Types of Kitchen Knives: The F.N. Sharp 6-Knife Set on cutting board with tomatoes

6 Types of Knives Every Kitchen Needs + 6 Tips for Keeping Them in Tip-Top Shape

6 Types of Knives Every Kitchen Needs + 6 Tips for Keeping Them in Tip-Top Shape

Sharp kitchen knives are among the most basic (and most important) tools every home cook should own. If you’ve ever watched a chef at work, you’ve probably seen the many types of knives they keep on hand. From tiny paring knives to enormous cleavers, every one of them seems to have its own job, but how many of these knives are really necessary in a home kitchen? This simple guide pares down the list to just six types of knives to keep in your kitchen, plus expert tips for how to keep them in tip-top shape!

Here’s what we’ll cover:

6 Types of Knives Every Kitchen Needs to Make Meal Prep a Breeze

With these basic blades on hand, you can prepare just about anything, from a simple family dinner to a five-course meal.

The Chef’s Knife

F.N. Sharp Chef's Knife lying on spine on wooden cutting board
F.N. Sharp Chef's Knife with sliced fruit in papaya boat

If you could only have one knife in your kitchen, make it the Western-style chef’s knife. This workhorse of a knife offers so many uses, it’s often referred to as the most important tool in the kitchen.

F.N. Sharp Damascus Steel Chef's Knife with Heart-Shaped Steaks

While it’s not ideal for all jobs, the chef’s knife is a powerful multitasker capable of handling continuous chopping, slicing, dicing and mincing all kinds of fresh fruits, veggies, herbs, meats and pretty much any ingredient it’s put against. 

If you're in the market for a new chef's knife, then look for one with a blade that measures 8 to 12 inches long and curves upward to a pointed tip. This curve is referred to as “the belly” and allows for an easy rocking motion that makes all that slicing and dicing much more fluid.

Meal Prep 101: The F.N. Sharp Guide to Knife Cuts & Techniques

Diagram of the parts of a chef's knife

When it comes to prepping meat, the chef’s knife is an absolute must! The weight and heel of the blade has just the right amount of heft needed for cutting through thick slabs of meat and even bones, while the tip comes in handy for trimming fat, cutting through sinew and scoring roasts. Check out this F.N. Sharp guide for on the different parts of a knife and how they're used.

Knife Knowledge 101: How to Use a Chef’s Knife Like a Pro

Check out the videos below to see the chef’s knife in action: 


The Santoku Knife

F.N. Sharp Santoku Knife lying on spine on wooden cutting board

F.N. Sharp Santoku Knife slicing mushroom

The Santoku knife is a Japanese-style chef knife that also serves as a multipurpose tool in the kitchen. Like the Western-style chef's knife, the Santoku knife is a popular go-to tool for chopping vegetables, slicing chicken, fish and other proteins, as well as other general kitchen tasks. However, there are some notable traits and differences when comparing these two chef knives.

Knife Knowledge 101: The Chef's Knife vs. The Santoku Knife

F.N. Sharp Santoku Knife with asparagus

With a blade length measuring between 5 and 7 inches long, the Santoku knife is much smaller and lighter, compared to a Western-style chef’s knife. While it may not have the heft that makes chef’s knives great for big jobs and tough ingredients, this popular knife does have other features that make it a kitchen essential.

One of the most notable features of the Santoku knife is its Granton or “scalloped” edge, which allows tiny air pockets to get between the blade and your ingredients to prevent them from sticking between each slice. This makes it a great option for slicing through ingredients like garlic and fish, as well as for dishes like ratatouille that call for perfectly uniform cuts.

F.N. Sharp Damascus Steel Santoku Knife with Salmon

Since the Santoku knife is smaller and more lightweight compared to a Western-style chef’s knife, it also makes a great choice for cooks with small hands. However, there are some differences in the chopping method when compared to the traditional Western-style chef’s knife, so it’s best to get a good handle on how to use each knife to get the most of what they have to offer.

Knife Knowledge 101: Top Uses for a Santoku Knife

Check out the video below to see the Santoku knife in action:

The Paring Knife

F.N. Sharp Paring Knife lying on spine on wooden cutting board

F.N. Sharp Paring Knife with sliced radish

Don’t let the size of this handy little knife fool you! While the paring knife may be the baby of all kitchen knives, it’s got some skills that the others just don’t have, making it a must-have knife in any kitchen.

F.N. Sharp Paring Knife peeling apple

With a blade measuring only 2 ½ to 4 inches long, the paring knife is shaped just like a chef’s knife in miniature with its curved blade and pointed tip; however, it can do things the chef’s knife just can’t do (and vice versa). Think peeling apples, potatoes and tomatoes, segmenting citrus, hulling strawberries or deveining shrimp.

