Kitchen Knives – Choosing the Right Knife for the Job

The Right Knife for the Job is Essential

If you love to cook, then you’ve come to realize that the right knife for the job is essential.  Food preparation is a large part of the process, and having the appropriate knife for the task is indispensable to the serious cook and chef.  So, what do you need to know about kitchen knives?


We’ve seen a number of reviews that say you really only need 3 or 4 good knives.  This may be true if you really don’t cook that much, or don’t vary what you cook.  However, we disagree if you like experimenting with different recipes and cuts of meat or fish.  Having the right knife for the job will make the preparation easier – and let’s face it, using a chef’s knife to fillet a fish or a cheese knife to slice a roast, isn’t going to get the outcome you want and could actually damage the knife.


Obviously, you need to determine what your cooking habits and style are. Here is a list of the various types of knives and their functions, with the more specialized ones being further down the list to help determine which is the right knife to use:


  • Chef Knife (8” – 10”): This is the most important knife for most chefs and home cooks.  It’s the knife they turn to for mincing, dicing, chopping and cutting almost anything you need to cut up.  With its large, smooth blade, it is also used for crushing items (like garlic and olives) and corralling the food off of the cutting surface.  It is used for both vegetable and meat preparation.

    8 inch Chef Knife
10 inch Chef Knife


  • Paring Knife (2” – 4”): This is used for small fruit or vegetables, like
    Paring Knife

    mushrooms and strawberries, as it is easier to tackle the more detailed or delicate tasks that smaller foods require.  The sharp tip is good for hulling strawberries and removing blemishes.  Additionally, because of its small size, this knife is good for teaching children how to work with a knife, as it allows their hands to have more control.


  • Utility Knife (4” – 6”): Useful for a range of foods, this knife is similar to the paring knife, but because of its larger size, can handle a wider range of tasks and slightly larger fruits and vegetables.  It wouldn’t be necessary to have both a paring and utility knife, but we like the flexibility of having both.  
    4.5 inch Utility Knife


  • Serrated Knife (8” – 9”): This is also known as a bread knife and it has a long, thin serrated saw-type blade. It is used for cutting bread and cake without crushing, tearing or leaving crumbs.  It’s just what is needed for cutting through crusty loaves of French baguettes or rustic boule.
Serrated Bread Knife – Classic Style
  • Some like to use their serrated knives for cutting fruit or tomatoes, but we don’t recommend this knife for this task.  It is not the right knife to use because the serrations are normally chisel-ground into the blade, which means that they’re usually thinner than a plain blade.  This gives them better cutting ability, but will leave the blade more open to damage with the high acidity in tomatoes and many fruits.

A variation on the bread knife has an offset handle.  Most bread knives are straight, with the handle being in line with the blade.  The offset handle positions the blade lower than the handle to allow more clearance for your fingers when the blade is close to the cutting board.  It can be a safer alternative, tends to be more ergonomic, comfortable and user-friendly.  Since it cuts the same as the regular serrated knife, it comes down to personal preference.

Offset Bread Knife


  • Santoku Knife: This knife is easily becoming one of the most popular kitchen knives because of its versatility with all kinds of prep jobs, and is often replacing the chef knife as the “most used.” The Japanese word “santoku” translates to “three virtues” or “three uses,” referring to the three types of cuts it’s made for – slicing, dicing and mincing.  It has small indentations (Granton) next to the edge of the blade that allows food to slide easily off of the blade, making it the right knife for certain types of chopping tasks like onions and carrots.  It has a rounded, blunt end that helps to balance the knife and make it easy to work with.

    5.5 inch Santoku Knife
7.5 inch Santoku Knife


  • Carving/Slicing Knife (8” – 14”): This is a long-bladed, straight-edged knife that has a thinner blade than the chef’s knife that allows for thinner cuts. It is used for carving and slicing meats and poultry.  Carving knives tend to have a more pointed tip that is perfect for piercing certain areas, such as the leg or winged portions of poultry, in order to access the joints.  Slicing knives usually have a rounded tip, and hollow Granton on the sides.  The length of the blade encourages a sawing motion, and the slicer is preferred for ham, prime rib and larger roasts.
Carving Knife
10 inch Meat Slicer
14 inch Meat Slicer


  • Boning/Fillet Knife (4” – 10”): This is a more specialized knife that only a few home chefs will feel they need to have.  It’s a great knife for hunters and those who like to butcher their own cuts of meat, as it is the right knife for cutting through bones, tendons and ligaments.  These knives are available in varying degrees of flexibility to suit the type of meats that you are preparing.  Thicker meats require a stiffer blade, while more delicate cuts require more flexibility.  The fillet knife is more specialized for fish, and has a sharper, thinner and more flexible blade.  Its design allows better performance when filleting fish.
7 inch Fillet Knife


  • Vegetable Cleaver: This is a larger, more rectangular knife that has a rigid blade for chopping, shredding, pounding or crushing. Some have the Granton along the blade that allows the vegetables or fruit to easily slide off the blade.  Some have a more curved blade, allowing for a rocking motion when chopping, dicing, mincing and shredding.  Others have a straight blade that stays in contact with the food as you cut.  The broader blade allows for corralling the food off of the cutting surface.  For many chefs, the Santoku does much of the same work, so it’s a matter of preference and determining which is the right knife for you.


