Western kitchen knives
There are different types and characteristics typical of this kind of knives, some born in the modern era other children of centuries of traditions.
Before analyzing the most common blades, let's see what the materials and salient features of this kind of tool are.
First of all the type of construction, typically full tang with handles in various materials riveted to the shank. In general, wood and bone are used for the handle in traditional and plastic or composite synthetic materials such as G10 or micarta in the more modern ones. An all-metal construction is not uncommon, with the handle generally welded to the blade (Global, for example).
For steels, we range between common stainless steel (ma5m, 420, 440), carbonaceous (1090 or other low-alloyed products in general) up to more particular stainless steel (ATS34, rwl54 or other powder) passing through titanium and ceramic.
There are also blades in composite materials, the use of which is generally delegated for cutting fruit and vegetables.
It should be noted that the vast majority of knives on the market use common stainless steel and wood or plastic grips. Only a few SPECIAL lines of some manufacturers range towards other materials, especially carbon steels considered unsuitable for professional or amateur use due to the need for frequent maintenance and rapid oxidation.
About the production processes, industrial blades are almost all hot stamped (even if it is indicated as FORGED on many of them). In some cases the cutting of the shapes takes place with different processes, but these are more expensive and therefore reserved for more expensive and rare lines.
Very rarely the blades are actually forged with traditional systems.
About the most common types, we can include the following:
Chef's knife: also called French knife, it is absolutely the basis of every kitchen kit. Useful in almost all preparations, from meat to vegetables, it is generally in low tempered stainless steel (56Hrc or slightly more) to be resilient. The handle has a typically fulltang, riveted construction. The length varies between 18 and 24 cm, but they are not rare longer blades.
Utility: useful knife for finer processing, shorter and less high than the Chef. It is a useful companion to be used in our kit, with lengths ranging between 12 and 15 cm. Also suitable for meat, fish or vegetables.
Paring also called Spelucchino: small knife for fine work, generally to be used in cuts with both hands (such as carving, peeling, etc ...) but also on a cutting board for finishing touches or precision jobs. Lengths between 8 and 12 cm.
Cleaver: high and heavy knife, usually dedicated to meat processing and bone cutting. It is a specialized tool and therefore not essential (in small processes it can be replaced by the Chef, if it has adequate dimensions and weight).
Boning: knife used for boning, with a thin and narrow blade. It is used to work around bones and tendons, which is also not essential for a basic kit.
Roast knife: Knife with long and narrow blade, useful for cutting slices of meat (roasts in general) in a single movement and without damaging the meat fibers. Smooth thread, of course. Useful but not essential.
Bread knife: The only knife of this group with serrated wire, to cut bread even with hard crusts without damaging the wire. Useful in a basic kit.
Ham knife: knife with long, narrow and thin blade. Generally flexible, it is used to cut thin slices of ham without the blade getting stuck. Not indispensable.
Filleting knife: useful blade for filleting or removing fish skin in general. Thin and flexible blade.
These are the most common types, but in reality there are a plethora of blades each one very particular and specialized, such as serrated pomdoro knives, oyster knives, cheese knives, etc.
However, it remains clear that the most suitable type for almost every job is the Chef, the basic component of every self-respecting kit. The recommended sizes for common uses is between 21 and 24 cm, which allows (with the right preparation) a 360 degree use in the kitchen remembering the saying that in the large there is also the small. In order to have a basic kit, just add a large serrated blade to use for bread (but also for pineapple, and other fruits, vegetables, from the leathery exterior), and a small knife, paring or utility for precision work.
Article written by my friend Carmine De Domenico with some of my small revisions.