Knife Shape Definitions and Intended Uses:
- Petty: Often called a paring or utility knife, the petty knife is made for smaller cutting tasks. An indispensable tool in any knife kit, it excels at cutting herbs, slicing garlic, dicing shallots, peeling fruits & veg, and even deboning certain cuts of meat and breaking down poultry. Petty knives can vary in size (usually between 75mm -210mm) and shape.
- Santoku: A well-rounded knife that excels at slicing, dicing and mincing. The santoku is the most common knife shape that you will find in kitchens worldwide. Think of it as a cross between a gyuto (chef knife) and nakiri (veg knife). Generally short in length, between 160mm to 190mm, the santoku is a superb knife if work space is an issue.
- Nakiri: A double bevel knife designed specifically for vegetable prep. The nakiri is quite recognizable for its flat profile and squared-off nose. This shape is designed for the push/pull chopping and slicing style. Generally, these knives are ground quite thin for refined chopping, an entremetier essential.
- Gyuto: The word gyuto translates to "cow blade" and is the Japanese knife makers answer to the Western chef knife. The gyuto is a general-purpose knife that most chefs could not do without. They are generally tall at the heel, flat throughout and rounded toward the tip of the knife for rock chopping. I use my gyuto for just about anything, from butchering certain fish, to brunoise veg, to cutting a cake. Any good chef will tell you to invest in a good quality gyuto first and then build the rest of your knife kit around it.
- Sujihiki: The English translation is “flesh slicer”. Designed to make slicing meat as effortless as possible, the short height and generally thin blade on the Sujihiki allows you to slice through meat with one clean motion.
- Deba: This would be the first knife a sushi chef would reach for at the start of each day, as it is designed specifically for butchering and breaking down fish. Traditionally the deba is a single bevel knife, although there are double bevel versions available as well. The single bevel design helps push the flesh away from the bones, which lends itself perfectly to the overall breakdown of fish. The hefty weight allows the user to navigate easily through fish skin and certain bones, and makes dispatching the head a breeze.
- Honesuki: A Japanese boning knife, traditionally single bevel, it is designed to make breaking down poultry a breeze. A very rigid knife, it is meant to cut through the joints of birds.
- Bread Knife: A really good one will change your life. If you cut a lot of sourdough or crusty bread, consider getting a nice ridged knife.
- Boning Knives: These come in various shapes and rigidness and are designed for cleaning bone in proteins.
- Usuba: A single bevel knife used for refined vegetable work (think nakiri sharpened only on one side). If you have ever watched the original Iron Chef TV show, you probably saw someone prepping long sheets of radish or other veg using a usuba.
- Bunka: A cross between a santoku and nakiri, the bunka excels in veg prep where push/pull chopping is used. Bunkas also sport a pointy tip, perfect for scoring mushrooms and dicing small veg.
- Ko-Bunka: A smaller version of the bunka, I like to call these little beauties shallot slayers. They are quite handy to have on your station during service for last-minute chiffonade of herbs or vegetables diced a la minute.
- Kiritsuke: In a traditional Japanese kitchen, the kiritsuke knife was reserved only for the head chef to use. Now it has become a popular all-purpose knife that can destroy all your prep-work in no time. Slice meat, chiffonade herbs, chop veg, this knife does it all.
- Fillet: A flexible knife most commonly found in western kitchens, they are usually quite long and narrow. The extreme flex allows the user to cut along bones with ease, ensuring no flesh is left behind.
- Cleaver: A large knife that varies in its shape but usually resembles a rectangular-blade hatchet. It is largely used as a kitchen or butcher knife intended for hacking through bone. The knife's broad side can also be used for crushing in food preparation (such as garlic).
- Yanagiba: A single bevel knife used for slicing raw fish. Generally very thin at the edge for precision knife work, it is designed for the pull cutting technique used by sushi chefs. The single bevel design allows the knife to glide through the fish disturbing as little protein molecules as possible. This results in shiny slices of food, perfect for raw presentation.
- Chinese Veg Cleaver: A favourite knife utilized heavily among Chinese chefs. They tend to be quite tall for julienne push/pull style chopping. They are quite handy for smashing garlic into a paste and other quick jobs. Try not to be intimidated by the size, they are a joy to use.