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Now that you know that there is a lot of steel types for each knife, it is time to tell you about all the different types of knives and why we use them. Below you will see an overview of the knives that are available. Click on the name to get more information about the specific knife.
This page is being updated to include all knife videos to accommodate the knife types. Last update: April 17, 2020
When you are first starting with cooking then you are probably going to look for a chef’s knife. They are good for anything except for chopping through bones that are thicker than a chicken bone. You can use it for meat, vegetables, etc. You can chop, slice, rock chop, push cut or use a tip slice technique. A chef’s knife is versatile and I recommend any cook to start with a chef’s knife before upgrading to a specialized knife. However, if you don’t like the rocking motion then a knife like the Gyuto, Santoku, Bunka or the Chinese cleaver might be the better option for you.
A Gyuto is a Japanese style chef’s knife, usually, the knife has a slightly straighter profile than a western chef’s knife. But many things are changing in the kitchen knife world and some manufacturers or blacksmiths will change the profile to accommodate the chef’s preferences for specific countries. The Gyuto is simply a fusion between a western chef’s knife with the culture of Japan. Traditional handles like the octagonal handles will be more catered to the Japanese cuisines while the Western handles with Japanese core material will cater more to accommodate the western market. The most important thing to know is that a Gyuto is slightly straighter than a western chef’s knife and also a lot thinner and sharpened at a lower angle. This means that the Gyuto is less suitable for heavy-duty work.
The Santoku is related to the Chef’s knife and the Gyuto. The word Santoku means ”three virtues” which indicates that is can be used to cut meat, vegetables or fish. The Japanese created the Santoku based on the western Chef’s knife, they changed the knife profile to be straighter to accommodate the Japanese cutting style of chopping rather than rocking, as you would with the curved edge of the Chef’s knife. In Japan, they are used in the home kitchen and rarely seen in the professional kitchen. In Japan, they call this the housewife’s knife. A santoku is usually around 7-inch (18cm) to 5-inch (13cm).
The Nakiri is a Japanese adaption of the Chinese Cleaver and is used to cut vegetables. While the Nakiri is seen as a vegetable knife you can also use it on fish and meat. The Nakiri is a double bevel knife with rounded squared edges, the thin blade and the straighter profile makes it ideal for specialized tasks such as making ribbons from daikon or cucumber. The blade is also less wide than the heavier Chinese cleaver. The Nakiri is great for the forward chopping motion.
Chinese all-purpose cleaver
The traditional Chinese cleaver, the cleaver that can do it all. Chop trough duck, chicken bones. Slice through veggies and fruit. The traditional Chinese cleaver is what all chefs use in China. Not only do they use these types in the professional kitchen they also are mandatory in the Chinese culinary school. Once you have mastered the Chinese cleaver you will be able to perform every task you can do with a western chef’s knife including food transferring because of a bigger surface. This traditional Chinese cleaver is built like a tank. The front is sharper so that you can be more precise and decorate your dishes with your knife skills. The heel is thicker for a more demanding task like chopping through bones. The back of the blade is used to tenderize meat.
Chinese vegetable cleaver
The Chinese chef’s knife is big but you have to make sure what type you buy. In Asian cuisine, many traditional recipes require you to chop through bones and therefore you need an all-purpose Chinese cleaver. The Chinese vegetable and Chinese Bone cleaver is a different knife! They may look the same but they are not, bone cleavers are heavier and made of less hard material. The Chinese vegetable cleaver has a straight profile you can compare it with a Nakiri knife. Despite the name ”vegetable” they are suitable for boneless proteins too. The length is usually 7-inch (18cm) for a vegetable cleaver. Since the popularity of Japanese knife makers, they have created a Chinese vegetable cleaver. You will lose all the benefits of a Traditional Chinese Cleaver. You basically have a Nakiri knife in the form of a Chinese cleaver.
A meat slicer is usually thin and long so that you can slice through the meat instead of sawing back and forth. Most restaurants use a meat slicer machine instead of a knife. Unless it is precooked meat and they need to slice the meat for the show, for the audience to enjoy before putting it on the plate. Then they will use the meat slicer knife.
This kind of knife is pretty much the same as a chef’s and usually, it has a straighter profile like the French chef’s knife. It is good for a smaller task. Just like the paring knife but
A paring knife is great for peeling and a smaller task like slicing through herbs. Personally, I like the cheaper version like the Victorinox paring knife over the Hammered Damascus more expensive paring knife. The blade of the Victorinox is thinner and therefore it is more suitable for the smaller task with a sharper edge. Since they are inexpensive you won’t cry while you lose them.
A boning knife is designed to debone different kinds of bones from chicken to beef or to carve a lamb rack so that the bones are more visible. Our butcher and even at the restaurant we use precut meat most of the time. This reduces our prep work tremendously to let the butcher/supplier do it for us. I personally don’t use a boning knife I prefer a chef’s knife or a Chinese cleaver to do the boning work. The reason is that I’m too lazy to grab a different knife for such a small task especially when I cook at home.
A Japanese version of the boning knife the shape is different and therefore the Honesuki is more suitable for poultry like chicken or going through the joints of the chicken.
Chinese bone cleaver
The Chinese bone cleaver is specially designed for butchers and restaurants that mainly sell duck, chicken, and spare ribs. Just like the Chinese vegetable cleaver, they share the same shape the only difference is the steel type which is softer so that it won’t chip. Therefore a Chinese bone cleaver is less sharp but it is definitely a lot heavier so that you can chop through bones easier. Many Asians buy a complete duck or chicken as take away. The chef directly butchers the cooked duck or chicken in front of your eyes within 20 seconds.
A Deba is a Japanese bone cleaver that is designed to go through fish bones rather than spare ribs.
A Yanagiba is ideal for filleting a fish. Unlike the western filleting knife which is flexible. A Yanagiba is great for sashimi since it has a single-edged bevel.
The western version of the Yanagiba which is flexible and is ideal for deskinning the fish or to remove the rib bones from a salmon.
You have different serrated bread knives which are ideal to cut through bread.
Should you use any of the mentioned knives?
As a home cook, you can add them to your collection but you will probably not use them since your chef’s knife is capable of replacing almost all the mentioned knives. Except for the paring, bread, and Chinese bone cleavers. However, as a professional cook, I do recommend some of the knives depending on the cuisine you are working for. When I was working in a Japanese kitchen I was in love with the quality that my Yanagiba produced. The nigiri and sashimi were sliced perfectly every single time. I was also 3 or 4 times faster with my task with a specialized knife. However, we are filleting like 6 to 12 salmon a day and therefore speed is important so that we maintain the freshness and can go on with other prep work before the rush hour.
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