What a Chef’s Knife is Used for and Why Every Kitchen Needs One
The name ‘chef’s knife’ makes using this essential kitchen tool sound intimidating. Do you need to be a chef to use one properly? Of course not! This is a must-have knife for any kitchen – and with its many uses, you may find yourself reaching for it more often than the rest of your knives, combined. In fact, the chef’s knife is often referred to as the most important tool in the kitchen, which means it deserves the most detailed guide.
While there are a few different types of chef knives, this post focuses on the classic Western-style chef’s knife. Whether you’re a pro or not, it can be the go-to knife for nearly every cutting task that comes your way. So, what can you do with your chef’s knife? This guide explains it all!
If don’t have time for the details or are already familiar with the western-style chef’s knife but want some tips for sharpening up your skills, then use the links below to find what you need:
How to Slice With a Chef’s Knife
How to Chop With a Chef’s Knife
How to Dice With a Chef’s Knife
How to Mince with a Chef’s Knife
How to Use the Parts of a Chef’s Knife
How to Maintain Your Chef’s Knife
The F.N. Sharp Guide to Using a Chef’s Knife
With so many different uses, a good chef’s knife should be at the top of the list for must-have kitchen tools. Without this knife, your prep work can be more difficult than it needs to be, which means cooking will be less enjoyable.
This post covers everything you need to know about how to use a chef’s knife, from an overview of its different uses, to how to hold it and perform different cutting techniques. But first, let’s dissect this powerhouse knife.
Anatomy of a Chef's Knife
While there is a knife for every use and budget, quality knives are an investment in performance and safety. Getting to know the different parts of a knife and the materials used to create them will help you determine what to look for in a quality chef’s knife, as well as how to use it to its full potential.
The Blade and its Parts
The blade, of course, refers to the most important part of a knife – the part that gets things done. The length of a chef’s knife blade typically measures between 8 to 12 inches. It also features a curved edge, known as the “belly”, which is designed for the cutting technique known as the “rock chop”. Once you get the hang of it, this technique makes slicing through ingredients a breeze.
The blade also consists of different parts, some of which can be used for different tasks:
The Edge: This part of your chef's knife is where all of the magic happens, of course! Look for a blade made of durable steel and superior edge geometry – preferably 50/50 double bevel (sharpened on both sides).
The Heel: This is the wider part of the cutting edge of the blade, closest to the handle, which is ideal for chopping harder items like nuts, carrots, squashes or even bones since it’s the strongest part of the cutting edge.
The Tip: This is where the blade comes to a point, which can be used for delicate cutting and fine, detailed work. For example, you can use the tip of your chef’s knife to create guide cuts in tough ingredients like melons, squashes, and other dense fall vegetables. It can also be used for scoring, piercing and separating sinew from meat.
The Spine: This is the thick edge of the blade, opposite to the cutting edge, and extends from the handle to the tip. It can be used for scraping ingredients and other non-cutting tasks like scaling fish.
When it comes to the materials used to craft chef’s knife blades, you’ll find a few different types to choose from, including budget steels, premium steels, titanium and even ceramic. Knowing the materials used to create your chef’s knife is essential for maintenance and care.
If you’re looking for the best blades in terms of performance, steel is the way to go. But, you still have two options to choose from: high carbon vs. stainless steel.
High carbon steel, which is made of carbon and iron, is a less expensive option compared to stainless steel. While it does hold an edge very well and is easier to sharpen, it’s also prone to rust, stains and oxidation. High carbon steel blades are really ideal for professional chefs, rather than average home cooks who may not take as great of care of their knives.
Stainless steel, on the other hand, is made of iron, chromium, some carbon and other alloys, which makes it better for resisting corrosion. Depending on the types of stainless steel used, this means they can handle accidental bouts in the dishwasher. The only downside to stainless steel blades is they may need to be sharpened more often than high carbon steel. Either way, if performance and durability is your goal, then stainless steel is the way to go!
Then there’s Damascus steel, which isn’t an actual type of steel by itself, but it comes with an interesting history and is known for yielding a superior sharp edge (and a super pretty blade). Damascus steel blades can be crafted from both stainless and carbon steel, or a combination of both, and are made by “folding” layers of metal to reveal unique patterns along the flat of the blade.
For example, all F.N. Sharp blades are crafted from a combination of VG10 and VG2 stainless steels which are folded into 67 layers to reveal a feathered Damascus pattern.
