You may not see a chef carrying their own pots and ladles to work, but you will almost always see one bringing along his or her own set of knives wherever they may cook. There is a special bond between chefs and their knives, similar to what bloggers have with their laptops, or teachers with their red pens.
Because of the different work that goes into food preparation and cooking, chefs have different knives for different purposes. In the most basic sense, the following are the kinds of knives that a chef will need and use in a typical day of work.
As the name implies, this is the knife that a chef will be using the most. It is an all-purpose knife and is employed in a variety of tasks including slicing, mincing, and chopping of meat, fruit and vegetables. The blade of a chef’s knife can be anywhere between 6-12 inches in length. The blade of the knife has an upward curve which makes it very effective in mincing. The chef’s knife has a Japanese version called the santoku knife. The main difference between these two versions is that the spine of the original chef’s knife is thicker and heavier, whereas the spine of the santoku knife is narrower which makes it ideal for thin cuts and slices.
This short knife, which has a blade that is typically 2-4 inches, is one knife that will never go missing in a chef’s arsenal. The short blade gives the chef more control than a long-bladed knife, making it ideal for performing precise cuts and intricate artwork. The blade of the paring knife tapers to a point which makes it very useful in many food preparation techniques. There are different types of paring knives, such as the bird’s beak (used in peeling round fruits and vegetables) and the clip point (for removing pits from olives).
The boning knife is primarily used to separate the bones from the meat and comes in a variety of sizes and widths, all of which have their own purpose and function. For instance, a narrow boning knife is best used on ribs and chops, while a wide boning knife is used on chicken and pork. Boning knives have blades which are thinner and shorter than that of a chef’s knife and are ideal for cutting poultry and fish. The curved blade also provides for more precise cuts and cutting angles which allows a chef to cut closer to the bone.
The cleaver is a large, heavy-duty knife which is used in cutting through bones and is an option when bone saws are not available. It comes in various sizes, though the main distinguishing feature is its wide rectangular shape. There is a version called a Chinese cleaver which is thinner and narrower than the original version that is meant to be used in slicing and chopping and not as much for cutting bones.
Although seemingly unimportant, the bread knife is a staple in many professional chef’s collections. As the name suggests, the bread knife is used in cutting loaves of bread. The bread knife has a thick blade and is usually around 8 or 9 inches in length and has serrated edges that make it suitable for the purpose. The serrations are large and deep in order to better cut through bread and its crust, which is in contrast to a tomato knife which is shorter and has narrower and finer serrations.
A chef’s knife collection can certainly have more, but the ones mentioned above are the primary knives that chefs will reach for in the majority of their cooking tasks.