The length of a kitchen knife

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The length of the knife plays a significant role. Most home cooks don’t have to go over 10 inches (25cm). It is essential to know the size of the food you are going to slice. You don’t want to julienne lettuce with a paring knife but rather use something longer.  

In this example: I rather use the Gyuto over the parinf knife to split the melon open.
In this example: I rather use the Gyuto over the paring knife to split the melon open.

For knives pre-designed for a specific group of users like the Santoku, you won’t find many length variations. The shorter the knife, the faster you can control it. Let’s start by explaining the length of a kitchen knife. I will explain the length of the other types of knives in the article’ types of knives“.

Housewife knife length

” Shorter is better” in the eyes of the ladies when it comes to knives. The ladies don’t like to use bigger and longer knives. They prefer a 5 to 7-inch (13cm to 18cm) knife in their kitchen. Therefore you will see that the Santoku knife, also called the housewife knife, is 7 inches. And the western chef’s knife is now also available in 7 inches or lower. I have seen ladies using a utility and even a paring knife as their all-purpose knife (I’m genuinely amazed that they manage to do everything with such a small knife).

Note: There is a reason why the Santoku is 7 inches (18cm). It is not too long or too short, and most food you prepare at home does not exceed 7 inches. You can also cut the larger produce into sizes that are suitable for your knife. 

Home cook length

The most common length that you can buy today is an 8-inch (20cm) chef’s knife. They sit right in the middle, not too long, not too short, ideal for the home cooks. Most home cooks will search for an 8-inch length; however, that does not mean that everyone should get an 8-inch. It comes down to personal preference and for what you are going to use it on. I like my 8 inches; however, they are sometimes too short when used in a professional kitchen (we need to prep larger food like an entire beef tenderloin that we need to portion size).

Note: Home cooks can buy pre-portion-sized meat, and therefore it is not needed to use a 10+ inch (25+cm) knife. It is also why professional cooks don’t prefer a short 7-inch (18cm) Santoku. It is not because a Santoku is terrible. The knife length is too short for the majority of the prep work we need to do at the restaurant. But a 7-inch Santoku is ideal for home use, and therefore the Santoku is sometimes called the housewife knife suitable for meat, fish, and veggies. 

Professional chef length

10 to 12 inches is the length that is recommended for professional cooks. However, it is a blade length that needs practice. Of course, it depends on which restaurant and type of cuisine you are using the knife. Most restaurants that I have worked for used a minimum of 10-inches. But this is because we need to prep a whole salmon, and beef tenderloin. 

Note: What a professional prep and what station the cook’s covers. Significantly impacts what knife style and length they use. While 10 inches is the most common length, each cook has a knife roll with multiple knives that they use at a restaurant. 

General knife length guide

The length mentioned above is just a guideline. It all comes down to personal preferences and where and for what you are using the knife. So my general guide is the following:

My recommendation:

  • 6 to 8 inches (15 to 20 cm): For the ladies.
  • 7 to 8 inches (18 to 20 cm): For general home use.
  • 9 to 10 inches (22 to 25 cm): For the home chef’s hobbyist and if you have the space for it at home. (Those who want to learn how to filet a complete salmon etc.).
  • 10 to 12 inches (25 to 31 cm): It depends on what cuisine you cover. It is recommended as your main knife length in the professional kitchen. 

Note: My recommendation is just a general guideline. It does not mean that you can’t use a 7-inch Santoku knife in a professional kitchen. Every person has their preferences. I use 7 to 12 inches at work. A 7-inch Nakiri/Chinese Cleaver (for chopping lettuce to make salad etc.), 8-inch Chef’s knife (for days that require less prep work), 10,5-inch Chef’s knife, 9 to 12-inch Yanagiba small fish, and bigger fish like seabass to salmon and tuna. My go-to knife is a 10,5-inch chef’s knife/Gyuto at the restaurant but at home, I only use 7 to 8 inches. 

Warning: Make sure that you also have the correct size cutting board for your knife length. If your knife is longer than your board’s cutting surface, it is recommended to buy a larger cutting board. More information about cutting boards can be found here.

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