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Tools of the Trade: Knives

Tools of the TradeIn a Chef’s tool kit, knives are among the most important tools of the trade. A good knife will be well balanced and fit comfortably in the hand of the user. They should be made of metal that is easy to sharpen and well constructed. A good knife is not inexpensive but with care will last for many years.



Knife Construction

Good knives begin with a single piece of metal which is either stamped, cut or forged and tempered into a blade.

Carbon Steel
This is an alloy of carbon and iron. This metal is used for blades because it is easy to form and sharpen. However it will corrode and discolor over time. This occurs most commonly with acidic foods.

Stainless Steel
This metal will not rust, corrode or discolor. The down side is that it is very difficult to sharpen a blade made of this metal.

High-Carbon Stainless Steel
This is an alloy that uses the best attributes of carbon and stainless metal. It will not ruse, discolor or corrode. It is very easy to sharpen and is the most common metal used for high quality Chef’s Knives.



Knife Shapes

French or Chef’s Knife
Rigid blade form 8 inches to 14 inches in length. This knife is used for chopping, slicing and mincing. The blade is wide at the handle ending in a tapered point. This is a must have in a Chef’s tool kit.

Utility Knife
Rigid blade 6 inches to 8 inches in length. Used for cutting vegetables, poultry and fruits.

Boning Knife
Rigid and Flexible blades 5 inches to 7 inches in length. Used to separate meat from the bone.

Paring Knife
Small rigid blade 2 inches to 4 inches in length. Used for detail work with fruits and vegetables.

Rigid blade rectangular in shape and very heavy. This is used for chopping or cutting thru bone.

A long thin rigid or flexible blade primarily used for carving meats.

Bread Knife
A serrated slicer with a rigid blade used for slicing bread and pastry items.

Also known as a butcher’s knife. The blade is rigid and curves up on a 25 degree angle 6 inches to 14 inches in length. It is used in the fabrication of meats.

Oyster Knife
Short rigid blade with no cutting edge that comes to a point at the end for opening oysters.

Clam Knife
Has a rigid blade with one cutting edge in order to open a clams shell.



Knife Aids

Sharpening Stone

This is a three sided device One side is course, one side is medium course and the last side is fine grade. You hold the knife on a 25 degree angle to the stone beginning on the course side working your way to medium and ending with the fine side. You must swipe each side of the knife blade equally on each side in order to form a v shaped cutting edge. This is the device used to put a cutting edge back onto a dull knife.


This device will not sharpen a dull knife. Instead it hones the blade of the knife which means to file a perfect smooth cutting on a blade after it has been sharpened. It will help to maintain the cutting edge of a sharp knife if it is used before each task in between formal sharpenings.


Contributed by:
Chef Lonnie Varisco, Center of the Plate Specialist, Performance Foodservice/ROMA - Caro