Beauty and Function in One: F.N. Sharp’s Damascus Steel Kitchen Knives
The Handle and its Parts
The handle of a knife is just as important as the blade since its design can determine the performance and control of your knife. When not made with the best material and design, a knife handle can really make or break a knife (literally), while also making cutting tasks more difficult.
In fact, the design and material of a knife handle can determine:
- Your grip and level of hand control
- Your level of fatigue based on each task
- Water and temperature resistance
- Durability and reliability
- Cut performance and appeal
Like the blade, the handle also consists of a few different parts, and becoming familiar with how knife handles are designed and the materials used to create them can be very helpful when it comes to choosing a quality chef’s knife.
The different parts of a knife handle include:
The Bolster: Not all knives have bolsters, but quality knives with thicker bolsters indicate the blade was forged from a single piece of steel. Located at the top of the handle opposite the cutting edge, the bolster is designed to keep your fingers from slipping while you work.
The Rivets: These are metal pins that secure the handle to the tang of the blade. Not all knives have them, but if they do, make sure they’re smooth and flush with the handle of the knife.
The Tang: This part of the blade is encased inside the handle as either a “partial” or “full” tang. Partial-tang, or half-tang, knives are often of lower quality and will not perform as well or last as long, while full-tangs offer better balance, performance, and longer durability.
The Butt: Also called the pommel, the butt of a knife refers to the very end of the handle. This part is usually made of metal, and while some cooks may use it for tenderizing meat, it’s much safer (and better for your knife) to use tools intended for that purpose, instead.
Like the blades, knife handles can be crafted from several different types of materials, each with its pros and cons. For example, handles made of natural materials like wood and bone offer beauty over function and are often more expensive than synthetic materials.
Two of the most popular synthetic materials used to create knife handles are Micarta and G-10. Micarta is created by soaking layers of linen cloth in a phenolic resin to produce a strong, yet lightweight material that is extremely smooth to the touch with no surface texture.
Similar in construction to Micarta, G10 is a fiberglass-based laminate that is made by soaking layers of fiberglass cloth in resin, which is then compressed and baked. G10 knife handles are known for being lightweight and extremely durable with a checkered surface texture.
Both materials are great for kitchen knives, but G10 does have a bigger advantage over Micarta. While Micarta offers more handle colors and designs, G10 ranks higher in terms of durability, strength and continual beauty.
Knife Handle Showdown: Micarta vs. G10 Material
For more on what to look for in a quality chef’s knife, check out our kitchen knife buying guide. Or, save yourself some time and get F.N. Sharp!
Our 8” Damascus steel chef’s knife comes with an exceptionally sharp, long-lasting edge that will make quick work out of any ingredient you throw its way. Plus, it can be purchased individually or in our 6-knife and 3-knife sets.
Both sets also come with our magnetic knife block, which has all of the space you need to showcase your knives on the outside, with plenty more room to store your other favorite cooking utensils on the inside.
If you don't have the space for a knife block, then check out our knife storage guide for more options. Storing your knives properly, along with using the best cutting board for your knives will keep those blades in tip-tip shape and ready to work when you are.
Now, let’s take a look at what you can do with that chef’s knife!
Top Uses for a Chef’s Knife
The most versatile knife in the kitchen, the chef’s knife is designed to perform a variety of kitchen tasks, from slicing, chopping and mincing vegetables, fruits and herbs, to cutting through large slabs of meat and disjointing bones. Read on for an overview of its many uses, or jump right into our tips for how to use your chef’s knife to its fullest potential.
Using a Chef's Knife to Prepare Vegetables
One of the best things about cooking at home is the ability to prepare healthy meals. Adding fresh veggies to most meals is a great way to incorporate the vitamins and minerals you need, plus there are plenty of ways to make them taste great!
To break down your veggies into appropriate sizes for cooking and eating, you’ll once again reach for your chef’s knife. The way you use your knife for these tasks depends on what is being prepared and how it will be served.
For instance, you could use your chef’s knife to cut an onion into slices for burgers, sandwiches and salads, wedges for roasting or grilling, or diced pieces for adding extra flavor to just about any recipe.
Since onions can be a bit slippery (and make you cry), a sharp knife is a must for the job. Not sure your knife is up to the task? Then check out this guide for tips on how to test the sharpness of your knife. And, if you avoid cutting onions because you can't stand the tears that go along with it, then be sure to check out our F.N. Sharp guide to cutting onions without crying.
