Knives come in so many different forms that you may be wondering if you can find one all-purpose wonder and be done with it; unfortunately, not. There are many different knives for a reason and each one is designed especially for a specific purpose. As any chef will tell you, knives are by far the most important implements when it comes to their kitchen, which is why it’s essential to know what’s what.
Here, we’ll take a look at the best knife to use for a whole range of different food stuffs. Whilst it may all seem a little extravagant, we’ve all experienced having tomato splatted all down our fronts when the knife was too blunt for the task at hand, or a massacred brie when the wrong implement was selected. If you’re a foodie, it really does pay to have a knife for every occasion.
Cutting the cake is a pivotal part of the big day that’s likely to be snapped from every angle, so the last thing you want is to get it wrong. There are various different kinds of wedding cake, so the knife that you choose will depend on the density of your cake.
Whilst a knife that is too small or too blunt is liable to see the tiers come crashing down on any wedding cake, a long, sharp and finely serrated knife is best when it comes to less-dense cakes with a hard exterior and a soft interior. If you have opted for a less traditional cake which is denser, you are best using a non-serrated knife.
Whilst some bread knives may be suitable for this task, they might not quite look the part. For this reason, it is worth considering buying a specialised silver cake knife to fit the occasion.
It’s no secret that bread has its very own knife assigned to it and it really is the perfect tool for the job. Anyone who has attempted to cut bread using a chef’s knife will have experienced the deflated pile of crumbs that ensues.
A bread knife is the perfect implement for tasks which require sawing. It’s large serrations and long form make it capable of cutting a perfect slice, working through the thick crust without tearing the delicate interior of the bread. There truly is no other knife for the job.
Cheese comes in many different forms, so from soft cream cheese to hard parmesan is there any one knife that can do the job justice? Cheese knives, of course, are designed just for this purpose. With their stainless-steel blades, cheese knives are capable of overcoming the stickiness of cheese.
Their perforated holes are especially designed to prevent cheese from sticking to the knife, which is particularly handy for soft cheeses. This not only reduces wastage but also maintains the integrity of the cheese allowing for more attractive presentation. They have a rounded end, which can be used to spread softer cheeses, and a forked tip which can be used to serve the slices.
Their shape is especially engineered for cheese, with a thin base that widens towards the middle of the blade, allowing for an easier cut. In general, cheese knives are best used for soft or medium hardness cheeses.
In lieu of a cheese knife, a very sharp knife will be necessary for cutting a soft cheese. Hard cheeses on the other hand call for a very tough, thick and short blade that can withstand the pressure of cutting through tough products such as parmesan.
Another alternative to obtain precise slices of both soft and hard cheeses is a wire cutter or cheese slicer. These tools are usually called upon by the professionals to ensure thin, even slices especially when cutting larger blocks of cheese.
For slicing meat and disjointing larger cuts, a standard chef’s knife is often up to the job. These are large sturdy utensils that are capable of carrying out tough work, although they will not be able to tackle the very toughest of jobs such as cutting through bone. For these tasks, you will need a meat cleaver.
With their large, sharp blade and rectangular shape, meat cleavers are the only knives capable of handling cutting through bone. These hardy knives can be swung at dense cartilage and bone with force, as they are resilient enough to chop through hard, thick materials without breaking.
If you want to cut succulent slices of beef or chicken for your Sunday roast, then a carving knife is the one for you. With their long, slender blades, carving knives are perfect for cutting thin, even slices. They should be used in conjunction with a carving fork, which holds the meat steady as you cut.
If you are seeking to debone a cut of meat, then you might want to enlist the help of a boning knife. Unlike most other meat knives, these are more delicate with a narrow and flexible blade and tapered tip, which can easily do the intricate work that is needed to cut around bones. These knives are also great when it comes to removing skin from meats such as chicken. Alternatively, fillet knives can be used for deboning meat, as they too have a flexible blade.
When it comes to frozen meat, it’s a whole different ball game. If you have a frozen joint of meat, then you may wish to use only part of it rather than defrosting the whole thing, as thawing and refreezing is not recommended due to its potential to make you sick. In other situations, a joint may not be defrosting as quickly as you had hoped, leaving you needing to cut it into smaller pieces to encourage the thawing process.
This leaves you with the problem of how you’re going to slice through it. This can be a very tough task, especially if you want your meat to remain in good shape following the process. Short of bringing out a hacksaw, what other options do you have in this situation?
