Being a chef can be a very complex and difficult job. Not only will you need to know all about food safety, correct recipes and correct cooking technique – but you'll also need to be sure you're using the right tools for the job.
As a result, it can be quite difficult to know which knife a chef should be using and how big it should be. Luckily, we've created a comprehensive guide on chefs' knives outlining how big it should be for specific purposes and why.
So, if you're an aspiring chef – read on for more!
Choosing The Right Chef's Knife: What To Consider
When choosing your first chef's knife, there are several things that you'll want to consider.
Firstly, what type of knife do you want? Do you want a large chef's knife or a small one?
Secondly, what size is best suited to you? If you have a smaller hand, then a larger chef's knife may not be suitable for you. Conversely, if you have a bigger hand, then a smaller chef's knife may not suit you either.
Finally, what material does the knife have? Some people prefer wooden handles to metal ones, while others like their knives with leather sheaths.
This guide will look at these considerations in more detail later. For now however, here's our recommendations simply based on the size of the chef's hands.
Chef Knife Recommendations At A Glance
Here's our three recommendations for those with average sized hands, large hands and small hands.
Chef Knife For Large Hands
Perfect knife for chefs with large hands, made with stainless steel and an ergonomic handle.
Chef Knife For Average Hands
The ideal knife for chefs with average sized hands. Made with carbon stainless steel and comes with a sharpener.
Chef Knife For Small Hands
Fantastic knife for a chef with small hands. A solid steel knife with an incredibly sharp blade.
How To Choose The Right Size Chef Knife
There are many ways to check which sized knife is right for you, so we'll look at these individually.
Try The Forearm Test
One way to find out whether you have large or small hands is to try the forearm test.
Simply put your arm straight down by your side and measure from the tip of your thumb to the base of your wrist. This will give you an idea of the length of your hand.
If you have a long hand, you'll need a longer knife. On the other hand, if your hand is shorter than this measurement, you'll need a smaller knife.
Check Your Hand Size Against These Guidelines
You can use these guidelines as a rough guide to help you choose the right size chef's knife. However, it's important to remember that every person has different sized hands, so don't take these measurements too literally.
For example, someone with a medium-sized hand would probably need a 9-inch chef's knife, whereas a person with a very shorthand might only require a 5-inch knife.
These are just general guidelines though. You should always follow the manufacturer's instructions when buying any knife.
Use The Handle Grip Test
Another good way to determine how big your hands are is to hold the knife in your hand and grip it using the handle.
Hold the knife with your fingers wrapped around the handle, but make sure that they're not too tight. It should feel comfortable to you.
Now, compare the width of your hand against the thickness of the handle. If the handle is wider than your hand, then you have large hands. If the handle is thinner than your hand, then your hands are smaller.
Measure Your Knives
While holding the knife in your hand, measure its overall length. This is usually marked somewhere on the blade, although some manufacturers may mark it elsewhere.
Measure the distance between the edge of the blade and the end of the handle. This is where you want to place the tip of your index finger.
A good rule of thumb is to buy knives that are about half the length of your hand, but no more than two inches longer. That way, you won't be cutting yourself while preparing food.
Look At The Blade Shape
Some blades are designed specifically for larger hands. They tend to be slightly curved and rounded off at the ends.
On the other hand, some knives are designed for smaller hands. They tend to have a sharper point and are often flat at the tips.
6 Inches? 8 Inches? 10 Inches? Which To Choose?
Many Western knives come in different sizes, and it's sometimes a little baffling as to which one to choose, although your hand size will play a predominant role.
Who Is The 6-Inch Knife Best For?
The 6-inch chef's knife is ideal for people who enjoy cooking and baking. It's also great for chopping vegetables because it's easy to control.
It's perfect for beginners who want to learn how to cook without having to worry about injuring themselves.
It's also suitable for people who like to prepare meals for others because it's easier to cut through foods such as meat, fish, poultry, cheese and bread.
Chefs whose smaller hands will benefit from this size knife and generally, this sized knife is cheaper than larger ones.
Who Is The 8-Inch Knife Best For?
This size is best suited for chefs who prefer to work with heavier ingredients and because it's thicker, it's better for slicing or dicing meats and veggies.
It's the perfect knife for those chefs with average sized hands. It may be a little too large for beginner chefs, but the most important factor with a knife is comfort.
Who Is The 10-Inch Knife Best For?
