When someone gets fired from a French kitchen, the chef de cuisine says simply, “Take your knives.” To a chef, the knife is like an extra appendage, and its dismissal cuts deeper than the standard American “It’s just not working out.”
The knife is an instrumental tool for any culinary endeavor, whether splitting a dozen Cornish game hens or slicing open a Pizza for One box for more intimate affairs. There’s something viscerally satisfying about the stainless steel blade, reassuring in its ability to inflict honorable damage on your assembled ingredients. We enlisted Calphalon Contemporary Stainless to help cut a swath through the world of knives and knife metaphors, though J. A. Henckels and Wüsthof are other good options. Bon appétit.
The boning knife varies in length from five to eight and a half inches. The blade ranges from stiff to somewhat flexible. Primarily used for trimming raw meats, fish, and poultry from the bone (hence the name), the boning knife enables you to filet a king salmon, whip up frenched lamb chops, or rock a crown roast like you mean it.
The paring knife is second in command. A small member of the cutlery family, with a three-to-four-inch blade, the paring knife is a nimble one, great for intricate jobs such as peeling onions and potatoes or coring fruits and chopping up vegetables. The most important attribute of the paring knife is precision—so keep ’er sharp and ready for action.
The Chef Knife
The most versatile and vital piece of cutlery, the chef knife can julienne, dice, and rough chop. Aim it sideways to chiffonade or use the tip for precise cutting. The butt end of the blade can even be used as a makeshift cleaver for chopping small bones. Then there’s the mincing, done by holding the tip down and slicing vigorously.
Aptly named, the utility knife is excellent for light chopping tasks and slicing. The thin blade makes it ideal for salad preparation and achieving the deli-thin cachet so coveted by the sandwich set. For vigorous slicing, a wood or polypropylene cutting board is preferred.