Just like a craftsman has a utility belt, a cook should have a utility knife. Smaller than a chef knife but bigger than a paring knife, this mid-sized tool is the kind of knife that any professional or home cook can feel confident using. Included in most kitchen knife sets, the utility knife is often the overlooked of the set – but after experiencing the power of this handy knife, it’s sure to become one of your go-to kitchen tools.
What is a Kitchen Utility Knife?
Not to be confused with the small, often retractable knife that fits in your pocket and is used for random tasks (like cutting fishing line), the kitchen utility knife is used for a variety of tasks in the kitchen, from cutting through mid-sized fruits and veggies to slicing up meats and cheeses for a photo worthy charcuterie board.
Utility knife blades can range anywhere between 4 and 7 inches long – but here at FN Sharp, our utility knife measures in at 5.5 inches, which is the perfect size for almost any kitchen task. Made of 67 layers of Damascus steel and weighing in at just 5 ounces, the FN Sharp Utility knife offers superior control with an ergonomically shaped handle for maximum comfort. With a straight edge that boasts a 26-degree angle (13 degrees on each side), this powerhouse of a knife slices though peels, tough skins, and even meats with ease.
Some utility knives are designed with a serrated edge, which requires a sawing motion while cutting through food. While a serrated edge may seem like it has the potential to cut better, it can also saw through the interior of soft foods and damage the appearance (think of meat and cheese trays or fruit platters). The FN Sharp utility knife has a straight edge that makes clean cuts without compromising the visual aesthetic of the food or tearing through the soft interior of ingredients like tomatoes and leaving a mushy mess on your cutting board.
What is a Utility Knife Used for in the Kitchen?
Truly, the ‘jack (knife) of all trades’ the utility knife is the ‘go-to’ for nearly any kitchen task, from fruits and veggies to meats and cheeses.
Using a Utility Knife for Fruits and Veggies
Often referred to as a “tomato knife”, the utility knife is perfect for cutting produce with soft-to-medium firm skins or rinds, like tomatoes, potatoes, apples, citrus fruits like lemons, limes and oranges, cucumbers, or small squash like zucchini, acorn, and butternut. It’s also great for cutting cantaloupe, honeydew, and watermelon into wedges or rounds.
Using a Utility Knife for Meats and Cheeses
Cutting medium to hard blocks of cheese into slices or cubes is a breeze with a utility knife. The straight edge means clean, smooth lines on the cut sides, making it a great tool for creating meat, cheese, or fruit platters. Even softer wheels of cheese can be cleanly cut into wedges with this handy knife.
The size of the utility knife offers superior control for cutting meat into uniform pieces and will cut through hard salami, pepperoni, and sausages with ease. You can even use it for cutting chicken breasts or smaller fish fillets, and even opening shellfish.
Other Uses for a Utility Knife in the Kitchen
For smaller, quick jobs, the utility knife is hands down the star of the kitchen. Use this knife to quickly chop nuts or rough-cut herbs and other greens. It’s also the perfect tool for slicing bagels, buns, and hunks of bread, and is great for keeping ingredients from slipping out the sides when slicing sandwiches in half. The more you use your utility knife, the more you’ll discover new ways to use it in your kitchen!
How to Care for a Kitchen Utility Knife
If you are a professional chef or home cook, you know your knives are the most important tools in your kitchen. From start to finish, everything you make is easier with good, quality knives. Proper care, cleaning, and regular sharpening will guarantee superior usability for years to come. Never put your knives in the dishwasher or leave them in a sink full of other dishes. And always store them so they aren’t touching other utensils, preferably in a knife block.
Keep your knives in tip-top shape by hand-washing them. Hold the knife pointing down with your guiding hand (your guiding hand is the hand you don’t cut with, or your non-dominate hand). With the blade edge facing away from you, gently wipe each side of your knife from the bolster (where the beginning of the blade is exposed) down to the tip of the knife. You can also lay your knife down on a flat surface and wipe it down that way if you’re afraid you may drop it.
How to Sharpen a Utility Knife
As with any knife, regular use of your kitchen utility knife will inevitably lead to a dull blade, while other factors like the cutting surface you use and how you care for your knives can determine how quickly that happens. This is why choosing the best cutting board, following the rules of kitchen knife safety, and properly caring for your knives is important for prolonging that sharp edge.
But when the time does come to sharpen up that edge – and it will – you’ll find many ways to sharpen your kitchen knives, but each method takes know-how and a bit of practice. The most common method is using a ‘steel’ which is a hand-held metal rod that you slide the edge of your blade against in an up and down motion (you’ve probably seen this done in cooking shows on TV). While this may help make your blade feel sharper, it doesn’t really sharpen your knife – it simply straightens (or ‘hones’) any edges that have become bent or curled with prolonged use.
Another sharpening option is a whetstone, which is an abrasive block that can hone the edge of the knife by repetitively moving the blade back and forth against the coarse surface. The stone needs to be soaked in water prior to use and continually moistened during the sharpening process. You must be careful, however, to place the blade on the stone at equal angles for each side so you don’t end up grinding the blade down unevenly.
To be honest, knife sharpening really is an art unto itself and you’ve got better things to do. Perfecting how to sharpen your knives takes considerable time and practice, so it’s always best to leave it to the professionals.
And if you never want to worry about cooking with dull knives or learning how to keep them sharp, then check out F.N. Sharp! Our premium kitchen knives come with a sharpening service that ensures you always have sharp knives on hand and right where they belong: in your knife block and ready to create when you are!