The Anatomy of a Chef's Knife

The Chef’s knife, also sometimes referred to as a ‘French Knife’ is the Swiss Army Knife of the kitchen, capable of tackling just about any task you throw at it. A jack of all trades and a specialist of none, if you were only allowed ONE knife, this would be it.

Whether you’re a weekend kitchen warrior, an excided newbie, or a seasoned chef, having a high-quality chef’s knife in hand can make cooking more enjoyable, efficient and safe. A good quality knife feels like a true extension of your own hand, reacting to your every move, and making each slice or cut an effortless endeavor. Be sure to also check out our magnetic knife block.

Getting to Know Your Chef’s Knife Better: a Breakdown

Yet despite the countless hours this blade spends in your hand, you might not be quite as familiar with it as you think. Do you know what each part of the Chef’s knife is called? Why each feature is important? The types of variations available?

In this guide we break down the anatomy of a Chef’s Knife in painstaking detail, deconstructing the blade and giving you an in-depth tutorial on everything from butt to tip and back again.

You might just be surprised to learn that there is more to this sturdy kitchen companion than you thought.

Without further ado, we present the parts of your chef’s knife. We hope you enjoy this guide, and if you have questions, never hesitate to reach out. At Vertoku we specialize in affordable high-end, custom chef’s knives that are as visually stunning as they are reliable.

The Blade of Your Chef’s Knife

The blade is one of the most sophisticated parts of your knife. It includes the heel, spine, edge, tip and point. Don’t worry, we’ll cover what each of these are in the following sections.

Apart from the specific parts of the blade, the most common defining characteristics that set one chef’s blade apart from the others is the blade’s material used (type of steel), method of manufacturing (forged vs. stamped), size, shape and style (i.e. Japanese inspired vs Western).

Blade Material

The type of steel your blade is made from is a critical feature of the blade. It can affect everything from the blade’s ability to hold a sharp edge, to preventing corrosion and withstanding the abuse of daily use. Weak steel can rust, crack, chip, or break over time. The best type of steel used in chef’s knives is high carbon stainless steel.

Examples:

  • •7CR17 High Carbon Stainless Steel (used in these Japanese Inspired Knives)
  • High Carbon VG10 Steel with 66 Damascus Steel Layers (used in this exquisite Damascus Steel Chef’s Knife)

Blade Size

All chef’s knives are measured in either centimeters or inches. Typical lengths range between 8-12”, with 8” and 9.5” ranking among the most common sizes.
Generally speaking, longer blades enable you to make seamless cuts using broad strokes, and may be more suitable when slicing long (or large) food items. On the other hand, shorter knives allow for more precise and delicate control.

But it’s not just about the size of food your prepping, or the types of cuts you need to make. The size of your own hand is just as important. For those with petite hands, wielding a larger blade may be tiresome, uncomfortable, and even dangerous. While those with larger hands may find a smaller blade too small to feel comfortable with.

Blade Style

French Style – The French styled chef’s knife tends to be more triangular, with a straight as an arrow blade. This style is sometimes preferred for those favoring a slicing motion, drawing the blade back towards your body with each cut.

German Style – Leave it to the Germans to be ‘extra’. This style features a slight curve in the blade towards the tip. This design makes the blade good for both chopping as well as an up-and-down rocking slicing motion.

Japanese Style – Considered the crème de la crème of chef’s knives, Japanese, and Japanese Inspired chef’s knives such as those from Vertoku, are coveted for their intricate and beautiful designs. As performance-minded as they are aesthetic, Japanese style chef knives are well known for their precision, edge retention, maneuverability, ergonomics and durability.

Western Style – A notable feature of the Western-styled chef’s knife is a double-edged blade sharpened at a 50:50 ratio on each side of the edge. This is known as a ‘double-edged” or “double-bevelled” blade. Made from a softer steel, this blade is prone to it’s edge wearing faster and requiring a bit more maintenance.

The Point

The point of this guide is to better familiarize yourself with your chef knife, but the ‘Point’ of your chef knife is something different altogether. The ‘point’ is defined as the location on the blade where the spine and tip come together. This meeting of the spine and tip form a strong and capable ‘point’, most commonly used for scoring or piercing objects.

Just The Tip

Not to be confused with tipping the waiter, or offering up a tidbit of sage advice, the ‘Tip’ of your blade is generally defined as the first 1/3 of the blade, beginning with the point and working backwards towards the butt. The tip is carefully engineered to handle delicate tasks and slicing.