If you’re working with dense fall and winter veggies like sweet potatoes and winter squashes, you’ll definitely want the heft of the chef’s knife! The length of the blade and strong heel can make quick work out of any tough veggie.
Check out the section on how to use a chef’s knife to learn all about the different ways this kitchen tool will come in handy when it comes to cutting up those veggies.
Or check out this F.N. Sharp guide to cutting up those veggies. And if you need a lesson on how to dice, slice, and mince like a pro, then check out the F.N. Sharp on knife cuts and techniques to level up your skills.
Prep School 101: Test Your Veggie Cutting Skills With These F.N. Sharp Recipes
Using a Chef's Knife to Prepare Fruit
Using a chef knife for fruit involves many of the same techniques used for preparing vegetables. For some fruits, a smaller knife will do the job just as well, but the chef’s knife will help you make quick work out of many different tasks. It could be something as simple as slicing watermelon or cutting apples into wedges for a snack, or it could be breaking down a few different fruits to make a colorful fruit salad. If you need it, here’s an F.N. Sharp guide for choosing, storing and cutting 22 types of fruit!
Want to see the chef knife’s fruit-cutting skills in action? Check out the video below to see how it’s used to prepare pina colada guacamole (yes, you read that right and it’s super delicious!):
Also check out this video to see how to peel and cut cantaloupe into slices and cubes:
And if you’re a little intimidated by cutting mango and/or pineapple, then check out the videos below to see how easy it is to do with an F.N. Sharp chef’s knife:
Also check out the videos below to see how a chef’s knife is used to slice, dice and julienne bell peppers (yes, they’re technically fruit!):
Prep School 101: Test Your Fruit Cutting Skills With These F.N. Sharp Recipes
Using a Chef's Knife to Prepare Herbs and Spices
As you gain experience in the kitchen, you’ll find that using premade spice packages is just not the same as using fresh ingredients. And when it comes to cooking with fresh herbs and spices, the chef’s knife will again come in handy. It’s the perfect tool for chopping up some cilantro for some tacos or fresh parsley to top off baked potatoes. Whatever your dinner plans are, keep your chef’s knife close at hand.
Jump down to the “How to Slice With a Chef’s Knife” section for a rundown on how to cut leafy fresh herbs using the chiffonade technique, or jump down to the “How to Mince with a Chef’s Knife” section for tips on how to mince fresh herbs.
Prep School 101: Test Your Herb Cutting Skills With These F.N. Sharp Recipes
Using a Chef's Knife to Prepare Meat
Without a doubt, preparing meat is one of the most intimidating tasks for someone who has minimal experience in the kitchen. You may be a little uncomfortable working with raw meat at first, and you probably won’t have the first idea of what you’re supposed to do with it. Don’t worry – it’s normal to have a learning curve at the start, and a chef’s knife can be your best friend as you learn the ropes.
When it comes to prepping those meats, the chef’s knife is a great tool for the job as it has the weight and blade length needed for breaking down meat and cutting through without using too much force. You can use it for just about any kind of meat you’d prepare in a kitchen, including beef, poultry, pork, lamb, game meat and even fish.
If you need a full rundown on the different meat and fish cuts, then be sure to bookmark this F.N. Sharp meat cuts guide and this F.N. Sharp fish cuts guide.
Prep School 101: Test Your Meat Cutting Skills With These F.N. Sharp Recipes
How to Use a Chef’s Knife Like a Pro
The first step to using a chef’s knife like a pro is practicing how to hold it properly. Whether you’re right-handed or left-handed, knowing how to properly grip your knife will not only help you enjoy the task at hand, but can also help prevent wrist strain and potential injuries. Once you get a handle on your grip, you can start practicing your knife cut techniques to level up your skills.
How to Hold a Chef's Knife
To properly hold your chef’s knife, first identify the bolster and position your right (or left) index finger underneath it near the heel of the blade. Your index finger and thumb should be on opposite ends of the handle so they’re “pinching” the blade, with your other three fingers wrapped loosely around the end of the handle.
Referred to as the “pinch” or “blade” grip, this technique gives you better control of your knife. Once you get the hang of this grip, it should make the knife feel like an extension of your arm, as described by the pros. While the pinch grip is used by most professional chefs, it isn’t comfortable for everyone.
