(ranked in order of popularity)
This is the most used blade and the workhorse in a Western kitchen. It has a broad blade with a curve towards the tip, allowing it to rock back and forth for mincing. Chef’s knifes can be any length from 16 cm / 6” to 30 cm / 12”. The most common size is 20 cm / 8”, with professionals often preferring 9” or 10” blades. A Chef’s knife is recommendable when rock chopping or cutting in a slicing motion.
The paring knife comes in handy for cutting and cleaning small fruits and vegetables as well as detailed work where precision, not power is needed. They come in sizes from 5 cm / 2” to 13 cm / 5” (with 10 cm / 4” the most popular size) and different shapes,
spear point with a curved and pointed blade, for work when the sharp tip is needed
sheep’s foot with a straight blade and rounded tip, preferable for tasks where the straight blade provides more contact with food or cutting board
bird’s beak with an inverted curve of the blade, mimicking the shape of a bird’s beak, making it perfect for peeling.
The utility knife lands somewhere in between the Chef’s and a spear point paring knife, with a curved blade and pointed tip. It subsequently is used when the Chef’s appears too large and the paring too small, for mid-sized fruits and vegetables, as well as slicing meats, cheeses and tomatoes, or even sandwiches or bagels. For the latter, there often are versions with a serration that has narrow and pointed teeth, making them less aggressive and smoother in cutting than a bread knife, but still sharp enough to cut through skin or crust.
Recently there are versions of the utility that are called compact Chef’s knife or prep knife. Those are shrunk versions of a Chef’s knife, in 13-16 cm (5-6”) that offer sufficient knuckle clearance for work on a cutting board. They are ideal for users who feel intimidated by large knives.
As the name implies, bread knives are designed to cut bread and thus have a serrated edge to tear through the crust of a bread. The blade tends to be long, narrow and straight, with a rounded edge. They are offered with different types of serration, aggressive ones with sharp tips for hard crusted breads, or softer serrations with inverted scallops for cutting cakes or other objects in a sawing motion, without squishing the food. The length varies from 20 cm / 8” to 30 cm / 12”, with the shorter 20 cm / 8” version being the most popular.
The steak knife is made for use on dinner plates and the only sharp knife found on a modern table. It features a curved blade and a pointed tip. At the end, with the usual size between 12 and 14 cm (4.5-5.5”), it’s similar to a utility knife and could also be used in the kitchen as such.
Steak knives come with and without serration, with each of them having lovers and haters. Since cutting on plates will dull a non-serrated steak knife quickly, they need to be sharpened frequently. This problem is non-existent with a serrated edge, which however tears through the meat and changes the texture and taste of it.
With the rapidly rising popularity of high-end meat and steakhouses, sales of steak knives are on the rise too. However, they often are categorized as table knives rather than kitchen knives.
The carving knife / slicer has a long, narrow and usually flexible blade with a thin cross section, ideal for cutting larger pieces of meat (or fish)
The slicing knife has straighter blade with round tip, often with divots ground into the blade to reduce friction when cutting boneless meats, whereas the carving knife has a sharp tip for working with meat on bones.
The slicing knife usually comes in sizes of 26 cm / 10” to 36 cm / 14”, whereas the normal sizes of a carving knife are between 20 cm / 8” and 30 cm / 12”.
The name says it all - this knife is made for deboning of meat. The thin, curved and flexible blade allows slicing around the bones and following the shape of it, to avoid wasting too much of the meat. A wider angle of the cutting edge makes the edge stable and avoids chipping when working around the bones or cutting through joints or breaking away the cartilage. And the narrow blade makes it perfect for trimming fat. Common sizes of the boning knife are 14-18 cm (5.5-7”).
The filleting knife looks very similar to the boning knife, but there are subtle differences. It’s primarily made for filleting and cleaning fish. As such, the blade must be thin, sharp and flexible, more so than in a boning knife. They typically are between 15 and 28 cm long (6-11”).