how to use knives in the kitchen

Learning how to use different kitchen knives will instantly improve your efficiency (and enjoyment!) in the kitchen.

From the precision work of a paring knife, to the versatility of a chef's knife - each kitchen blade has a specific role. If you understand what a knife was designed to do, you can use it in a way that suits you best.

This blog will guide you through sensible knife selection, and share expert tips from the Sous Chef team on cleavers, carving knives, steak knives, and more. 

Browse our selection of best kitchen knives here.

Sous Chef knife experts

This guide was created by Sous Chef buyer Kristin Lohse, who has many years of kitchen knife experience - and is a true expert in sharpening and caring for knives. And Sous Chef food editor Holly Thomson, who has been trained in knife skills by expert chefs and cookery teachers. 

Become a kitchen knife expert, with our Ultimate Guide to Kitchen Knives.

What is a paring knife used for?

The paring knife, a small and versatile kitchen companion, finds its niche in intricate and delicate tasks. Its short blade and pointed tip make it perfect for peeling, trimming, and detailing fruits and vegetables with precision. 

What is a serrated paring knife used for?

When it comes to the serrated paring knife, it takes the paring knife's functionality up a notch. The serrated edge provides a saw-like action, making it an excellent tool for slicing through foods with softer interiors and tougher exteriors. Whether you're coring tomatoes, peeling a ripe peach, or navigating the contours of a citrus fruit, the serrated paring knife effortlessly handles these tasks, ensuring clean and efficient cuts. 

What is a chef’s knife used for?

A chef's knife is known for its versatility. It is indispensable in most kitchens. 

Its large, sturdy blade is designed for a multitude of cutting techniques, including chopping, slicing, and dicing. Perfect for tackling a variety of ingredients, from vegetables to meats, the chef's knife is efficient and versatile.

A chef's knife has a rounded shape to the blade, so you can rock the knife and always keep part of the blade on the board. This is great for the rock-choppping method - used for slicing fresh herbs, whole nuts, garlic, or mincing meat such as chicken.

Its ergonomic design allows for a comfortable grip and precise control, making it suitable for both professional chefs and home cooks. If you find the best chef’s knife for you - you’ll find you use it every time you cook.

What is a gyuto knife used for?

The gyuto knife, originating from Japan, is essentially the Japanese version of a chef's knife. This multipurpose blade is renowned for its precision and ability to handle various kitchen tasks. The blade shape is typically slightly more pointed than a chef’s knife - which may have a slightly deeper blade.

Ideal for slicing, dicing, and chopping, the gyuto knife excels in preparing a wide range of ingredients, from vegetables to meats. 

Its thin and sharp blade ensures clean cuts, making it a favourite among professional chefs and home cooks alike. 

What is a santoku knife for?

The Japanese santoku knife, is a versatile kitchen blade with a name that translates to "three virtues" or "three uses."  Namely: slicing, dicing, and mincing. It often has a larger, deeper blade than a gyuto knife.

Some santoku knives have a granton edge, characterised by small divots along the blade, they help reduce friction, preventing food from sticking during slicing. 

Home cooks and professional chefs appreciate the santoku knife for its balanced performance, making it an excellent choice for everyday kitchen tasks.

What is a nakiri knife for?

The Nakiri knife shape is a more straight knife. It has a flat cutting side  - which works well for the chopping method more commonly used in Asia (rather than the rock-chopping motion of Chef knives). 

Nakiri knives are (despite their look), not a small cleaver for meat. But they are ideal for chopping vegetables. Particularly softer vegetables, rather than hard root vegetables. 

What is a cleaver used for?

A western-style cleaver is a robust and versatile kitchen tool primarily designed for chopping through bones and tough cuts of meat. Its broad, heavy blade allows for powerful downward force, making it efficient in tasks like breaking down poultry or sectioning large cuts of beef. 

BUT: do not confuse with a Chinese Chopper knife. These are delicate knives that are used prepping vegetables and ingredients - but never for chopping through bones. Their shape is large and square, similar to a western-style cleaver. But their use is very different.