If you prefer, you can also use the handle grip to hold your chef’s knife, which is done by wrapping your fingers around the handle of the knife. Your hand size and the shape and composition of your knife’s handle make a difference, so try practicing with both grips to determine what works best for you.
Check out the video below to see how to hold a chef’s knife in action:
With either knife grip you choose, you’ll also need to make sure your guide hand (the one that will be holding the ingredient in place) is in the “claw” position. This involves keeping your fingers curled under and using your knuckles as a guide for the blade.
Keeping your guide hand in the claw position keeps your knife perpendicular to the cutting board, (and your fingers safe) so you can quickly slice and dice through ingredients like a pro.
The best way to tell if you're using the claw position correctly is to make sure the flat of the blade meets the flat part of your curled fingers between the first and second knuckles. Then, you should simply be able to slide the blade against that flat part between your knuckles as you slice, dice and mince – just be sure not to lift the knife above your first knuckle between slicing so you don't nick your finger on the way down.
Once you’ve mastered how to comfortably grip your knife, it’s time to practice some cutting techniques.
Knife Knowledge 101: The F.N. Sharp Guide to Kitchen Knife Safety
How to Slice With a Chef's Knife
Slicing is most commonly used for larger fruits, vegetables and bunches of fresh herbs, as well as for meats like chicken, pork, beef and even fish. With slicing, you can choose to use either the pinch or handle grip, however, using the pinch grip is the best option for breezing through cutting your ingredients.
Slicing Through Fruits, Veggies and Herbs
To slice through fruits and vegetables using a chef’s knife, first stabilize the ingredient on your cutting board. If it’s round or oddly shaped, cut it in half or slice a small piece off the top or bottom so it lies flat.
To create your slices, begin by placing the tip of your knife against the board ahead of your ingredient. With the knife angled down toward the tip, draw it straight back towards you until it just begins to make the slice. Then, use a rocking motion to push the knife down and forward to complete the slice. The tip of the knife should not leave the board, and the whole motion is almost circular as you cut.
When it comes to slicing, there are four common techniques that every chef should understand and practice to perfect their craft. These methods are described below, along with videos so you can see the different cuts in action.
The Rondelle Cut: This knife cut, which simply means round in shape, is generally used when cutting round or oval shaped veggies, such as carrots, cucumbers and zucchini. While there isn’t an exact size dimension for this cut, rondelle pieces are uniform and generally measure between ⅛ to ½ an inch in thickness. Try the rondelle cut for soups, stews, salads and stir-fry recipes!
Check out the video below to see how to create a rondelle cut using the chef’s knife:
The Diagonal Cut: This cut is similar to the rondelle, except you’ll want to tilt the ingredient at a 45-degree angle rather than hold it perpendicular to your knife. The cut can be expanded into a technique known as the oblique cut, or roll cut, which is used for items that are thin on one end and thick on the other, like parsnips or carrots.
Cutting veggies using the diagonal cut not only makes a dish look extra pretty, but can also help those veggies cook more quickly while also allowing them to absorb more of any sauces or seasonings you’re cooking them with!
To perform this cut, begin with a diagonal cut, then rotate the ingredient another 45 degrees and slice again. Then rotate back until the entire ingredient has been sliced.
Check out the video below to see how to create a diagonal cut using the chef’s knife:
The Lozenge Cut: Often used when slicing fruits and veggies for decorative purposes, the lozenge cut gives you diamond-shaped pieces measuring around ½ inch by ½ inch by ⅛ inch. This cut is similar to the diagonal cut, except you’ll need to start by performing a baton or batonnet chop first. Then, turn your sticks at a 45-degree angle and slice. Try the lozenge cut on some bell peppers to create pretty patterns on your plate!
Check out the video below to see how to create a lozenge cut using the chef’s knife:
The Chiffonade Cut: If you’re slicing a large bunch of fresh herbs, like basil, mint, sage or sorrel, or even leafy greens like arugula, spinach or Swiss chard, then you may want to go for the chiffonade cut to make the job a little easier.
Coming from a French word meaning “in rags,” chiffonade refers to the process of cutting herbs and greens into thin strips. To achieve these delicate ribbons of green, you’ll start by neatly stacking your leaves on top of each other and gently rolling them into a tight bundle. Then, you’ll use the back-slice technique to cut thin slices from the bundle.