Vegetable Cleaver



    • Meat Cleaver: This, too, is a more specialized knife that many home chefs don’t think they’ll need or use, but we think that there are more practical applications than initially meets the eye. It was designed to be heftier to chop through whole chickens, lobsters, bones and sinew, and even coconuts and squash that would wear down or damage other knives.  In fact, using other knives on these types of foods could cause serious damage to it.  The cleaver is heavier and clunkier to use, and it’s not intended to give a precision cut.  It relies on sheer momentum to chop straight through.  If you make a lot of stock, for example, this may be the right knife for you.  It allows you to expose more of the bone and meat to the water for better flavor extraction.

    Meat Cleaver

    People often ask why there’s a hole in the blade.  Since this knife was the butcher’s tool-of-the-trade, the knife was commonly hung from hooks or on the butcher’s belt for ease of access and safety.  By hooking through the blade (instead of the handle), it kept it under control so it wouldn’t damage the blade by banging into the wall, and it left easy access to the handle when hung at chest height or higher.  We also know of people using the hole to help get a stuck cleaver out of bone or frozen meats.

    • Cheese Knife: A specialized knife that has a small, thin blade (usually serrated) to cut through hard or soft textured cheeses.  It has cutouts that reduce sticking and speared tips for serving.  A cheese knife can also be used to cut other kinds of foods that traditionally stick to a knife surface, such as cake, pies, hard boiled eggs and butter.
    Cheese Knife



    I hope this explanation helps with determining the right knife to be used for the task at hand.  In future blogs I’ll explore other topics that should be considered in choosing and caring for your knives:

    • Weight and balance
    • Material
    • Method of manufacturing
    • Quality and cost
    • Proper cleaning and storage
    • Sharpening methods

    Be sure to follow my blog to see these other postings so you don’t miss this other important information, and please share it with your friends!  Go to to see the various knives that we carry.


    Which Salt Is Better? Table – Kosher – Sea – Himalayan – Celtic

    I’ve been intrigued with a lot of the press recently around different types of salts, which salt is better, and especially if any are healthy.  There’s a lot of information out there, but here’s my summary:

    Salt in General

    Salt is a crystalline mineral that is mined from various deposits found in the earth or evaporated from saltwater bodies – either lakes or ocean.  Salt is made of two elements, sodium (NA) and chlorine (Cl).  Both are essential for life in humans and animals for several reasons.  Some of the health benefits of unrefined salt are:

    1. Salt aids blood sugar control by improving insulin sensitivity. A low-salt diet actually increases insulin resistance (see study #1 and study #2)
    2. It’s a natural antihistamine and may improve an allergic reaction or an asthma attack (source).
    3. Salt lowers adrenaline spikes. Adrenaline is an important stress hormone and sometimes necessary (fight or flight responses), but if it’s out of sync, it can take a toll on the body.
    4. Adequate salt intake supports balanced hormones. Read more about this from nutrition researcher Ray Peat.
    5. Salt helps the brain and nerves send electrical impulses.
    6. Acceptable salt consumption encourages a faster metabolism and healthy weight by eliminating unhealthy blood cortisol levels (see study).
    7. Salt can improve sleep quality due to its suppression of stress hormones and increasing the metabolic rate.
    8. Because salt supports balanced hormones and reduces stress hormones, it supports thyroid function.


    Regular table salt is the most used, and the most refined.  Providers grind it heavily and remove most of the impurities and minerals.  It is almost pure sodium chloride – 97% or more.  One of the biggest issues is clumping when it’s ground this heavily.  Other powdery foods will do this too, and therefore anti-clumping compounds will be added to help it flow more freely.  Under U.S. law, table salt can have up to 2% of additives, which are usually the anti-clumping compounds (ferrocyanide, talc, and silica aluminate are commonly included) and iodine.


    Sea salt is mostly just sodium chloride, but instead of being mined from salt deposits, it’s made by evaporating sea water.  It usually does contain more trace minerals like zinc, potassium and iron, but it can also contain contaminates (like lead) depending on where in the world’s oceans it is taken from.  Natural sea salt will be off-white and moist.

    Sea salt isn’t ground down as much as refined salt and is often coarser.  Because of this, it may have a different feel in your mouth and give you a “burst” of salt flavor when chewed.  According to the Mayo Clinic, however, it has about the same nutritional value as table salt. 


    This type has a flaky, coarse look, and is primarily used in the Jewish religion.  Since Jewish law requires that all blood be extracted from meat before it is eaten, the structure of this salt aids in its extraction.

    Many chefs like to use kosher salt for this very reason, depending on the type of meat that they are cooking and the finished result they want to achieve.  Otherwise, it is less likely to have additives and iodine, but is comparable to table salt.