If you have very small hands, then you'll probably find the 10-inch chef's knife is very difficult to use. However, if you have large hands, then it's a good choice, but it's still quite heavy though.
You can get away with using this knife for everyday tasks such as peeling potatoes, slicing tomatoes and onions, and even making salads – but it's best suited for tough meats and larger items.
If you're new to the chef game, it's not the best choice for you – but a seasoned veteran with large hands will find this sized knife perfect.
Other Factors When Choosing The Right Chef Knife
There are many other things to think about when choosing your ideal chef's knife. Let's first consider the weight of the knife.
There are some chefs who prefer to use heavy knives because they're able to get a better balance, although they can sometimes be more difficult to control, depending on the task.
The weight can be determined by what materials have been used to make the knife (carbon, stainless steel etc.).
There's no hard and fast rule about what the perfect weight is as such, but generally the heavier knives are for larger cuts of meat, bread or large vegetables.
If however, you struggle to move heavier knives, but you need to use one, you should look at what it is made of and read the manual of its overall weight.
Thicker blades are mostly stronger and last longer than thin ones. But, they also weigh more. So, if you want a knife that lasts, opt for a thicker one.
However, if you find it easier to cut with a lighter knife, go ahead and choose a thinner one. Just remember that even a thick blade will eventually break if misused or simply through wear and tear.
Chefs like their knives to be lightweight and easy to carry around. However, they don't want them to be flimsy either. Therefore, they often choose handles made from carbon fiber or wood.
Carbon fiber is very light and strong, but it doesn't absorb moisture well. Wood is naturally resistant to heat and moisture, making it an excellent choice for a kitchen knife.
But, there are some downsides to wooden handles. For example, they can split easily, especially if they've not been properly cared for. And, they aren't always dishwasher safe.
So, if you do decide to use wooden handles, make sure you treat them well.
You'll notice that most knives come with three types of edges: plain, serrated and hollow ground. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages.
Plain edge is considered the standard, and it's what most people start out using. It's simple and effective, but it does take time to sharpen.
Hollow ground is a popular option among professional cooks. It's sharp right away, but it takes a lot of effort to hone up.
Serrated is probably the best option if you're looking for something quick and easy to use. It's great for slicing soft foods like tomatoes and onions.
Although all these options are good in their own way, we suggest starting out with a plain edge. Once you become familiar with how to use a knife, you may wish to try another type of edge.
Shape Of Handle
A handle is basically the part of the knife where you hold it. You can choose between a straight-handled knife, which looks like a normal knife, and a curved-handled knife, which curves slightly into the hand.
A straight-handled knife is the easiest to wield, but it's harder to maneuver when cutting. On the other hand, a curved-handled knife is much easier to handle, but it's harder for your fingers to grip onto.
Therefore, it's a matter of personal preference.
Length Of Handle
The length of a handle depends on what kind of knife you're buying. If you're buying a chef's knife, you'll usually get a long handle. This allows you to keep both hands on the knife while you're working.
On the other hand, if you're buying a paring knife, you'll usually only get a short handle. This makes it easier to control the knife as you work.
If you have trouble gripping a knife, consider getting a shorter handle.
The heel is the part of the handle that connects to the blade. The right heel determines the distance and space of your knuckles when using the knife.
The heel should be comfortable enough to rest against your palm without slipping. However, the more pressure you put on the heel, the better. This helps prevent slippage.
A bolster is a metal piece attached to the back of the handle which meets the blade. It gives the knife extra strength and balance.
Some chefs prefer bolsters because they feel safer than having no support at all. Others find them too heavy.
Tapered edge refers to the shape of the tip of the blade. Some blades have a flat tip, while others have a pointed one.
Flat tips are generally preferred by professionals because they allow for greater precision. However, pointed tips are easier to use for beginners.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some of the most asked questions when it comes to chef knives.
What Is The Best Knife For Cutting?
There is no single answer to this question. We recommend trying different knives until you figure out which one works best for you. You need to pay most attention to comfort and ease of movement.
Which One Is Better – Paring Knife Or Serrated Knife?
Both types of knives are useful, but they have separate “jobs”, so there's no real answer to this one!
Should I Buy An Electric Knife?
Electric knives are convenient, but they don't last very long. They also tend to be expensive.
We advise against purchasing an electric knife for most tasks, but there are times you may need to use one.
The Bottom Line
Choosing the right chef knife is critical to the success of your food! Make sure when you're choosing one that you read the manufacturer's information of the product and always try before you buy!
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