If you’re unfamiliar with the back-slice technique, you’ll need to place the tip of your knife against your cutting board and draw it backward, toward you, without pushing down – there’s no rocking motion at all. This is what produces the fine, narrow ribbons of herbs and greens that are perfect for adding as a last-minute garnish.
Check out the video below to see how to chiffonade in action:
Slicing Through the Meats
When it comes to slicing through meat and fish, you’ll want to avoid using a sawing motion as doing so will rip and shred the meat, giving it a jagged appearance rather than a clean cut. This is especially true if your knife isn’t quite sharp enough for the job.
Instead, start by positioning your knife ahead of the ingredient to begin slicing using the very heel off the blade. You’ll want to apply gentle downward pressure as you pull the knife back towards your body. This technique allows the weight of the knife to do the work for you.
Pro Tip: If the meat starts sticking to the blade between slices, use the fingers of your guide hand to straddle the blade and hold the ingredient in place.
Check out the video below to see how a chef’s knife is used to break down a boneless pork loin:
Check out the video below to see how a chef’s knife is used to break down a chicken:
Check out the video below to see howa chef’s knife is used to break down chicken wings:
How to Chop With a Chef's Knife
In culinary terms, chopping generally refers to cutting ingredients into smaller pieces that are roughly similar in shape and size. This can be done in two ways: the “rough chop” and the “fine chop”. The rough chop involves cutting ingredients into large 1-inch chunks, while the fine chop yields smaller chunks. In general, chopping resembles slicing in reverse.
To use your chef’s knife for chopping, be sure to grip the knife with your hand closer to the heel and bolster where the thickest part of the blade offers the most chopping power. Make sure the ingredient is stable on your cutting board before you begin. Then, while keeping the edge of the blade parallel with the board, begin chopping downward, pushing the knife slightly forward as you go while chopping uniformly using an up and down motion. Also be sure to keep your guiding hand in the ‘claw grip.’
There are several chopping techniques that build off of the rough chop method, as explained below.
The Baton Cut: This is the technique you’ll use for recipes that call for stick-shaped pieces. It’s often used for crudité platters that contain carrots, celery and other finger foods, as well as for thick-cut french fries. The largest of the stick cuts, the baton cut generally measures around 2 inches in length and ½ an inch in width on each side.
Check out the video below to see how to make a baton cut using a chef’s knife:
The Batonnet Cut: Closely related to the baton cut, the batonnet cut (pronounced “bah-toe-NAY”) also involves chopping ingredients into stick-shaped pieces. The difference is the batonnet cut is a bit more precise and measures around a quarter of an inch in width on each side and between 2 to 2½ inches in length.
You will want to use the same method as the rough chop for both the baton and batonnet, except you’ll want to take a little more care to ensure your pieces are uniform in shape and size.
The batonnet cut is also sometimes confused with the julienne, or allumette cut, which is half the size in width at an eighth of an inch per side. While the batonnet cut is typically used to set up an ingredient for dicing, it’s also great for cutting carrot sticks and other veggies for a crudité or veggie platter, as well as for veggies for a stir fry or even potatoes for french fries!
Check out the video below to see how to make a batonnet cut using a chef’s knife:
The Julienne Cut: This cut takes the batonnet one step further in creating thin, stick-shaped pieces. Think of the result of a julienne cut as resembling the size and thickness of a matchstick. Once you’ve mastered this cut, you can strive to perfect a fine julienne cut, which creates razor thin pieces of your favorite vegetable.
Check out the videos below to see how to use a chef’s knife to julienne peppers and zucchini in action:
When it comes to leveling up your chef’s knife skills, it’s important to master the baton, batonnet and the julienne as they are the first steps to finer cutting techniques like dicing and mincing. If you wish to dice, brunoise, mince or paysanne, you will need to build off of these chopping methods first.
How to Dice With a Chef's Knife
You may be wondering what the difference is between chopping and dicing. While these are similar cutting techniques, they do have their differences.
Chopping generally refers to cutting an ingredient into smaller pieces that are roughly similar in size and shape, while dicing is a more precise cutting technique that results in uniformly-sized cubed pieces ranging anywhere between ¼ to 1 inch chunks. Dicing ingredients helps the flavors and textures distribute evenly throughout the dish, while also allowing for quicker cooking times.
For each of the following knife cuts, you’ll build off of some of the chopping techniques listed above. It may take practice and experience to master these knife cuts, but the results will be well worth the effort.
