The Complete Guide to Types of Kitchen Knives and Their Uses

Most of us are familiar with the most common kitchen knives. You’ve got your chef’s knife for chopping, your bread knife for slicing, and your paring knife for smaller tasks. Heck, you might even one of them there fancy knife blocks with 6 or 8 of these bad boys. But did you know there’s a massive variety of kitchen knives out there? You could be missing out on the perfect utensil for making sushi, slicing ribs, or creating radish roses and not even know it. Well, don’t worry because we’ve broken down a list of 20 kitchen knives and their best uses.

Chef’s Knife
classic chef's knife

This big guy is one of the most commonly used kitchen knives, and chances are you’ve got one chilling in your drawer or knife block right now. It’s simple and versatile, best used for general prep use like slicing, dicing, and chopping.

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Utility Knife
The Henckels International Silvercap 6" Utility Knife

This is another general use knife, but it’s often sturdier than a chef’s knife, which means it can used for things like coring produce, trimming fat from meat, and slicing bagels in addition to dicing and chopping. A heavy duty version of the utility knife is helpful for cutting thicker foods, like squash or cured meats.

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Santoku Knife
Wüsthof Gourmet Hollow-Edge Santoku Knife, 7"

The santoku is similar to chef’s knife, but is shorter and thinner, with a flat blade instead of a gently curved one. The lighter weight makes them a little easier to handle than chef’s knives, and they’re good for finer mincing, slicing, and dicing.

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Nakiri Knife
Classic Nakiri Knife

Like the Santoku, the Nakiri Knife (or Nakiri bōchō) originated in Japan. It has a wide, thin blade with squared ends. While it’s not ideal for working with meats, it’s great for chopping and slicing vegetables. It’s flat blade makes it easy to slice all the way to the cutting board without rocking or sawing, and it’s perfect for cutting lengthwise through vegetables like eggplant. The blade shape is also good for scooping up prepped veggies.

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Meat Cleaver
Global Heavy Cleaver

The meat cleaver is a beast among knives, perfect for slicing through thick meat like ribs or cutting through thin bones like poultry bones. Also the spookiest knife on the list.

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Butcher’s Knife
Shun Blue Butcher Knife

A butcher’s knife is like the meat cleaver’s dad. It’s thicker blade is good for chopping and slicing up big hunks of meat, but offers less precision than the cleaver.

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Carving Knife
carving knife

Carving knives have narrow blades that form a pointed tip and are built for tasks like carving up your Thanksgiving turkey or Christmas ham. The blade is designed for less resistance as you cut into the meat, resulting in thin, uniform slices.

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Bread Knife
shun premier bread knife

Bread knives have long blades and serrated edges so they can easily cut through crusty breads, fluffy cakes, or softer meats and produce without crush or destroying them.

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Kitchen Shears
kitchenaid shears

Kitchen shears may not technically be knives, but they deserve a place on this list anyway and no kitchen should be without a reliable pair. Use them for everything from cutting fresh herbs and breaking down poultry to opening stubborn packaging and cutting kitchen twine.

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Steak Knife
steak knife set

If you’ve ever sat down to enjoy a juicy steak without one of these, you know how necessary they are. Best for during-meal use to cut steak, chicken, pork, and anything else that lands on your dinner plate.

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Paring Knife
pairing knife

The paring knife is familiar to most kitchens, and is better for more precision tasks than a chef or utility knife. It can be used to finely slice smaller produce or devein shrimp.

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Boning Knife
henckels honing knife

Not surprisingly, a boning knife is built to remove bones from raw meats, but it’s also excellent for butterflying things like pork chops and chicken breasts. It has a narrow blade with a curved bottom. You can find boning knives with flexible blades, good for fish and poultry, or stiff blades, which are better for beef and pork.

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Fillet Knife
fillet knife

Fish is very delicate and is tough to properly handle with standard knives. The fillet knife has a thin, flexible blade that makes it much easier to remove the skin from fresh fish.

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Peeling Knife
peeling knife

While you can get away with peeling most veggies using your paring knife, the peeling knife is specifically designed for the task. It has a slightly rounded blade that allows it to cover more surface area and peel produce with less effort and risk.

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Fluting Knife
fluting knife

For small or super delicate produce, a fluting knife is better for peeling. The blade is typically between 2 and 4 inches long, with a light weight and a short, straight blade that’s easy to maneuver in tight spaces.

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Trimming Knife
lamson trimming knife

A trimming knife is similar to a fluting knife (typically between 2 and 3 inches long), but has a more curved blade that is similar to a boning knife. It’s good for peeling and slicing small produce as well as creating decorations like those radish roses we mentioned before.

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Mincing Knife
mezzaluna

A mincing knife (also called a mezzaluna) has a distinct, curved blade and top handle (or handles) so it can easily be rocked back and forth to mince produce. It’s also helpful for cutting fresh herbs into fine pieces.

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Decorating Knife
decorating knife

Decorating knives have patterned blades, most commonly a “zig zag” design that results in that ruffled effect popular for chips and carrot slices.

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Cheese Knife
cheese knife set

A cheese knife is for…cutting…the cheese. Heh. But seriously, they’re specially designed to slice cheese without sticking to or crumbling it. Hard cheeses require a knife with a stiffer blade, while cheese knives with holes in the blade are designed for soft cheeses.

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Tomato Knife
lamson rosewood tomato knife

A tomato knife is specially built for slicing tomatoes without crushing all the juice out of them, and has a long pointed tip that can be used to transfer fresh slices from the cutting board to your plate. It can also be used for citrus fruits.

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Article originally published October 10, 2018. Last updated December 2018.

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