A knife is one of the most necessary tools in any kitchen. Not all knives are created equal, so understanding the different parts of a knife is crucial to help you get the right blade for the job and use it correctly!
Parts Of A Knife
The Cutting Edge
A knife’s cutting edge is the sharpened part of the blade that directly contacts the food being cut. It extends from the tip to the heel’s base and is the most critical part of the knife.
There are 3 common types of grind that you can apply to a knife’s cutting edge:
- Flat grind: the cutting edge is ground to a flat. It isn’t as sharp as the other grinds but has the power to cut bones and is best suited for meat cleavers.
- Hollow grind: the sides of the blade are ground concave to create a thinner, sharper edge. It can slide food and is often found on fileting or chef’s knives.
- Serrated grind: the edge has a series of small teeth or serrations. You can use serrated tasks on bread, steak, and soft or delicate foods without squishing or crushing them.
The Back, Or Spine
The back of a knife is the thickest and the non-sharpened part of the blade that runs opposite the cutting edge.
- The more heavy the spine, the more strength it gives the blade.
- The back offers a surface for the user to press against with their fingers while cutting, giving them greater control and balance.
The tip of a knife refers to the pointed end of the blade, connecting the blade and the edge of a knife.
The design of the tip can vary depending on the knife’s type and its intended use. For example, a chef’s knife may have a curved tip for more precise cuts, while a boning knife may have a pointed tip for easier insertion into tight spaces.
The heel of a knife is the broadest and thickest part of the blade, closest to the handle.
- The heel is used for heavier cutting tasks, such as chopping through bones, nuts, thick cuts of meat, or tough vegetables.
- The heel’s weight and thickness help users apply greater force during cutting, and its position close to the handle provides better control.
The bolster is the thick junction between the blade and the knife handle.
- In most knives, the bolster provides power and stability to the blade and protects the hand from slipping onto the sharp edge of the blade.
- Some knives may have a full bolster extending to the edge. Meanwhile, others have a partial bolster stretching only along the blade.
The tang of a knife refers to a blade’s part that extends into the handle. There are three main types of tangs:
- Full Tang: A full tang runs the whole handle length and is the most vital tang type.
- Partial Tang: A partial tang only runs halfway into the handle and is less substantial than a full tang.
- Rat-Tail Tang: A rat-tail tang is a thin, tapering tang extending into the handle in a small, narrow shape.
The knife handle is the part that users hold to cut food.
- Handles can be made from various materials such as wood, plastic, metal, composite materials, or even deer antler.
- A well-designed handle will help to prevent slipping, increase grip on fingers, and protect hands from injury.
The butt of a knife is the furthest end of the handle opposite the blade.
A butt is curved and broader than the rest of the handle, which helps users feel their hand position and blade direction.
How To Choose A Chef’s Knife?
- Consider the size: Chef’s knives range from 6 to 12 inches. Check the size of your hand to get a suitable knife.
- Check the blade material: The most common blade materials for chef’s knives are high-carbon, stainless steel, titanium, and ceramic.
Stainless steel is rust-resistant, high-carbon steel is robust, and ceramic is lighter and holds a sharp edge longer.
- Check for balance: A well-balanced chef’s knife will feel comfortable and natural in your hand, with the weight distributed evenly between the blade and handle.
- Determine the blade shape:
- A blade for cutting is thinner, lighter, and has a sharper edge.
- A blade for chopping usually has a thicker, heavier, and more durable edge.
- Choose between stamped or forged knives:
- Stamped knives are lighter, more available, and more affordable than forged knives.
- Forged knives are made from a heated and hammered piece of metal. Thus, forged knives provide a denser, more robust, and more durable blade than a stamped blade.
- Check handle material:
- Natural handles like wood are usually more durable and cheaper. Some wood handles are combined with plastic to resist moisture, preventing the handle from rotting.
- Synthetic handles are made mainly from carbon fiber, so they are light, durable, and have good heat resistance.
- Metallic handles provide good durability and help prevent rust. However, some metallic handles can easily be scratched and dented.
Which Is Better: German Or Japanese Steel?
- If you prioritize sharpness and precision cutting, Japanese steel may be better.
- You should choose German steel if you need a more durable and versatile knife that can handle various tasks.
What Are The 3 Most Important Chef Knives?
The 3 most crucial chef knives are a chef’s knife, a paring knife, and a serrated knife.
- Chef’s knife: with a blade length of 6-12 inches, a chef’s knife can chop, slice, and mince vegetables, fruits, and herbs.
- Paring knife: the best tool for peeling, trimming, and slicing small fruits and vegetables, with a blade length of 3-4 inches,
- Serrated knife: has a jagged edge that can easily cut through bread or delicate cakes and pastries without crushing them.
What Not To Use A Chef’s Knife For?
You should avoid using chef’s knives in the below situations:
- Chopping frozen food: Avoid using a chef’s knife to chop through frozen food, as the blade can become damaged or even break.
- Cutting on hard surfaces: Avoid cutting hard surfaces such as glass, plastic, or ceramic plates because this can dull or damage the blade.
Difference Between A Chef’s Knife And A Cook’s Knife
A chef’s knife has more steel, making it sturdier and more durable than a cook’s knife. This difference in steel quality can affect the knife’s performance and longevity, making a chef’s knife a better investment for professional chefs who use their knives frequently.
In conclusion, the blade, handle, tang, bolster, tip, butt, and heel are essential parts of a knife and play critical roles in the knife’s overall performance.
Whether you’re a professional or a home cook, understanding these parts and how they work can help you make good decisions when selecting and using knives in your kitchen.