The Large Dice: Also known as “Carré” for “square” in French, the large dice is one of the easiest knife cuts to do! When cutting veggies into a large dice, you should be left with cubes measuring around ¾ inch on all 6 sides. This cut is best for root vegetables, such as carrots, celery root, potatoes and rutabaga.
Check out the video below to see how to create a large dice using the chef’s knife:
The Medium Dice: This dice is achieved the same way you would a large dice, except the pieces should measure around ½ an inch on all sides. This technique is most commonly used with onions or for recipes that don’t specify the size of the dice.
Check out the video below to see how to dice an onion using a chef’s knife:
The Brunoise Cut: Pronounced "broon-wahz", this is the finest dice you can get in terms of size. Also referred to as fine brunoise or the “confetti” dice, the brunoise cut yields pieces measuring at a sixteenth of an inch on all sides. To achieve this cut, you’ll first cut your ingredient into julienne strips, then turn them in the opposite direction and dice away to create small, uniform cubes.
Check out the video below to see how to make a brunoise cut using the chef’s knife:
The Paysanne Cut: Meaning “country-style” in French, the paysanne cut is a chopping technique that involves cutting veggies into thin pieces measuring 1 millimeter in thickness. This is a more informal and rougher cut than the other more precise knife cuts in French cooking, and the pieces should resemble the shape of the veggie you’re cutting. For example, cutting carrots paysanne style will result in thin circles and cutting celery will result in crescent-shaped pieces.
Check out the video below to see how to make a paysanne cut using the chef’s knife:
The Mince: Also known as fine dicing, mincing starts with a fine julienne cut to create pieces that resemble the size of the head of a match. With this technique, you'll use the “rock chop” method where you seesaw your knife from tip to bolster to create the smallest pieces possible.
How to Mince With a Chef's Knife
Also building off the chopping method, mincing is generally used for ingredients that add extra flavor to a dish, rather than being the star of the show. Often used for garlic, ginger, shallots, onions, nuts and fresh herbs, the goal of mincing is to cut ingredients into the smallest pieces possible – and the curved blade of the chef’s knife makes this super easy.
To mince using your chef’s knife, stabilize the ingredient on your cutting board and perform the proper chopping method for the ingredient (julienne or fine dice). Then, gather the pieces into a pile on your cutting board and anchor the tip of your knife against the board. This provides a pivot point that allows you to rock the knife down through the ingredients quickly and repeatedly.
With your guide hand open and positioned on the spine of the blade, rock your knife up and down about two to three inches up in a left-to-right fashion, creating small, somewhat uniformed pieces.
As your mincing spreads the ingredients on your cutting board, use the spine of your knife or a board scraper to gather them back up for a finer cut. Avoid using the cutting edge of your knife to scrape up your ingredients as it can dull the blade.
Check out this video to see how to mince garlic using a chef’s knife:
How to Use the Different Parts of a Chef’s Knife
Did you know the different parts of a chef’s knife can be used for different meal prep tasks? With some experience, and a little bit of creativity, you’ll discover that your chef knife can be used in many different ways – just be sure to get to know the different parts of a knife and read on to see how to get the most out of your chef’s knife.
Using the Heel of the Blade
The heel of a chef’s knife is located along the cutting edge of the widest part of the blade closest to the handle. The width gives you the heft needed for cutting through tough and/or dense ingredients without applying too much pressure, so you’ll want to make sure you place your ingredient under the heel rather than the tip.
Use the heel of your chef’s knife to chop through tough ingredients like nuts, carrots, potatoes, squashes, melons and even bones.
Try Chopping Some Pistachios for This F.N. Sharp Recipe: Greek Rice Pudding
Using the Tip of the Blade
There’s a reason why the tip of a chef’s knife comes to a sharp point – actually, there’s more than one, from preparing meats to baking treats!
Preparing Meats: As already mentioned, the chef’s knife is a go-to for preparing meat – and the tip comes in handy, too! Use the sharp tip of your chef’s knife to remove sinew from meat – the tough fibrous tissue (tendon or ligament) that unites muscles to bones or bones to bones. A boning knife is still ideal for the job, but if you don’t have one in your knife collection, then reach for that chef’s knife!
More on the Meats: The Best Knife for Cutting Meat (Hint: It's Not Just One!)
Baking Treats: If you love all things baking, then get a little fancy with your sweet treats and use the tip of your chef’s knife to cut fun shapes into pastries and cookie dough!
