Is a Bigger Knife Always Better?

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My vegetable knife vs one of my chopping knives.

One of the most essential pieces of equipment you need in the kitchen is a knife. 

But how big should it be? How many should you have?

Can you have too many knives? What are they all for?

Back in 2013 I wrote a post about basic knife skills (Knife Skills 101), and in it I recommended that you use a larger knife because it gives you more control.

I still agree with the content of my post, however there’s more to it than that, especially as you improve your skills in the kitchen. You’re not going to be able to use a bigger knife for everything you need to cut. A bigger knife gives you more control, but only for the big movements like when you chop a whole watermelon in half, or cut pumpkin into quarters or 2cm pieces. 

But what if you want to peel the skin from an apple or kiwi fruit? What if you’re trying to get the eye out of the potato (the yucky brown spots)? In both of these instances you need a smaller knife for more control – otherwise you’ll lose a few fingers or chop off part of your finger nail!

You’ll want to use a smaller knife for preparing fruit
Types of knives
There are plenty of knives out there on the market for you to buy. But if you’re a home cook like me, then you don’t really need all of them. Especially if you don’t have the drawer space for them! Therefore, the most basic knives will be the most useful because they will be the knives that you use over and over and over again.

I would recommend you get yourself at least one vegetable knife, one bread knife and one chopping knife, and only get the last two when you’re ready to move up a skill level.

The basic types of knives are:

  • A vegetable (or paring) knife – this one is smaller and gives you the fine detail work you need when peeling an apple. They usually are straight edged and are sharp at the point of the knife as well, so you can use the point in your chopping/knife work as well.

  • A bread knife – this one has serrated edges and works wonderfully when chopping bread. You can use it on any type of bread or sandwich as the serrations help the bread to come apart, whereas a straight edged knife would only squash the bread.

  • A chopping or cook’s knife – this is your basic straight edged knife that comes in various sizes. I have a larger version for bigger ingredients and a medium version for smaller ingredients. I use the larger one for most of the chopping of my vegetables but its most useful when chopping a whole pumpkin or watermelon in half. The medium sized cooks knife I use for chopping onions and carrots.

  • A cleaver – this type of knife is your big, clunky knife that you use for breaking down a chicken or other large types of meat. You can also use them for crushing garlic and nuts if you place them on their side. I don’t use one of these as I don’t break down my meat that often, but they are pretty easy to come by at knife stores.

  • A filleting knife – a filleting knife is usually long and thin, and can be a lot more flexible than the usual type of knives. These knives are really flexible and thin because you use them for filleting whole fish. I wouldn’t recommend you get one of these until you’re ready to try filleting, so if you do want fresh fillets in the mean time, just get the fish monger (fish seller) to fillet the fish for you. Alternatively, if you want to give fish filleting a go yourself, use a medium sized cook’s knife but go pretty slowly.

    The first 4 knives from the left are my chopping knives and the last one is my bread knife.

    Which knife for which ingredient?
    Which type of knife you use will depend on what type of chopping you need to do.

    Here’s a few examples for you so you can decide which knife to use depending on the ingredient you’re using:

    Small pieces of fruit like kiwis, plums, apples, bananas, apricots, etc
    Vegetable knife
     Whole watermelon, whole pumpkin, whole cauliflower, whole cabbage
    Large chopping knife
    Carrots, capsicum, zucchini, potatoes, sweet potato
    Medium chopping knife
    Bread rolls, hamburger buns, loaves of bread, banana bread and cakes
    Bread knife
    Whole chicken, large cuts of beef, lamb or other protein
    Removing skin from fresh fish
    Filleting knife

    How do you keep your knives sharp?
    For extra control, keep your knives sharp, so buy yourself a knife sharpener. Buy a knife block with a sharpener already included, or get a sharpening stone or other sharpener. They are fairly inexpensive so you can pick one up at a department or variety store. 

    Question: Do you think you might be ready to start using a few different knives in your everyday cooking?

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