A chef’s knife is an all-purpose knife for cutting, chopping and mincing. Once you learn how to take advantage of a chef’s knife, using one can be faster for some tasks than the time needed for the assembly, use and clean-up of a food processor.
Chef’s knives have a blade 15 to 30 cm (6 to 12 inches) long that tapers height-wise from at least 4 cm (1 1/2 inches) next to the handle right down to a fine tip.
The French tradition of chef knives tends to form an almost triangular shape with a straight line at the bottom; German-style ones are a bit more curved.
With a chef’s knife, you don’t saw through food. Most of the time, you rock it from tip of knife to end. While rocking, keep the tip of the knife in contact with the cutting board. The ideal rocking motion is somewhat circular, pivoting on the knife tip. To chop or mince finely, rock back and forth, holding the handle and the upper part of the blade end.
When using a chef’s knife for chopping or slicing, one hand holds the knife, the other holds or guides the food into the action of the blade. For the hand dealing with the food, curl your fingertips and thumb to be under the palm of your hand. This keeps your fingertips out of harm’s way, and presents the knuckles to help in guiding the side of the blade.
You can turn a chef’s knife upside down, and use the spine of it to scrape boards, pound and break bones, etc. You can use the side of the knife to crush garlic cloves.
A chef’s knife is not good for slicing things such as bread.
Small 15 cm (6 inch) ones are good for coring, cutting cheese, etc.