Creating Guides: For some, cutting anything evenly is a skill in itself (✋). If you struggle with evenly slicing through dense fruits and vegetables like pumpkins, butternut squash, and other dense vegetables, honeydew, watermelon and other melons, save yourself from serving up mangled fruits and veggies by using the tip of your chef’s knife to create guide cuts. Then, all you have to do is simply follow the guides to slice those babies up and you’ll have perfectly even slices.
Using the Flat of the Blade
This is where you get to have a little bit of extra fun during your cooking adventures. There’s just something so satisfying that goes along with smashing ingredients under the flat of your chef’s knife blade. Here are a couple of ways to get that satisfaction:
Smashing Garlic: Many recipes call for crushed garlic, which is quick and easy with a chef’s knife. First, pull a few cloves off of the head and peel back the natural paper wrapper – or you can give it a good smack under the flat of your knife to make it easier to peel.
Once the garlic cloves are free, you can smash them one at a time using the flat of your blade. To do this, lay the blade down on its side with the clove of garlic underneath and hit down with your hand, careful not to hit the sharp cutting edge. It will take a bit of practice but breaking down garlic will be an easy job once you’ve mastered this technique. If you wish, you can lay a small folded towel over the blade before hitting down to crush the garlic, just as a layer of protection.
Crushing Cucumber: Wait, crushed cucumber? Yes! Cucumbers can become much more flavorsome with a little gentle crushing. This also helps absorb other flavors in a dish and is a technique commonly used in Asian cuisine.
To crush a cucumber with your chef’s knife, first slice it into pieces (if it’s a large cucumber), then use the flat of your blade to gently push down on each piece. You’ll see some water puddle up on your board, and that’s OK because that’s the point! Once you’ve finished gently crushing each piece, simply slice it up. chop it up, or whatever cut the recipe calls for!
Try Crushing Cucumber for This Recipe: Greek Lemon Chicken Kebabs
Using the Spine of the Blade
There are actually a few instances where you’ll use the opposite side of the cutting edge of your chef’s knife blade. From scaling fish to cracking a coconut, the spine of your chef’s knife blade is the star of the show.
Scraping Up Ingredients (And Staying Sharp!): When you’re chopping away at an ingredient that spreads out on your cutting board (like fresh herbs), or if you’re ready to add chopped ingredients to your dish, you can use the spine of your knife to recenter them on your board or scoop them up to be transferred to your dish. Just be sure you’re using the spine of your knife and not the cutting edge to help prevent it from dulling quicker than it should. A sharp knife is a safe knife and a dull knife has no place in the kitchen!
Scaling Fish and Removing Pin Bones: The spine of the chef’s knife comes in pretty handy during fish prep. You can use it to scale a fish by simply getting a firm grip on the tail, then using a stroking motion to scrape the spine of your chef’s knife along the scales of the fish, from the tail to the head. Once all of the scales are removed, thoroughly wash your fish and you’re good to go!
You can also use the spine of your chef’s knife to help remove pin bones when skinning and deboning fish fillets. To do this, simply scrape the spine of your knife down the length of the fillet, which will make the tops of the bones stand up so you can easily find and remove them with tweezers.
Check out these F.N. Sharp guides to cleaning, scaling, skinning & filleting fish:
🔪 How to Clean a Fish for Cooking
🔪 How to Fillet a Fish
Cracking a Coconut: Have you ever tried to crack open a coconut? It’s not an easy task! Instead of carving a face into it, naming it Wilson, and displaying “Wilson” in your office (true backstory here), simply grab that chef’s knife!
To crack open that coconut, first make sure the husk is removed, then trim away the outer skin to expose the shell, starting with the soft skin at the top.
After your coconut has been peeled, hold it firmly in your hand and against your cutting board with the top exposed (and fingers out of the way), then use the spine of your chef’s knife to give the top of the coconut a good whack, rotating the coconut as you go to repeat the process on all sides.
Once you’ve cracked the shell around the top of the coconut, you should be able to simply pull or peel it right off. Then, drain the coconut water into a container to be used for baking, smoothies or as a thirst-quenching beverage on its own.
Once drained, use an ice cream scooper to scoop out its soft flesh to either be eaten right away or stored in the fridge or freezer to add to smoothies, stews, sauces, oatmeal, baked goods and any other recipe that calls for coconut!