Under these circumstances, the trusty meat cleaver makes a return. Meat cleavers are usually more than capable of handling frozen meat as they are heavy-duty and provide a lot of leverage due to their large blade. By using a rocking motion rather than hard blows, and by placing one hand on top of the blade, you can ease through frozen meats. Just be sure that your meat cleaver is sharpened to perfection before attempting this job and ensure that you place the meat on a solid chopping board, as it is liable to be slippery.
If this is a task that you happen to carry out often, then you may wish to invest in a frozen meat slicer. These are professional pieces of equipment which consist of a levered blade for precision slicing and a special holding platform to keep the meat in place. These can also be useful for fine slicing meats such as salami.
In very tough circumstances, an electric knife or kitchen saw can also provide the power needed to get through that ice. Unfortunately, these do not come cheap and are not the safest of kitchen implements, so always handle with care!
Fish can be tricky to cut with its many small bones and delicate skin. Fish knives are the obvious choice when it comes to preparing fish. They have a thin and flexible blade which is up to the delicate task of skin removal and slicing. In addition, a fillet knife is useful for removing bones, as it similarly has a flexible blade that is capable of getting right in there.
If you are preparing sushi, then you may require the specialist skills of a sashimi knife. These are specially designed to allow a flat and even cut, with one edge of the blade being flat ground to accomplish this precision task.
Prawns are a tricky specimen to cook, not least for the fact that they need deveining to ensure that they are clean and hygienic. When it comes to this task, a paring knife is the one for the job, as these are expert tools when it comes to making intricate cuts.
Alternatively, you may want to go all out and opt for a professional shrimp deveiner. These knives come with a thin, curved blade and a serrated end that is perfect for both deshelling and deveining prawns.
Fruit and Vegetables
Although some fruit and vegetables present their own unique set of problems, which we will go into below, there are some knives which are best suited for this field in general.
Paring knives are best suited for cutting smaller fruit and veg with a firm texture and are particularly good for cutting apples and plums or peeling citrus fruits. These knives are smaller than most, allowing you trim, peel, and slice with precision and ease. This makes them perfect for tasks which require finer detail too, such as creating elaborate garnishes from vegetables.
For harder items, such as carrots and potatoes, a chef’s knife is a better option. The weight of the knife takes the hard work out of chopping, allowing you to cut through these tough items easily.
For softer, juicier items, a serrated knife is a better choice, as this will allow you to achieve smooth slices without splattering. These work well for cutting citrus fruits.
Hard root vegetables can be incredibly difficult to cut through. This is why the right knife makes all the difference. A high quality, well-sharpened chef’s knife is the best implement for the job, allowing you to slice cleanly through a butternut squash with relative ease. These knives are strong enough to allow you to maintain a steady hand whilst cutting, which is essential to avoid slipping and causing injury.
Be sure to opt for a larger, heavier knife that is around ten inches long, as this will help to get the job done. It will also be capable of making it through the firm interior of the squash without breaking.
Tomatoes are notoriously sensitive if the wrong knife is used, which is why they are commonly used as a test material for professional knife sharpeners to see if they have achieved the perfect blade.
Surprisingly, your bread knife may find a new purpose in life when it comes to cutting tomatoes. Its serrated edge is perfect for breaking the thick skin and then gliding effortlessly through the soft interior. Alternatively, any other sharp serrated knife will be capable of chopping and slicing tomatoes smoothly and precisely.
Leaves and Herbs
When it comes to cutting up herbs and salad leaves, a utility knife comes into its element. With their smooth, sharp and narrow blades, utility knives are perfect for making precise fine cuts, whist their tapered tips allow for a rolling motion which is perfect for speed-chopping herbs just like the chefs on TV.
If you want to be really professional, then you could invest in a mincing knife. These consist of a large rounded blade with a perpendicular handle at either side, allowing you to hold the knife with both hands and create a rolling motion. This can result in finely minced herbs or vegetables, perfect for garnishing.
To Round It Off
As you may have gleaned, some knives are more useful than others. If you’re not a meat-eater, then there are a number of knives you can easily forego, whereas if you’re a vegan you’ll have no use for a cheese knife. If you must narrow it down, the most essential knives can be pared down to a selection of four: a versatile chef’s knife; a paring knife; a boning knife; and a serrated bread knife. If you have these under your belt, you’ll pretty much be prepared for anything.