Most knives fall into one of three categories:
Straight edge for cleanly cutting meat, veggies, and fruit.
Serrated edge, which has a toothed blade, for cutting though crusts, soft items, or cooked meats without crushing the structure.
Hollow edge blades have scalloped sides, known as a Granton edge or dimples, which not only add style, but helps to release thin slices and sticky food after slicing. That food release ability makes this kind of knife ideal for a wide range of cutting tasks.
The Most Useful Blade
A Chef’s Knife (also called a Cook’s Knife) is probably the one knife I could not live without. It is one of the most useful and accessible tools that if used properly will yield professional results with minimal effort. A Chef’s Knife is balanced and versatile. It has an ultra-thin but hefty blade and chops and dices soft and tough foods but not bone.
A Santoku is sort of a cross between a Chef’s Knife and a Cleaver in its shape. It has a straight blade often with a hollow edge and is excellent for slicing and dicing. Providing a more linear cutting edge, the Santoku has limited “rocking” travel (in comparison to a German/Western-style Chef’s knife). Because of its hollow edge, a Santoku would work well for cutting hard cheeses by applying more pressure and an easy release.
Other Useful Blades
Serrated Utility or Bread Knife is great for cutting through crusty breads, soft fruits and cooked roasts.
Straight Edge Peeling or Paring Knife is excellent for peeling and garnishing with fruits and veggies and is perfect for precise slicing.
Carving knives have longer blades for cutting poultry, ham and roasts.
Cleavers have strong hatchet-like blades for cutting through bone. The knife’s broad side can also be used for crushing in food preparation (such as garlic).
If you are an avid hunter and usually catch your dinner, no doubt you have more than one boning knife in your camp kitchen knife collection—and probably a personal favorite.
Care, Storage, and Treatment of Knives
Always work with a sharp knife. A sharp blade reduces the amount of work and pressure required to use the knife, thus increasing control while reducing the amount of slipping. Regularly use honing steel on your knives and sharpen with a sharpening stone or knife sharpener only as needed. Honing steels are used by placing the near edge of the blade against the base of the steel, then sliding the blade away from yourself along the steel while moving it down – the blade moves diagonally, while the steel remains stationary. This should be done with the blade held at an angle to the steel, usually about 20°, and repeating on the opposite side at the same angle. This is repeated five to ten times.
Never, ever try to catch a falling knife. Step back and let it fall.
Use the correct cutting surface. Only cut on flat wood or plastic surfaces (usually cutting boards) to prevent blade damage. Never chop on glass, stone, marble or porcelain.
Hand wash your knives. After washing, dry the knife by wiping back to front with the blade facing away from your body. This helps avoid soap or other residue accumulating at the base of the blade where it meets the handle, and makes for healthier food prep and eating.
Store your knives safely and properly. Never store knives loosely inside a box or drawer or where children can reach them.
Knives are one of those kitchen tools where you want to spend the money and get the best you can afford. Having quality knives will make any food preparation easier and faster, and more enjoyable.