A sharp knife can help a Chef accomplish a number of cooking-related tasks more quickly and efficiently than any machine. Knowing your knives' parts and intended purpose will help you become a more proficient Chef.
Parts of the Knife:
As shown in the picture to the left, there are a few different parts that make up a typical Chef's knife:
The Tang - is a portion of the blade that extends into the handle - the best knives have a tang that runs the length of the handle. A full tang will provide more support and balance with the knife.
The Bolster - is the part of the blade that meets the handle.
Rivets - bind the handle to the tang and in some instances are not visible due to a polypropylene cover on the handle (as seen on my knives, below).
The Tip & Heel of the knife are helpful terms when describing how best to hold your knife when slicing vegetables, for example.
You would want to hold the vegetable with one hand, keeping your fingertips furled back. With your dominant hand holding the knife, keeping the tip of the knife on the cutting board surface and only lifting the heel of the knife for each slice. In this type of cut, the knife's tip acts as the fulcrum (support).
Types of Knives:
A. Tournee or Bird's Beak Knife - The curved blade is perfect for tournee-ing vegetables or cutting on curved surfaces.
B. Pairing Knife - A short knife used for detail work or cutting vegetables and fruits. Used to cut or peel.
C. Boning Knife - Smaller knife with a thin blade that is perfect for seperating meat from the bone. The blade may be flexible or rigid.
D. Hollow Edge Chef's Knife - The oval patterns on each side of the knife allow for stick-resistant, precision slicing (think about slicing a whole zucchini - the hollowed-edged prevent the vegetables from sticking to the blade, so you can keep slicing without lifting the blade from the board). Used for chopping, slicing and mincing.
E. French or Chef's Knife - All purpose knife with a rigid 8-14" blade. Used for slicing, dicing, chopping or mincing.
F. Bread Knife - Long, thin serrated edge is perfect for slicing breads: hard artisan loaves or soft sandwich style bread. Also great for cutting tomatoes. In short, this knife is great for slicing without tearing.
G. Flexible Slicer / Carving Knife - The long, thin blade is used primarily for cutting uniform slices of cooked meat. But is great on slicing raw steak as well! The blade can be rigid or flexible and the tip can be pointed or rounded. The one shown above features the hollow ovals which prevent meat from sticking between slices. Known for working wonders when using it to slice roast beef super thin.
H. Honing Tool or Steel - A scored, slightly abrasive steel rod that is used to "hone" or straighten the knife blade between or immediately after sharpenings.