A Guide to Specialty Knives
Your basic knives are workhorses—performing many tasks well. However, sometimes a specialty knife will do the job more easily and efficiently, and advanced cooks count these among their most valuable tools. You can gradually add these to your knife collection as you develop your cooking style, or you can be ready for anything by having some of these on hand from the start!
Although considered a specialty knife, this could very easily fall into the basic knife category because of its versatility and popularity. Japanese for “three benefits”, the santoku resembles a cross between a chef’s knife and a cleaver, and is excellent for slicing, dicing, and mincing, especially as the oval indentations along the cutting edge serve to reduce friction.
This is the blade you need for heavy work, such as splitting bones or cutting cartilage when preparing meat, poultry, or even large fish. The heavy rectangular blade also works well for cutting up dense vegetables, such as squashes, carrots and other large root vegetables. A cleaver blade should feel heavy in your hand—the weight contributes to the efficiency of use and will actually require less work on your part. Hint: use the broad surface of the blade to scoop up and transfer the chopped food.
As the name implies, this is the knife to use for filleting raw fish, as the flexible, thin, well-honed blade is ideal for easily following the contours of whole seafood when the fine tip is inserted between the bones and the flesh. A highly pointed tip on the 6”-8” extremely narrow blade also works well for cleaning fish.
With a long, flexible, somewhat slender blade that generally measures 6”-10”, a slicing knife is perfect for carving tender items like roast poultry and cooked fish or slicing fruits and vegetables. Slicing knives also do a fine job on cutting sandwiches. For slicing through sticky ingredients, such as dried fruit, knives with hollow-ground depressions on their cutting edges work best.
Offset Bread Knife
The offset handle provides extra knuckle clearance for this knife, and a long serrated blade with scalloped edge slices easily through crusty loaves, instead of tearing or mangling them.
The key to cleanly slicing through even the ripest of tomatoes and yielding even slices is the exceptionally sharp serrated 4 ½”-5” blade. The best tomato knives have a forked tip for ease of picking up the delicate slices, without having them falling apart when transferring from the cutting board to the plate.
Bird’s Beak Paring Knife
With a short, 2”-3” blade with downward curving tip and curved cutting and top edges, this shape is ideal for cutting and trimming vegetables into uniform oblongs. It is a must-have for classical French cooking, but also works great for peeling fruits and vegetables as it easily follows their curve.