Types of Knives Used in Restaurants – The Only Ones You Need to Know

By Ryan Leavitt •  Updated: 09/15/20 •  9 min read

Ask any chef out there, and they’ll probably tell you that the knife is the most important kitchen tool.

Not the expensive standing mixer, not the oven, but the knife.

But there are a lot of different types of knives out there, all of which have different uses, and knowing the difference and knowing what they are used for can make a huge difference in the kitchen.

If you’ve been wanting to learn about the different knives that chefs use in restaurants and what they’re used for, you’ve come to the right place.

We explain all of that in this article, and we also dive into which are essential, and which are just nice to have.

There are a lot of different tools chefs use in the kitchen, but today we’ll be going over the 11 knives that are most commonly found in restaurants.

So read on to find out more.


The Essentials

These are the absolute must-haves in any kitchen.

They are some of the most useful knives that you can have and will be the most used tools in your kitchen.

The Chef’s Knife

This is the most important knife in the kitchen.

It’s designed to be used for everything from cutting chicken, to dicing tomatoes, to mincing garlic.

It’s a true workhorse, which is why it’s the first knife you need to buy if you can’t afford to get a whole set just yet.

These chef knives will typically be around 6-12 inches long (depending on how long the cook’s hands are) and will taper to a point, which will allow you to rock back and forth while mincing.

Since these knives are used for so many different things, they are typically full-tang, which means that the blade extends up to the handle, giving the knife more durability.

It is the go-to knife in the kitchen as it can do everything, so if you’re only going to have one knife, this should be the one.

Related: Japanese chef knives, damascus chef knives, Deba knives

The Utility Knife

Next up on the list, we have the utility knife.

This knife is usually used for cutting smaller food that is too small for a chef’s knife to handle.

It will measure anywhere between 4-7 inches, giving you a lot more control and precision when using the knife.

That being said, the knife is only made for use with smaller ingredients, so you will run into some trouble if you try using this knife for cutting up large ingredients.

But if you need to slice thin slices, fillet, or trim meat, the utility knife will serve you much better than the chef’s knife.

Related: Ceramic knives

The Santoku

The Santoku knife, in essence, is a Japanese-style chef’s knife.

It mostly serves the same purpose as a chef’s knife, as it is large and can be used for all sorts of different tasks.

However, this knife is still pretty different from the Western-style chef’s knife we’re all used to seeing.

For starters, it’s smaller and thinner, giving this knife a lighter feel than a chef’s knife.

The blade of this knife is flat, so it won’t rock on the cutting board, which may lead to you having a harder time mincing with this blade.

The word Santoku literally means, “three virtues”, which are slicing, dicing, and mincing; making this another great all-around kitchen knife.

The Santoku is the preferred kitchen knife for a lot of cooks because it has a lighter feel.

Kitchen Shears

Last on our list of essential kitchen knives, is a pair of trusty kitchen shears.

If you want to be technical about things, shears are not knives, but they can do just as much as a knife can while giving you a whole new sense of control.

They can be used to prepare seafood like octopus and shrimp, section chicken, and cut herbs quickly.

These are also a great way for you to slice pizza hassle-free.

A good, sturdy pair of kitchen shears would be essential for any kitchen, whether it’s at home, or at a fancy restaurant.

Related sharpener collections:

The Non-Essential (But Still Nice To Have)

While these aren’t as important, they are specifically designed to make certain tasks easier, so they might be worth buying as well.

The Cleaver

The cleaver is the heaviest knife you’ll have in your kitchen.

It’s big and bulky, which makes it great for chopping meat and crushing ingredients like garlic.

Part of the reason it’s so heavy is because of its sheer size, which allows you to chop through tougher materials like bones.

It’s also a full tang knife, which gives it even more weight.

While it’s not necessarily essential in the kitchen, the cleaver will serve you well whenever you need a tough and heavy knife to do the work for you.

Related: Carving knives

The Boning Knife

As you might guess from the name, this knife is used to separate the meat from the bone.

It’s also used for filleting fish, slicing meat, and can even be used to peel vegetables (if you have a small boning knife).

These boning knives can be anywhere from three to eight inches long and have a very flexible blade that allows you to get in between the meat.

For home cooks, it might be best to start with a stiff blade or a semi-stiff blade to get used to controlling the knife before getting a flexible boning knife.

The Bread Knife

This knife has a serrated blade that allows you to saw through food.

Bread knives are best used for bread, cakes, fish, and certain poultry and seafood.

These knives are typically four to eight inches long and are ideal for those who do a lot of baking in the kitchen and need their food cut up into large chunks.

The Steak Knife

These knives aren’t necessarily for use in the kitchen as they are also called table knives.

They are used to cut up already cooked food once it is served.

It’s great for meat, chicken, fish, and just about any cooked food that is served and ready to eat.

These steak knives are small and come with either serrated or non-serrated edges.

Serrated edges take longer to dull, but are thought to sharpen while non-serrated edges dull faster but are easier to sharpen.

While these knives aren’t typically for use in the kitchen, they usually come with sets of kitchen knives and are great for when you’re serving a big juicy steak or a nicely roasted chicken.

Related: Japanese steak knives

The Paring Knife

This paring knife is used for peeling fruits and vegetables.

They are small and light, which gives you a lot of control, which is needed when peeling ingredients in the kitchen.

There are a couple of types of paring knife out there, the most common ones being the bird’s beak spear point, and sheep’s foot, which get their names from the shape of the tip.

These knives are usually only three to four inches long with a pointed tip, a great knife for those who need a lot of precision.

The Fillet Knife

This knife is used to fillet meat and is very similar to the boning knife, however, there are slight differences between the two.

In fact, these two knives share so many similarities that they are interchangeable in the kitchen, with most chefs and cooks only getting both knives when a lot of precision is needed.

Knifemakers are even known to merge the two knives so they serve multiple purposes.

However, fillet knives are thinner than boning knives, as they are designed to fit in between the meat and the skin, as opposed to the meat and the bone.

The fillet knife is typically used for fish and is essential in seafood kitchens.

For home cooking, either the fillet knife or the boning knife will serve you well, however, if you want to get more precise when filleting fish and slicing up sashimi, it might be a good investment to get a fillet knife.

The Nakiri Bocho

Last on the list we have another Japanese knife called the Nakiri Bocho.

It has a thin blade and squared-off tips designed to cut through vegetables.

This is a knife you use when slicing long vegetables like eggplants and cucumbers as the size and shape allow you to do it with ease.

It’s not exactly essential as you can use a chef’s knife for these tasks, but it can be a useful tool for those who do a lot of cooking.


And those are about all the knives that chefs use in the kitchen.

While there are a lot of them, and distinguishing them from each other can be tough, each of these knives serve specific purposes.

Some knives are meant to be used for a lot of things like the chef’s knife and the santoku, while others are meant for very specific tasks like the fillet knife and the paring knife.

But having a set of these tools and knowing how to use them can save you a lot of time and effort in the kitchen.

And now what you know the difference, it’s time to get in the kitchen and start using your tools!

Further reading:

How to Use Utensils at a Formal Dinner – The Spruce

Fine Dining Etiquette Explained – Fine Dining Lovers

United States Dining Etiquette, Whats Cooking America

Ryan Leavitt

Hi my name is Ryan Leavitt a Marine Corps Veteran and currently an over the road trucker (Long Haul). I am no expert chef but am enjoying preparing my own meals on the road and testing all the different knives.

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