What is a carving knife for?

A carving knife is a slender, precision tool designed for slicing cooked meats with finesse and accuracy. 

Its long, narrow blade allows for smooth, controlled cuts, making it ideal for carving roasts, turkey, or other large cuts of meat. The sharp edge ensures minimal tearing, preserving the meat's texture. 

Beyond meat, these knives can also be handy for slicing celebration cakes!

What is a steak knife used for?

A steak knife is a robust blade specifically crafted for effortlessly cutting through steaks and other hearty meats. Steak knives can be serrated or smooth.

Sous Chef knife buyer Kristin explains: “All of the steak knives we sell at Sous Chef have a smooth blade. Serrated blades can tear meat and cause the juices to leak out over your plate instead of staying in the steak and bursting into your mouth when you take a bite. 

A very sharp smooth blade is what we prefer, to keep as much of the juices in your meat as possible and not tear your steak when cutting it. 

Maintain your smooth blades, by sharpening them regularly, and avoid putting them in the dishwasher for best performance.”

What is a brisket knife used for?

A brisket knife is a long, slender blade designed specifically for slicing through brisket, a flavorful and often large cut of beef. 

The knife's length allows for precise and even cuts, ensuring each slice retains its juiciness and tenderness. 

Its sharp edge effortlessly glides through the layers of meat and fat, creating perfect servings for any barbecue or festive gathering. 

While primarily tailored for brisket, this knife can also be handy for carving other roasts, making it a versatile tool in the kitchen. 

What is a peeling knife used for?

A peeling knife, known for its small and pointed blade, is a versatile tool primarily used for intricate tasks like trimming, skinning and shaping fruits and vegetables. 

Its compact size allows for precise control and manoeuvrability, making it ideal for delicate work where a larger knife might be too cumbersome. 

Whether you're removing the skin from an apple or deveining a shrimp, the peeling knife excels in tasks that require finesse. 

Its sharp edge ensures minimal waste and efficient preparation, making it a go-to choice for any cook looking to add precision to their kitchen arsenal. 

What is a bread knife used for?

A bread knife, featuring a serrated edge, is designed for effortless slicing through bread without squashing or tearing. 

Its saw-like teeth make it particularly effective in cutting through the crust of bread while maintaining the softness of the interior. 

This knife is not limited to bread alone; it can be used for slicing through delicate pastries, cakes, and even tomatoes. 

Despite its large size, a bread knife can in fact be quite a delicate tool. This is because it can cut through tough exteriors without compromising delicate ‘middles’. So it’s a great choice for slicing a Portuguese pastel de nata in two, or a pastry case with creme anglaise filling.

What is an oyster knife used for?

An oyster knife is a specialised tool crafted for the precise task of shucking - or opening - oysters. 

With its short, sturdy blade and pointed tip, this knife is designed to effortlessly pry open the shells of oysters, separating the delicious mollusk from its protective casing. 

The blunt tip minimises the risk of injury during the shucking process, ensuring a safe and efficient experience. 

Oyster knives often come in various shapes, such as the classic Boston or New Haven styles, each catering to individual preferences. 


If you want to browse more about kitchen knives, check out our kitchen knives collection, or read our guides to What Are The Best Kitchen Knives and How To Sharpen Kitchen Knives.

Become a kitchen knife expert, with our Ultimate Guide to Kitchen Knives.


Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published

Latest Articles & Recipes

  • Bulgar Wheat & Vermicelli Noodles (Pourgouri) Recipes

    Bulgar Wheat & Vermicelli Noodles (Pourgouri) Recipes

  • Cypriot Lamb Shanks in Sticky Sauce (Arnisio Kotsi Me Saltsa) Recipe

    Cypriot Lamb Shanks in Sticky Sauce (Arnisio Kotsi Me Saltsa) Recipe

  • Giant Baked Beans In Tomato Sauce (Gigantes Plaki) Recipe

    Giant Baked Beans In Tomato Sauce (Gigantes Plaki) Recipe