The Ultimate Guide to Kitchen Knives

The Ultimate Guide to Kitchen Knives

By Matt Hussey

"What a lovely piece of beef,” you think to yourself in the supermarket. “I’d like to julienne that with seasonal vegetables in a Szechuan stir fry.” Then you get home, only to remember you only have one knife and it wobbles when you slice a raspberry.

It’s time to upgrade your knife block. But with a bewildering array of manufacturing techniques, materials and prices out there, knife-buying can be baffling. So we spoke to Jim Fisher, owner of cookery school Cook In France (Cookinfrance.com) about how to keep your blade count down to the essentials, and he even picked the finest examples. We spoil you.

1. Bread Knife

What it looks like: A 25-30cm knife with a serrated blade.

What it’s for: Cutting bread with little downward pressure, preventing squashing.

The lowdown: For centuries, bread was simply torn off the loaf. Then, in 1919, Joseph E Burns filed a patent in New York for a ‘Cutting Tool’ that used serrated edges for slicing. “Every kitchen should have a decent bread knife. By ‘decent’ I mean one with a long blade that is serrated on both sides,” explains Fisher.

Buy this: Victorinox bread knife 21cm, £19; nisbets.co.uk

.......................................................................................................................................................

2. Filleting Knife

What it looks like: A long knife at 30-40cm, with a thin, flexible blade.

What it’s for: Designed to tunnel along bone and into articulated, joined pieces of meat. It also removes fillets from fish and is “good for thinly slicing ham and smoked salmon”, according to Fisher.

The lowdown: The size of the knife will depend on the size of meat you want to fillet. The same applies to the flex — small knives should flex by an inch to ensure manoeuvrability.

Buy this: Global G-18 25cm filleting knife, £150; cooks-knives.co.uk

.......................................................................................................................................................

3. Cheese Knife

What it looks like: A 20cm, often-serrated blade with a curved two-pronged tip to stab and move a cheese slice.

What it’s for: Transporting cheese from the board to the plate, without it disintegrating.

The lowdown: Some cheese knives have holes in the blade to help reduce the surface area that the cheese can stick to. “Their non-sticking properties mean that cheese knives can also be used to cut foods such as cakes, eggs and pies,” says Fisher.

Buy this: Global GS-10 14cm cheese knife, £100; divertimenti.co.uk

.......................................................................................................................................................

4. Chef’s Knife

What it looks like: A 30-40cm curved, wide blade.

What it’s for: Chopping bulky ingredients such as cabbage. It can also be used in small to medium butchery as a cleaver, and in smaller work, such as shaving garlic, if handled properly.

The lowdown: The chef’s knife — sometimes called a ‘French knife’ — is the utility player in your starting line-up. “As it’s used for just about any kitchen job, I’d recommend this as your first purchase,” says Fisher.

Buy this: Wüsthof Classic Ikon 20cm cook’s knife, £122; inthehaus.co.uk

.......................................................................................................................................................

5. Paring Knife

What it looks like: A smaller chef’s knife, with a 3-4in blade, a straight tip and short handle.

What it’s for: Detailed cutting and peeling.

The lowdown: Originally, paring knives were used for skinning vegetables, but thanks to the peeler, the paring knife’s responsibility has moved elsewhere. “With a 10cm blade length, it’s less daunting than the large chef’s knife and is useful for fiddly jobs,” says Fisher. There are two options: a forged paring knife with a thick hilt, or a stamped, lighter paring knife.

Buy this: Henckels Professional ‘S’ paring knife, £45; hartsofstur.com

.......................................................................................................................................................

6. Boning Knife

What it looks like: Much like a fillet knife, but with a thinner blade.

What it’s for: Removing hard-to-reach bones from poultry, meat and fish.

The lowdown: There are two types: stiff boning knives — with a heavy-set bolster (the piece of steel at the end of the blade) — suited for tough meats such as beef or pork. The other type is more flexible boning knives. “They are better for manoeuvring around the softer flesh of fish and poultry,” says Fisher.

Buy this: Sebastian Conran 15cm boning knife, £87; cooks-knives.co.uk

Tags: Food

Share on

or email.

  • Facebook
  • Digg
  • Delicious
Follow Shortlist on Twitter

Ballot Box

Do you care about wearing designer labels?

Do you care about wearing designer labels?

Ballot Box

Do you get angry over spoilers?

Do you get angry over spoilers?

Find Shortlist on Facebook

Ballot Box

Favourite remake?

Favourite remake?