Shun Blade Shapes and Uses 101: the Chef’s Knife

From the most multi-purpose to the most specialized, Shun offers you exactly the right knife for every job. At first glance, all those blade shapes and choices might seem confusing. So over the next posts, we'll discuss a number of the key blade shapes, how they're intended to be used, and how using the right knife for the right job can help make cooking easier and better than ever. First up, the all-purpose chef's knife:

The Basics  The Chef's Knife

The chef's knife is the kitchen workhorse. It's the knife you'll reach for again and again for most day-to-day cutting and slicing chores. Need to cube a potato? The chef's knife. Want to thin-slice a boned chicken breast? The chef's knife. Does the recipe call for carrot wedges. The chef's knife, again.

There are three basic styles of chef's knives: German, French, and Japanese. The German style has more "belly," that is, curve along the edge. This allows the knife to be "rocked" through food when cutting. The French style has a much straighter edge with curve only toward the tip of the knife. Both these Western-style blades tend to be heavier and made of "softer" steel. This means their edges can take more abuse, but they will need to be sharpened more frequently. The traditional Japanese chef's knife—in Japanese, a gyuto—is similar to the French version in that it has a straighter edge and curves slightly toward the tip. Japanese knives are usually made of harder steel and thinner blade stock for a knife that is very sharp, agile, and needs sharpening less frequently. The harder steel, however, requires extra care to prevent chipping.

Handcrafted in Japan, our flagship chef's knife, the Shun Classic 8-inch Chef's Knife, starts with Japanese steel and an Asian aesthetic but adds some belly curve to the blade for easy rocking cuts. The blade is thin, sharp, and lightweight for agile cutting performance.

For most cutting tasks—slicing or chopping vegetables or portioning meat, for example—you'll be using the middle of the cutting edge of the blade. Always cut with a smooth, slicing motion rather than a forceful, up-and-down “chopping” manner as this can promote chipping. The proper cutting motion is a "locomotive" motion, pushing the knife forward and down as you cut through the food, then pulling the knife up and back towards you (in order to position it for the next cut). This motion is also similar to cutting wood with a handsaw—forward and down, then back. When cutting small to medium-sized foods, cucumber, for example, the tip of the knife will remain in contact with the cutting board, which helps you maintain control of the cut.

The tip of the knife can be used for delicate cuts or scoring (that is, making small cuts in meat so that it can absorb a marinade more readily). The curved area, from the tip to about one-third of the way down the edge, enables rocking cuts through food such as fresh herbs. The heel of the knife (the end toward the handle) is thicker than the tip and can be used for working with denser vegetables, for instance, splitting carrots.

Even the flat of the blade can be used. Quickly remove the skin from a clove of garlic by crushing it with the side of the blade. (Be sure to keep your fingers away from the Shun-sharp edge, of course.)

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