    Pink Himalayan

    The pink color is due to trace amounts of iron oxide

    Himalayan is mined from ancient sea beds in Pakistan and often contains trace amounts of iron, potassium, magnesium and calcium.  The pink color is due to trace amounts of iron oxide.  It usually has a lower sodium content than regular salt.  It looks pretty in mills and keepers, and adds a burst of flavor, especially with fish like salmon.  Many health experts agree that Himalayan salt is better than most of the others because of its purity and higher mineral content.


    Harvesting Celtic salt in Brittany

    Originally became popular in France, where it is harvested off the Brittany coast in the north.  It is harvested using the Celtic method of wooden rakes that doesn’t allow any metal to touch the salt, thereby preserving its living enzymes.  It is air and sun-dried in clay ponds.  It has a light grayish color and is quite moist. Many are coming to realize that this salt is better than some of the others, but its moisture content makes grinding it at home difficult without a specialty mill.

    Mills and Keepers

    Unrefined salts need special mills to grind them.  A regular pepper mill usually won’t grind them effectively, or will corrode from the salt’s natural acids. We offer several salt mills that have adjustable grinds with lifetime warranties on the grinding mechanism.  Salt keepers (that are not metal) are also a nice addition if you’d like to use a “pinch” or spoon it onto your food.

    Which is Better?

    Bottom line, depending on what you’re cooking and using it for, any unrefined salt is better for you, and can be used in moderation.  Choose the type that is best for what you’re cooking and the amount of salty taste you want.  Just be sure it’s not overly processed. Sometimes a cheaper cost indicates it’s more processed.  Personally, I think refined (table) salt should be avoided.

    Romancing the Bean In Cold Brew Coffee

    homemade cold brew coffee poured over ice
    Pouring our homemade cold brew coffee over ice

    Cold brew coffee is the latest coffee sensation, and for good reason!  Pour it over ice and it’s refreshing in the summer heat.  Drink it hot and it’s so much smoother than the typical hot drip.

    For years many have cautioned against coffee use, but the latest research shows that there are quite a few health benefits to drinking up to three cups of coffee a day.

    1. It can help fight all kinds of diseases, including Parkinson’s, dementia, Alzheimer’s, heart and liver diseases, and dying prematurely.
    2. It boosts your brainpower by sharpening memory and keeping you alert. It is also associated with a decreased risk of depression.
    3. The caffeine in coffee can speed up your metabolism and fat-burning processes. This can ward off obesity and type 2 diabetes.  Plus, black coffee is one of the lowest calorie drinks you can choose.

    While we’re not sure of exactly why coffee has all these benefits, researchers believe it may be tied to the high levels of antioxidants, minerals and polyphenols that are in coffee.

    Cold brew coffee, in particular, has more health advantages than hot drip coffee because it’s less acidic, making it easier on the digestive system.  This is particularly better for those who struggle with acid reflux, heartburn or a sensitive stomach.  Additionally, less acid means it’s smoother.  Many find that they don’t need as much sugar, cream or milk that add all those calories – so it’s even better for those trying to watch their weight and control sugar and fat intake.

    Homemade-Cold-Brew-Coffee_on ice
    Delicious and refreshing!

    So, why is there less acid in cold brew coffee?  Well, it basically boils down to time replacing heat.  The hot drip or brew releases certain fatty acids and oils, such as ketones, esters and amides, that are only soluble at higher temperatures.  These often come to the surface of your hot cup of coffee and cause that “bitter” taste.  This is also why 8 out of 10 people attempt to soften that acidic taste with calorie bombs of sugar, milk and or cream.

    The beauty of cold brew is that the coffee beans are never exposed to the high heat that releases those fatty acids and oils.  Instead, room temperature water gently coaxes the subtle notes of flavor out of the beans without compromising flavor or our need for caffeine.  In many ways, it’s like a romance that gently unfolds, leaving us thoroughly satisfied without that bitter taste in our mouth.  Deep down, we realize that this is how coffee was meant to be!

    All of this is great news, until you go to your local specialty coffee house and see the exorbitant prices for this delicious cup of yum!  Aficionados give us several guidelines for cold brewing at home.  coffee bean storage canisterFirst, get whole bean coffee and coarsely grind it, or it will cause the coffee to be cloudy.  The beans don’t actually have to be the best (read “expensive”) coffee, or the freshest.  Just be sure your beans aren’t more than a month old and have been stored properly.  Use about ¾ cup beans to 4 cups of room temperature water, stir, cover and let soak for 12 – 24 hours.  The longer the beans soak, the more intense and concentrated the flavor and the caffeine level.  Just be sure to not go much over 24 hours or the beans will be “over-extracted” and cause bitterness, which defeats the whole process!

    If you’re not using one of the cold brew pots that have built-in filters, you’ll need to strain your concentrate through cheese cloth a couple of times.  Cold brew coffee potfrench press cold brew coffee potYou can also use a French Press pretty effectively as well, but it should be strained at least once.  It can then be poured over ice, or diluted with hot or cold water to your taste and temperature preferences.  Yes, cold brew coffee makes a delicious HOT cup of coffee!  Add sugar and creamer if you like, but you’ll find you won’t need as much because the coffee is much smoother.

    The finished concentrate can be stored in the refrigerator for later use.  We recommend no more than a week, but we can never make it last that long!