade can be desirable). Since most home cooks buy meat that is already clean and off the bone, this knife — like your pinky — is mostly for show in most home kitchens.

2 Responses to Knife shopping: size matters

  1. […] I’ve written about knives here before and you can read my cutting edge advice (sorry, couldn’t resist!) advice by checking back a few months to this post. […]

  2. Thanks for the tips on various knives, usually you only hear about the Chef. I love my chef knives, but I think I’m overdue for a decent slicer.

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