The paring knife is also great for quick, small tasks like slicing garlic, shallots, radishes and other small veggies, as well as for trimming the fat off meats and scoring roasts, breads and pies.

Knife Knowledge 101: 5 Big Uses for the Little Paring Knife

Check out the videos below to see how the paring knife in action:

The Utility Knife

F.N. Sharp Utility Kitchen Knife lying on spine on wooden cutting board

F.N. Sharp Utility Kitchen Knife with sliced flatbread

Not to be confused with a pocket utility knife, the utility kitchen knife lands somewhere between the paring knife and the chef’s knife in terms of size. The blade can measure anywhere from 4 to 7 inches long, and though it’s built for lighter work than the chef’s knife, it is similarly shaped and makes an excellent multi-purpose tool.

F.N. Sharp Damascus Steel Kitchen Utility Knife with Tomatoes

The utility kitchen knife is ideal for cutting through mid-sized fruits and veggies, like lemons, limes, cucumbers, zucchini and summer squash. It’s also a great candidate for slicing cured meats and cheeses for a charcuterie board, tomatoes for salads and sandwiches (hello BLT), and for slicing sandwiches, bagels and other bread items in half.

F.N. Sharp Utility Kitchen Knife with assorted fruit

Utility kitchen knives, along with steak knives, often come with serrated edges based on the common misconception that this type of knife edge type is a must for slicing through tomatoes, breads, meats and anything else that has traditionally required a mini saw. But truth be told, a straight-edged utility knife can do these jobs just the same, if not better, as long as it's (F.N.) sharp!

Knife Knowledge 101: Top Uses for a Utility Kitchen Knife

Check out the videos below to see the utility knife in action:


The Boning Knife

F.N. Sharp Boning Knife lying on spine on wooden cutting board

Closeup of F.N. Sharp Boning Knife with rack of lamb

For meat-lovers, the boning knife is an absolute must-have in the kitchen. The thin, curved blade often has a bit of flex to it, making it easier to slice closer to the bones and cleanly separate the meat without losing too much of the flesh. It’s also perfect for delicately trimming fat, while its slender tip allows you to easily break away the cartilage in joints.

Boning knives are also sometimes confused with fillet knives, which are designated for filleting fish. But, you'll actually find that some are designed as a cross between the two (like what you'll find here at F.N. Sharp), which offers you the best of both worlds in one knife.

Kitchen Knife Showdown: The Boning Knife vs. The Fillet Knife

F.N. Sharp Boning Knife with whole and sliced bell peppers

The boning knife doesn’t have to be reserved for preparing the meats, either! It can also be a great option for preparing fresh fruits and veggies for platters, salads, decorative arrangements and other dishes. The thin, semi-flexible blade makes peeling the skin or rind of fruits and veggies without sacrificing too much of the flesh an easy task.

Some professional bakers also prefer using a boning knife to carve cakes, core cupcakes and cut cookie dough into shapes. So whether you’re into preparing savory meats or sweet treats, the boning knife has its place in your kitchen!

Knife Knowledge 101: Top Uses for a Boning Knife

Check out the videos below to see the boning knife in action:

The Bread Knife

F.N. Sharp Bread Knife lying on spine on wooden cutting board

F.N. Sharp Damascus Steel Bread Knife with Bruschetta

The name of this knife is a bit of a misnomer. With its 8 to 10-inch serrated blade, the bread knife is known for doing a spectacular job of slicing through all types of bread, from hard crusty loaves to sweet dessert breads, but did you know it doesn’t have to be reserved for bread?

Closeup of F.N. Sharp Bread Knife with bundt cake

When it comes to baking, the bread knife is also the perfect tool for slicing through cakes, pies and other baked goods. It’s also a great tool for shaping and leveling cakes, as its long blade can slice through an entire layer in just one pass.

F.N. Sharp Bread Knife with spaghetti squash

Outside of baking, the bread knife is also a great candidate for cutting through large, thick-skinned foods like melons, squashes and other tough fall vegetables. The serrations on the blade allow you to easily slice through the tough skin without applying too much pressure, while the length of the blade allows you to cut even slices. You can even use your bread knife to carve through thick-crusted roasts!

Closeup of Damascus steel pattern and scalloped edge of F.N. Sharp Bread Knife

The number, shape and overall sharpness of the serrations also differ from bread knife to bread knife, giving you two different types of cutting edges to choose from: pointed vs. scalloped. Simply referred to as a “serrated” knife, the pointed edge blade comes with sharp, aggressive teeth that can actually rip and shred ingredients (especially if it needs sharpening).

