What Is a Chef's Knife Used For?

Learn what a chef’s knife is used for and why you might use it instead of other knives

Kitchen knives are one of the most unique cooking tools out there because there are so many task specific options.

Slicing bread? Bread knives have your back. Peeling fruits and vegetables? Paring knives have you covered. There are seemingly endless ways to fill out your knife block.

While professional chefs often have access to an entire arsenal of knives (some unitasker, some multi purpose) the home cook more than likely only has a few to choose from to execute their kitchen tasks. 

chef's knife on cutting board

That’s where the chef’s knife comes in. This kitchen knife is the do-everything workhorse of home kitchens around the world. In this article, you’ll learn what a chef’s knife is, what it’s used for, whether it can be used for carving, when to use one, and how to sharpen one.

What is a chef’s knife?

Originally hailing from Thiers, France (where we still make our Chef’s Knife), chef’s knives are multi-purpose kitchen knives that are typically about 8 inches long and made from a combination of stainless steel and carbon steel.

Their hallmark features are a prominent point and a sharp edge that features a sloping curve. The curve of a chef’s knife allows the user to execute this knife’s signature rocking motion cutting technique.

The rocking motion cutting technique gets its name because the knife is designed to be rocked back and forth from tip to heel, with the item you intend to cut being placed in the middle. When performing this technique, there is a different part of the knife in contact with the cutting board at all times. This is quite different from the technique used with a straight bladed multi purpose knife like a Santoku knife.

chef's knife in home kitchen

If you’re looking to buy a chef’s knife, make sure it’s full tang and fully forged. This means the knife is made from one solid rod of metal, from the tip through the hilt. Knives that are full tang and fully forged are far more durable and long lasting than more cheaply made knives. This is why all Made In knives are full tang and fully forged.

What a chef’s knife is used for

Chef’s knives are as multi-purpose as it gets. They excel at smaller tasks like chopping herbs, julienning carrots, and mincing garlic as well as larger tasks like dicing a large onion, spatchcocking a chicken, and slicing a ham.

It’s quite common for modern American home kitchens to only be outfitted with a few knives, and a multi purpose knife like a chef’s knife is an extremely common choice. Pair this with a paring knife (for detail-oriented tasks like delicate peeling and slicing) and a utility knife (for tasks like slicing bread) and you have a small but mighty blade lineup.

Can you use a chef’s knife for carving?

Yes! Chef’s knives are great at carving meats as well as separating meat from bone. Carving knives or kitchen gadgets like electric carvers aren’t necessary when you have a quality chef’s knife at your disposal.

When to use a chef’s knife

The beauty of multi purpose knives like chef’s knives and Santoku knives are that they can be used constantly! If you’re not sure which knife to use, a chef’s knife is a phenomenal go-to — chances are it is up to the task!

Some examples of times when you might opt for a different knife are when slicing crusty foods like bread, peeling foods like potatoes and apples, and cleaving bones.

chef's knife slicing an onion

How to sharpen a chef’s knife

Chef’s knives are best honed with a honing rod and sharpened with a whetstone. Electric sharpeners are also an option for sharpening, though they don’t let you achieve the same level of precision as a manual process does. Cook's Illustrated is a great resource for how to sharpen kitchen knives.

If the option is available to you, employing the services of a professional knife sharpener is always a phenomenal way to keep your blades sharp as new. Odds are there’s a local knife sharpener close to you that you don’t even know about.

Now that you know what a chef’s knife is, what it’s for, when to use one, whether one can be used for carving, and how to sharpen one, you’re well on your way to optimizing your cutlery game. If you’d like to browse our assortment of fully forged & full tang knives, you can do so on our knife collection page.

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