Top Uses for a Chef’s Knife and Why Every Kitchen Needs One
The name ‘chef’s knife’ makes this essential kitchen tool sound intimidating. Do you need to be a chef to use one properly? Of course not – this is a key knife for any kitchen, and you may find that you reach for it more often than the rest of your knives combined.
If you’re not yet familiar with the chef’s knife, we have a great post available on what it is and how to use it, so be sure to check that out! Once you’re up to speed, you can use this post to determine exactly what jobs can be conquered by this powerful tool.
5 Reasons You Need a Great Chef’s Knife
One of the common mistakes made by novice home cooks is thinking they need to use a different tool for every single task in the kitchen. This is largely the fault of businesses, of course, who would love to see the ambitious home cook use a million different gadgets. In reality, you only need a few basic tools to make a great meal, and a chef’s knife is definitely on that short list.
So, what can you do with your chef’s knife? The list of five tasks below covers much of what you’ll learn to do as you develop your skills.
Using a Chef 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.
A chef’s knife can be used for just about any kind of meat you would prepare in a kitchen, including beef, chicken, pork, and more. If you need a little rundown on different meat cuts, then be sure to bookmark this F.N. Sharp guide. When it comes to prepping those meats, this is a great tool for the job because a good chef’s knife will have plenty of weight and a long enough blade to work through the meat without using too much force.
Test Your Chef’s Knife Skills With This Recipe: Chicken and Peach Saltimbocca Skewers
Using a Chef Knife to Prepare Vegetables
One of the best things about preparing your own meals is the ability to eat healthily. Cooking your own fresh vegetables with most meals is a great way to incorporate plenty of the vitamins and minerals you need – oh, and they taste great, as well. 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 to prepare vegetables will depend entirely on what is being prepared and how it will be served. For instance, you could use your knife to dice an onion for added flavor in a dish, or you could cut up slices of cucumber to place on a salad. The possibilities here are virtually endless, and your chef’s knife will be able to handle just about all of them.
If you need it, we've also got an 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 Guide to Knife Cuts to level up your skills.
Using a Chef Knife to Prepare Fruit
Using a chef knife for fruit involves many of the same techniques used for vegetables. For some fruits, a smaller knife will do the job as well, but reaching for the chef’s knife will let you make quick work of many different tasks. It could be something as simple as cutting apple wedges for a snack, or it could be breaking down a few different fruits to make a colorful fruit salad.
Slice Up Some Fruit for This Recipe: Italian Candied Fruit
Using a Chef 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 reaching for fresh ingredients. To prepare herbs and spices for your various dishes, the chef’s knife will again come in handy. It is the perfect tool for chopping up some cilantro to top off a few tacos or fresh parsley to top off baked potatoes. Whatever your dinner plans are, keep your chef’s knife close at hand.
F.N. Sharp Prep School: Cooking with Herbs and Spices
Using Different Parts of a Chef’s Knife
Did you know that more than just the sharp side of the blade can be used to help you prepare delicious meals? With some experience, and a 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.
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 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 (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 fall vegetables, as well as fruits like honeydew and watermelon, save yourself from serving up mangled fruits and veggies by using the tip of your chef’s knife to create guide cuts. Then 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. 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. Lay the blade down on its side with the clove of garlic underneath and hit down carefully 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 the technique. If you wish, you can lay a small 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, as well as absorb other flavors in a dish – 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 Kabobs
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.
Scaling Fish: To scale a fish, simply get a firm grip on the tail and use 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!
Catch Some Fresh Trout for This Recipe: Bacon-Wrapped Trout Fillet with Beurre Blanc
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! Make sure the husk is removed from the coconut, 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 off the top of the shell. Then drain the coconut water into a container to be used for baking, smoothies, or as a thirst-quenching beverage on its own, then use an ice cream scooper to scoop out its soft flesh to either be eaten right then and there or store in the fridge to add to smoothies, stews, sauces, oatmeal, baked goods and any other recipe that calls for coconut.
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’ve finished chopping and are ready to add the ingredient to your dish, you can use the spine of your knife to recenter your ingredients 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!
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Where to Buy the Best Chef's Knife
With so many different uses, a good chef’s knife should be near the top of the list in terms of important pieces of kitchen equipment. Without this knife, your prep work will be more difficult than it needs to be, which means cooking will be less enjoyable.
If you need a high-quality, exceptionally sharp knife for a great price, then look no further than 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 – and it can be purchased individually or in both our 6-knife and 3-knife essential sets. in the 6-a set with other essentials.
If you need somewhere to both store and showcase your stunning F.N. Sharp knives, then add on a magnetic knife block! It has all of the space you need to showcase your knives on the outside and 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 (like this beauty) will keep those blades in tip-tip shape and ready to work when you are. Order today to get F.N. Sharp in your kitchen!