When you learn to cook in a cooking class or a culinary school, the first cookings lessons are almost always about how to recognize and learn to use the various knives and utensils for cooking. Regarding knives, there are from different sizes with short or long blades, wide or narrow, hard or flexible… Each kitchen knife has a specific main use.
Learning how to use kitchen knives is very important if you want to be efficient and fast in a kitchen. You also have to know how to maintain and sharpen your knife set. Basic knife skills allow you to save time, do quality work and limit the risks of wounds.
With a bit of training and a good cutting board, it is possible to do a lot of things with the basic knifes.
The paring knife
The paring knife is useful to peel vegetables and legumes that you don’t peel with a normal peeler. You also use it to cut and trim vegetables. It is a very versatile knife because of its small size and handiness; you can make accurate cuts or take out nerves from meat.
You will also use it to:
- Peel a lemon
- Remove the stalk of a tomato
- Slice mushrooms
- Slice shallots
- Seed peppers
- Carve vegetables for decoration purposes
The fillet knife
The fillet knife has a long, thin and flexible blade which is mainly used to raise small or medium-sized fish fillets. You can also use it to finely mince onions or shallots. It is also useful to make delicate cuts. The flexible blade allows a clean and accurate cut, thus limiting waste when filleting fish or scallops.
With a fillet knife you can also:
- Raise a 4 fillets flat fish (eg. a sole fish)
- Fillet a round fish like a red mullet
- Raise a 2 fillets flat fish like a sea bream
- Cut thin slices of eggplant
- Cut orange or citrus supremes
The chef knife
The chef’s knife is the kitchen knife we use to mince and cut vegetables. Its blade is medium to long and can be more or less stiff. The chef’s knife is useful for certain preliminary preparation of meats, poultry or fish.
You’ll use the chef’s knife to:
- Mince leeks
- Mince onion
- Remove chicken’s spinal bone
- Cut a raw rabbit or poultry
The boning knife
As its name suggests, the boning knife is used to bone pieces of meat or cut raw poultry. The blade is short and very stiff.
You’ll need the boning knife to:
- Bone a lamb shoulder
- Bone a lamb spine
- Cut a raw rabbit
- Carve or trim various vegetables like artichokes
Vegetable peelers exist in different shapes. They are are all used to peel vegetables.
You can use a vegetable peeler to:
- Peel carrots and potato skin
- Peel asparagus
- Make thin slices of parmesan
If you have all of these, you will be set with the basic knives you should need in your kitchen. Please add your favorite knife and tell us what you use it for in the comments below.
Eric J. Brandy