Culinary Knives Resource Guide

The right culinary knives can make or break your time in the kitchen, whether you are a professional chef or a beginner. Poorly constructed knives can be unwieldly and unpleasant to use. Instead of going the cheap route, it may be a good idea to invest in quality knives that will ease your chopping, slicing and dicing needs. Knife fundamentals to keep in mind include:

  • Solid construction
  • Quality materials (such as stainless steel)
  • Blade and cutting edge style
  • Knife handles 

However, it's not enough to simply have one good knife. To excel in cooking of all kinds, you need a collection of essential tools including a variety of chef's knives. In addition to excellent all-purpose blades, every chef's knife set should include specialty knives for a wide variety of food preparation.

Types of chef's knives

There are many different types of culinary knives. The chart below can help you get to know the basics and determine which knives deserve a place in your kitchen.

Knife Type


When to Use It

Chef's Knife


8- to 10-inch blade with the widest part closest to the handle

All-purpose knife that is the go-to blade for many professionals

Bird's Beak or Tournee Knife


2- to 3-inch blade with a curved edge

Make decorative cuts in fruits and vegetables

Boning Knife


5- to 7-inch blade, very thin with a short point

Remove bones from meat, poultry and fish

Fillet Knife

fillet knife

Similar to a boning knife but slightly longer

Slice fillets off fish

Bread Knife


9-inch blade with a serrated edge

Slice bread

Cheese Knife


Traditionally a 5- to 7-inch blade with perforations on the edge and holes in the center of the blade

Slice hard and soft cheeses

Deli Knife


8- to 9-inch blade with a scalloped edge designed to cut sandwiches without compressing them

Cut sandwiches and sandwich ingredients

Grapefruit Knife


Short blade with a blunt end and serrations on both sides, usually slightly curved

Cut and remove segments from grapefruit and other citrus fruit

Mincing Knife


Curved blade, usually with two handles or a bar running the length of the blade

Mince vegetables, fruits, meat and other foods

Clam or Oyster Knife


2- to 3-inch blade, dull on the sides but with a point

Open fresh shellfish

Paring Knife


Small utility knife, often with a 3-inch blade

Peeling fruits and vegetables and other tasks for which a chef's knife would be too large

Santoku Knife


7-inch blade with a wide body, sometimes referred to as a Japanese Chef's Knife

All-purpose knife suitable for chopping, dicing and mincing

The next step

Culinary knives are among a chef's most important tools so finding a great set is worth the investment, both in terms of time and money. Great knives are not always cheap -- quality and longevity carry a price -- but they could help to elevate your kitchen skills.

Once you have the right types of cooking knives, you need to know how to use them. If you want to try to ratchet your knife skills upward from faux to pro (and maybe even pursue a new career), your next step may be to research culinary programs near you.


  • Bird's Beak Knife, RecipeTips.com, 2014, http://www.recipetips.com/glossary-term/t -- 37970/birds-beak-knife.asp
  • Ceramic Kitchen Knives, 2014, http://www.ceramickitchenknives.net/
  • Cheese Knife Reviews and Buying Guide, Galt Home Buying Guides, September 5, 2014, http://www.galttech.com/research/household-DIY-tools/best-cheese-knife.php
  • Fillet Knife Buyer's Guide, Bass Pro Shops, Justin Hoffman, May 9, 2013, http://www.basspro1source.com/index.php/component/k2/238-fishing-tackle/783-fillet-knife-buyers-guide
  • "How to Choose Kitchen Knives," March 25, 2014, http://zknives.com/knives/kitchen/misc/articles/kkchoser/kksteelp2.shtml
  • Kitchen Knifes Blade Styles and Uses, Accessed September 5, 2014, http://www.kniveskitchen.com/blades.html
  • "On Oyster Knives," Oysters.US, John McCabe, accessed September 5, 2014, http://www.oysters.us/oyster-knives.html
  • "Paring Knife: Essential Knife for Every Kitchen," Cooking.com, Chef Knife Guru Guide, 2012, http://knives.cooking.com/guide/paring-knife-essential-knife-for-every-kitchen/#.VAoFIGPt9DJ
  • "What is a Grapefruit Knife?," wisegeek.com, 2014, http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-a-grapefruit-knife.htm
  • "What is a Mincing Knife?," wisegeek.com, 2014, http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-a-mincing-knife.htm#comments
  • "What Kind of Knife is Best for Slicing Bread," About.com, Mariette Mifflin, 2014, http://housewares.about.com/od/cutleryknives/f/breadknives.htm


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