Find out what the different knives do and what would suit you the best.
There are a surprisingly large number of different types of kitchen knife available considering that they are all designed to do the same job, cutting things.
So let's whittle it down to the basics. Here is what you need to know.
Regardless of your skill level, here in order of importance are the main types of knife you need in your life:
- Santoku (Chef knife) - santoku translates to "three virtues" (or three uses) which are slicing, dicing and chopping. It is the Japanese general purpose kitchen knife that you'll use for most tasks and is typically around 160 to 180mm long. If I had to pick one knife this would be the one. Its a new shape to us in the West and you might be tempted with getting the chef knife shaped Gyuto first that we traditionally would use over here in Europe but give this one a go, its surprisingly handy and a joy to use.
- Gyuto (Chef knife) - Ranging from 180mm to 270mm the gyuto (translates as "beef-sword") is a general purpose chef's knife that are typically quite tall at the heel and pointed towards the tip for precision work. Ideal choice for all round use.
- Petty - A petty knife is a small utility knife designed mainly for delicate work like cutting herbs or small fruits or vegetables.
- Nakiri - The nakiri is a vegetable knife, designed with a thin, straight edge and squared tip it allows you to slice all the way through vegetables without needing to twist the blade. The tall profile also helps with scooping your veg into the pot.
- Sujihiki (Carving knife) - The sujihiki is the Japanese equivalent of a Western carving knife - slim and long to allow fewer passes of the blade through boneless pieces of meat it helps avoid tearing which gives a more succulent piece of meat as a result.
And that's it! There are a lot more to choose from (and we can supply them if you want them) but that's all you really need to start with. On a budget? Then start at the top and work down. Each type of knife has its use in the right situation and in the right hands.
Professionals need specialist tools for specialist jobs. Painters for instance might have a choice of 10 paint brushes to choose from if they came to paint my lounge, even though I could probably muddle through on my own with just two, it's just the finish might not be as good and it might take me a little bit longer. But that is the pay off, it's worth their time and money to invest in all the right tools, however I can do 80% of the job with 20% of the kit.
Kitchen knives are no different, do you really need a tomato knife for instance? How about a salmon knife? You probably didn't even know there were such things, I sure didn't when I first developed an interest in knives. Right tool for the job at hand.