How to Maintain Your Chef’s Knife
A high-quality chef knife is more than an ordinary kitchen tool. For professional chefs, it’s a precision tool that is almost never out of their reach. For home chefs, it provides multi-purpose function with ease and comfort. Caring for your knife will ensure its performance and durability every time you use it.
Here are some quick tips for keeping your chef’s knife in tip-top shape:
- Always cut on cutting boards – and be sure to choose the best cutting board for your knives, preferably wood (like this Acacia wood one).
- Always wash your chef’s knife by hand – never in the dishwasher.
- Don’t leave your knife in the kitchen sink or submerged in water with other dishes.
- Don’t leave your knife to dry in a dish rack.
- Don’t store your knife loosely with other utensils.
- Store all of your knives in a knife block (like this beauty from F.N. Sharp) or other proper storage so the blade doesn’t touch anything else.
How to Keep it Clean
Properly cleaning your chef’s knife is super important for keeping it in perfect working order. While some knives may be made to handle the dishwasher, the truth is this is a harsh place for this strong, yet delicate, kitchen tool.
When washed in the dishwasher, your chef’s knife can bang around with other utensils and end up with a scrapped or chipped blade. The chemicals in detergent can also discolor the metal of the blade, while the high temperatures of the dishwasher can weaken and dull the blade, as well as increase the chances of rust.
To keep that chef’s knife clean, simply hand wash it with some warm, soapy water and a non-abrasive, uncolored sponge or cloth. Abrasive and colored sponges, especially green and blue, can actually damage or discolor the blade.
You’ll also want to take care to thoroughly dry your chef’s knife. Even a little residual water or soap can contribute to corrosion. Water that sits on the blade during the drying process can easily turn to rust, so be sure to thoroughly rinse and dry your chef’s knife before putting it back in its place.
How to Keep it Sharp
Your chef knife is more than a tool. It is the ‘thoroughbred’ of the kitchen: the race horse and the workhorse combined in one multi-purpose blade, which is why regular sharpening is a must.
Cutting with a dull knife is not only inefficient, but can be dangerous, as well. Cutting with a dull blade can lead to using more force than necessary, which means you’re more likely to damage your knife, produce poor results, or even cut yourself.
Knowing HOW to properly sharpen your kitchen knives is a genuine art form that takes a lot of time and practice to perfect, along with general knowledge of how the knife is made and the steels used to create the blade. Geometry plays a big role in sharpening, as the edge of the blade is sharpened at very precise angles.
Not taking the time to learn about your knife and how it’s sharpened can leave a lot of room for error when sharpening yourself, including damaging or completely destroying the blade. If you’re inexperienced in knife sharpening or simply don’t have the time to learn and practice, it’s best to leave it up to the professionals so your most important kitchen tool is always up for the next task.
42 Recipes for Practicing Your Chef’s Knife Skills
Just like learning any new skill, using a chef's knife like a pro takes practice, practice and more practice! So, go ahead and level up those produce and meat cutting skills with these F.N. Sharp recipes!
Test Your Chef’s Knife Veggie Prep Skills With These F.N. Sharp Recipes
🔪 MasterChef-Worthy Steak & Hash
🔪 Double Spiced Heirloom Tomato Salsa
🔪 Smoky & Spicy Instant Pot Turkey Chili
🔪 Tzatziki Sauce With Herbed Pita Chips
🔪 Pork Tostadas With Broccoli Apple Slaw
🔪 Japanese Burgers with Pickled Cabbage
Test Your Chef’s Knife Fruit Prep Skills With These F.N. Sharp Recipes:
🔪 Baked Salmon with Cucumber Salad
Test Your Chef’s Knife Herb Prep Skills With These F.N. Sharp Recipes:
🔪 Creamy Saffron Risotto Recipe
🔪 Ricotta & Basil Stuffed Chicken Breasts
🔪 Pan-Seared Salmon With Mint Pea Risotto
🔪 Whipped Goat Cheese Tartlets
🔪 Petite Sirloin Steak with Herb Butter
Test Your Chef’s Knife Meat Prep Skills With These F.N. Sharp Recipes:
🔪 Easy Korean Beef Bulgogi Bowl
🔪 Instant Pot Asian Honey Chicken
🔪 Grilled Chicken Saltimbocca Kabobs
🔪 Blackened Blueberry Pork Tenderloin
🔪 Bourbon & Coffee Crusted Prime Rib
More on Kitchen Knives: The Knives Every Kitchen Needs to Make Meal Prep a Breeze