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Know your knives

Know your knives

Every blade has its own function

As you can probably imagine, every knife blade has a specific purpose. Knowing which blade to choose will make your time spent in the kitchen more efficient, cut down on prep time, and help you with more advanced cooking techniques.

The vegetable knife has a thin, lightweight, wide and very sharp blade for precisely cutting very thin slices of fruit and vegetables.

The chef's knife

A great all-purpose knife: you will probably get more use from this multi-purpose knife than any other one.
It has a wide, but strong blade, with a slight curve over its entire length, finishing with a sharp tip.
LThe chef’s knife is best for filleting, chopping, cubing, mincing or for crushing spices with the wide, flat side of the blade (the chef’s knife is the one at the top of the photo to the right).

The paring knife

The paring knife is smaller and more suited for delicate or precision cutting jobs, like peeling potatoes, removing bruises from fruits and vegetables, scraping, crushing garlic or parsley, removing the cores of apples and pears, or finely chopping the ingredients for garnishes.
It’s about 3.5 inches, and usually has either a straight or serrated blade. It’s also common to see the traditional “bird’s beak” shape of this type of knife (second knife in the photo).

The serrated or bread knife

A bread knife is perfect to cut foods that have thick crusts or skins, like break, caramelized onions, melons, etc.
It’s a solid, toothed blade and can measure anywhere from 5 to 9 inches (it’s the third knife in the picture).
The serrated knife could potentially damage a cut of meat, fish or soft fruit, so it’s best to avoid using this type of knife on those foods.

The vegetable knife

This knife has a thin, lightweight, wide and very sharp blade (ranging from 7 inches to 8.5 inches in length) and is used for precision cutting of thin slices of fruits and vegetables.
It’s an easily recognized knife due to the squared off shape of the blade and the almost flat edge of the blade, a shape derived to be ergonomic, yet efficient. Designed to function like a fulcrum, the point of the knife stays braced against the cutting board while the edge can make quick slices, chops and dices of fruit, spices and vegetables (the fourth knife in the photo).

Some special knives

Using the four knives listed above, you can handle pretty much any task in the kitchen. However, there are still other special types of knives, designed for very specific cooking purposes, for work with specific types of foods or to be used at a certain phase in food preparation:
- The boning knife. Useful for cleaning fish, chicken or beef. It can have a flexible blade (great for cutting chicken) or a firm and rigid blade (best for other types of meat); it is a small knife that comes to a pronounced point at the tip.
- The fillet knife. It has a thin blade, slightly curved and flexible and MUST be always sharp. It must be able to easily thread the chicken or cut the contours of a fish
- The carving knife . This knife has a narrow point and the long blade usually measures between 8 and 15 inches. It can be rigid (for steaks, ribs or roasts) or flexible, for thinner meats (like ham, roast chicken, turkey and smoked or dried fish). This knife is usually used together with a carving fork, used to anchor the meat while cutting (see the photo to the left)
- The cleaver, or butcher’s knife. The butcher’s knife is recognized by its wide, hard and heavy blade. This type of knife is used to cut through bones during the preparation of poultry, meat and fish. The flat side of the blade can be used to crush seeds, garlic, etc.

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Know your knives