The scalloped edge bread knife, on the other hand, features more rounded serrations that are spread further apart to easily slice through crusty loaves of bread without leaving a pile of crumbs in its wake. Scalloped edges are also great for retaining flavorful juices while carving through thick-crusted roasts. 

Knife Knowledge 101: Does Your Bread Knife Have the Right Edge?

Check out the video below to see the bread knife in action:


6 Tips for Taking Care of Your Kitchen Knives

Now that you know all about the essential knives to keep in your kitchen, here are some tips for how to keep them in perfect working order.

1. Keep Them Clean and Dry

Handwashing kitchen knife

While this may sound simple, and it is, the truth is that even a little residual water or soap left on your knives can have a negative lasting effect. So even if they're designed to withstand the harsh environment of the dishwasher (like what you'll find at F.N. Sharp), it's still best to hand wash your knives immediately after use with warm, soapy water and wipe them completely dry before putting them back in their place. Just be sure to avoid abrasive or colored sponges when washing your knives as this can scratch the metal and even damage or discolor the blade.

2. Keep Them Out of the Dishwasher

Chef's knife with other utensils and dishes in dishwasher

As mentioned before, always hand wash those knives! A dishwasher is a harsh place for delicate tools like kitchen knives. They can bang around and get scratched and chipped while hitting other utensils and the chemicals in detergent can actually discolor the metal of the blade, while any water sitting on the blade while drying can easily turn to rust. And don’t forget about the heat! High temperatures can destroy the temper of the steel by making it expand and contract, which can weaken and dull the blade while also increasing the chances of rust.

3. Keep Them Out of the Sink

Chef's knife with other dishes in sink

To protect yourself (and your knives), never leave your kitchen knives in the sink, especially a sink full of water! Leaving your knives soaking in water is not only dangerous, but can wreak havoc on your knives – not to mention the possibility of forgetting about them while doing dishes and accidentally grabbing the sharp blade. Even worse, curious little hands can also unknowingly reach into the sink and meet a sharp knife.

Leaving your knives in sitting water also isn’t good for the blades either (remember the rust?), so always be sure to hand wash and dry after each use. Even if the sink is empty, it still isn’t the best place for a knife. If it ends up bumping the side of the sink or other dishes, you may be left with chips, scrapes, or a damaged blade overall.

4. Keep Them Out of the Drawer

Chef's knife with other utensils loose in drawer

Properly storing your knives is important, as well. If you have a knife block, be sure to use it and make sure your knives are completely dry before storing them. If you don’t have a knife block, you may want to invest in one or find other options for storing your knives safely so you can resist the urge to throw them in a drawer with other utensils.

For the same reason as sitting in a sink, storing your knives loosely in a drawer can be dangerous for you as well as the blade. If your only storage option is a drawer, then invest in some knife covers so you can protect the blades – and your fingers.

Store and Showcase Those Knives: The F.N. Sharp Magnetic Knife Block

5. Keep Them on the Right Cutting Boards

F.N. Sharp Damascus Steel Chef's Knife on Acacia Wood Cutting Board

Using cutting boards is essential in all kitchen prep, and choosing the right one is essential for keeping your knives sharp. Look for cutting boards made of wood (like this Acacia wood one from F.N. Sharp), bamboo or plastic. Never use granite, marble, glass or steel cutting boards or countertops as a cutting surface for meal prep. These materials are extremely hard and will roll the edge of your blade, dulling your knives very quickly. Wood and plastic are softer materials that yield to the edge of your knife and protect the sharpness of your blade.

6. Keep Them Sharp

F.N. Sharp Damascus Steel Chef's Knife on spine

Your kitchen knives can be the most important and yet the most dangerous tools in the kitchen. Even if you’re careful, using a dull kitchen knife can be extremely dangerous for your fingers, so it’s vital to keep them sharp.

When a knife goes dull, it becomes both inefficient and dangerous. If your knife can't slice right through a piece of paper, it’s not sharp enough to cleanly cut through your food, either. Instead, it forces you to apply more pressure, increasing your chances of losing control over the knife. This means it can also slip and slide all over ingredients with tough or slippery skins – hello onions! – which can result in cutting your fingers rather than your food.

And just because a knife is dull, it doesn't mean it can't cut through, or rather "rip through" your skin! It can actually leave you with a wider, jagged cut that takes much longer to heal than the clean cut you’d get with a sharp knife. So make sure you keep those knives (F.N.) sharp!

For most cooks, sharpening every four months is average, and there are a few different options for sharpening your kitchen knives. However, for the inexperienced, the best option for keeping your knives sharp is to first invest in quality knives, then have them professionally sharpened as needed. 

If you need more tips on what to look for in a quality knife, then check out our kitchen knife buying guide – or get all of the knives you need right now with F.N. Sharp's 6-Knife Set!

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