Types of Kitchen Knives: Complete Home Cook's Guide

Last Updated on September 19, 2023 | 0 Comments
popular types of kitchen knives
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Ask a chef about their favorite types of kitchen knives and you’re bound to hear a love poem to cutlery. It’s only natural; more than any other items in their culinary toolbox, knives become extensions of the chefs themselves.  

The right types of kitchen knives can make easy work out of the most difficult tasks. And there are different types of kitchen knives for every cooking chore imaginable. If you’re a budding chef still learning your way around the kitchen, what are the most useful types of kitchen knives to have on hand? And if you’re a more seasoned chef looking to step up your slicing game, which types of cooking knives should you add to your collection? 

We’ve gathered some facts about the most important types of kitchen knives and their uses for the home cook to have on hand.

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1. Cleaver

Cleavers have been used in some form or another since prehistoric times, sometimes in the shape of larger hatchets. While this sturdy kitchen champ may look like a medieval weapon, of the various types of kitchen knives on the market, it’s one of the most useful. 

Cleaver Uses

The cleaver makes short work of chopping through tricky tissue and small bones when conquering tough cuts of meat. 

Its flat, rectangular blade can also split a head of lettuce or cabbage with ease. Depending on the size of the cleaver, it can come in handy when slicing smaller vegetables as well. 

the cleaver is one of the most popular types of kitchen knives
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2. Chef’s Knife

When curating a good set of knives for the kitchen, you can't skip this one. The sharply pointed tip and rounded blade of a chef's knife make it one of the best kitchen knives for all-purpose use. There are types of chef's knives that come in various lengths and shapes, so you may want to test a few to see what feels most comfortable. An 8-inch option like the Zwilling Twin Signature 8" Chef Knife is usually a good starting point.

Chef's Knife Uses

A chef's knife is a great multipurpose type of kitchen knife, perfect for cutting through a wide variety of ingredients.

It can manage slicing cucumbers, celery and carrots in thin julienne strips as handily as splitting a chicken or carving a turkey. The rounded blade shape also works well for rocking when chopping herbs and soft-leaf vegetables or mincing garlic.

chef's knife on a cutting board with chilis
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3. Utility Knife

When it comes to generally helpful types of kitchen knives and their uses, you can’t go wrong with a utility knife. It’s the most well-rounded of all the types of kitchen knives you’ll encounter. The best kitchen utility knives will be tools you reach for multiple times a day for years.

Utility Knife Uses

Its long, thin and narrow blade makes it a great slicer for fruits and vegetables, herbs, fish and more tender cuts of meat. Utility knives are also a great choice for slicing meats to serve and make a beautiful accent for a formal serving platter.

utility knives are common types of kitchen knives
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4. Serrated Knife

Amidst the many different types of kitchen knives and their uses, serrated blades date back to the Stone Age, when prehistoric humans would carve out grooves on blades of flint. Serrated knives today are available in varying lengths and with different levels of serration, depending on your needs. 

Serrated Knife Uses

The characteristic teeth of serrated blades make these types of kitchen knives uniquely suited for breaking through produce with tough skin and delicate inner flesh such as tomatoes. They’re also handy for sawing through tougher rinds on fruits such as squash and melons.

serrated knife on cutting board with tomatoes
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5. Bread Knife

Often, the best sets of cooking knives come with a handy bread knife. These types of kitchen knives are usually just a heavy-duty version of a serrated knife, but they're also available in a distinctive fiddle bow shape — a hacksaw-style design with space between the handle and the blade that makes for equal, even slices.

Bread Knife Uses

Bread knives, like the Zwilling TWIN Signature 8" Bread Knife, generally have long teeth that allow a chef to saw through the tough crust on just about any baked loaf without mashing down the fluffy interior. 

bread knives are useful types of kitchen knives
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6. Boning Knife

Although cleavers, chef’s knives and utility knives can cover a lot of territory when it comes to cutting meat, the shape of this specialty blade is perfectly suited for fileting fish and poultry. Be ready to have two of these types of kitchen knives in your collection; while a flexible arched blade works well for fish and chicken, a stiffer blade will work better for pork and beef.

Boning Knife Uses

The long, thin blade also allows you to reach deep beneath the surface and maneuver easily around fleshy curves and bony contours to remove the skin from game animals. A more flexible blade works well to filet delicate cuts of fish.

boning knife with cut of raw steak and rosemary
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7. Paring Knife

Generally the smallest of all the types of kitchen knives, a paring knife is a workhorse when it comes to your peeling, garnishing and detail-work needs.

Paring Knife Uses

Because of its slight stature, a paring knife is perfect for getting under the soft skin of peaches and plums as well as tearing away tougher apple and mango skins. 

It’s also fantastic for creating decorative garnishes that require fine detail. It can even remove veins from shrimp with surgical precision and strip pith and membranes from citrus fruits without damaging the pulp.

parings knives are common types of kithcen knives
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8. Mezzaluna Knife

This type of kitchen knife is sure to be a conversation piece! An exciting novelty among the types of kitchen knives you’ll have on hand, mezzaluna is Italian for “crescent moon,” which perfectly describes its shape.

Mezzaluna Knife Uses

A mezzaluna is a semi-circular specialty blade with a blunt handle on either end made for rocking back and forth easily when chopping herbs and vegetables, or when slicing through flatbreads or pizza crust.

mezzaluna knife on a cutting board with herbs
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Your knives will end up being the most prized tools in your kitchen, maybe even handed down to the next generation of chefs in the family. So it’s important that you assemble a collection of knives that suit your particular needs, whether you curate your assortment one by one or purchase a useful set like the Calphalon Classic Self-Sharpening 15-Piece Cutlery Set. These different types of kitchen knives, and their uses, are an investment in your culinary legacy. 

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