The Edge

Sounds ominous…and it is if you accidentally come into contact with it. The edge is the sharpened part of the blade, spanning the length of the blade from point to heel. The edge of your chef’s knife may be sharpened on one or both (double-edged) sides. Japanese styled knives tend to use a variety of angles favoring one side sharpened more than the other, forming an unequal bevel. Whereas western knives tend to sharpen to a perfectly matched angel on each side at a ratio of 50/50.

GRANTON EDGE: Not every blade has this, but those that do, feature unique dips in the surface of the blade, creating air pockets as you slice. This results in food items ‘releasing’ from the blade more easily, and is a nice touch that can add an element of ease and efficiency for some

The Spine

In direct opposition of the ‘edge’, is the spine. Aptly named, the spine is like the backbone of the chef’s knife. It is the thickest portion of the blade and the unsharpened ledge where you can place your palm to provide additional pressure and leverage when needed for cutting through tough items. Although the thickness of the spine will vary from knife to knife, a thicker spine is often indicative of a strong, stable blade.

Blade Face

The face of a Chef’s Knife includes the wide portion of the blade on either side of the knife. This flat surface can be readily used to crush or smash various ingredients such as softer nuts (unshelled), spices, seeds, and garlic cloves. The face can also be used to aid in gathering up your food items on the cutting board and/or moving them to their desired location.

The Handle

Unless you’re prone to accidents, the handle is the portion of your chef’s knife that you’ll be in contact with the most. The handle of the knife is what enables you to maintain a safe and secure grip on the knife, wielding it at will to slice, dice, chop and more. The handle begins at the spine meets the grip, and can be made from any number of materials.

Wood Handles – The most traditional of materials, wood is cheap and moderately durable. But plain and even stained wood is prone to damage from moisture and can be susceptible to bacterial growth.

Composite Handles – Light, durable, and impervious to moisture, composite has increased in popularity as an ideal material for knife handles.

Wood Resin – Unparalleled in beauty, wood resin melds the tradition with a modern take. Wood injected with resin provides superior durability and aesthetics, along with a nice balance and feel in hand.

Handle Styles

Japanese Handle – Japanese styled handles tend to be minimalistic, ergonomic, and on the lighter/slender side. They allow for greater manipulation of the blade and adapt well to any hand size or shape. The lighter weight is also often preferred for those who work in the kitchen for long hours, reducing hand and wrist strain.

Western Style Handle – This style of handle isn’t exclusive to “western knifes”, with some Japanese style blades adapting traits of western handles. Handles following this style tend to be contoured, riveted and hefty/bulkier.

The Heel

As you might imagine, the heel of a chef’s knife is located at the rear of the blade, at the point where the steel blade meets the start of the handle. As the widest point of the blade, it is also the strongest, making it ideal for chopping thick or dense food items that need more force applied. Generally speaking, the longer the blade, the more leverage you can generate for increased cutting force at the heel.

The Tang

The highest quality chef’s knives are those forged from a single piece of high-carbon steel and hardened to perfection. Knives made in this fashion have a steel blade that extends from the point all the way through the handle to the hilt or butt. The section of steel found in the handle is known as the “tang”. If it extends all the way through the handle it is known as a ‘full tang’ construction. A full-tang chef’s knife, such as those from Vertoku offer unparalleled strength, balance and stability.

The Rivets

The tang portion of the blade, housed within the handle, is secured in place with cylindrical studs called rivets. These rivets are inserted through the two halves of the handle and tang, staying flush with each side of the handle (i.e. they should not be raised or protruding from the handle).

The Bolster

The bolster of a chef’s knife can be found towards the front of the handle where it meets the spine. This thick piece of steel adds stability and counter-balances the blade with the handle. A well-designed bolster also offers additional support for your fingers, preventing them from slipping and reducing wrist fatigue over long periods of use.

Although not present with all chef knives, those featuring a bolster are almost always forged from a single piece of steel. As a rule of thumb, a thicker bolster is indicative of a sturdier blade made from a larger block of steel.

BONUS: Chef Knife Storage

The anatomy of a chef’s knife guide wouldn’t be complete if we didn’t also cover it’s number one companion: storage solutions for your chef’s knife.
As integral and important as any part of the knife itself, the right storage solutions can keep your blades razor-sharp between uses and your knives in peak condition for decades to come.

Options Include:

  1. The Knife Block: this is a literal ‘block’, often made from naturally treated wood. The block itself has slats cut to fit your chef knife and other utensils. Although they take up valuable countertop space, chef knife blocks protect your blade while keeping the knife readily available for quick use.
  2. Magnetic Block: Features magnetic vertical blocks which magnetically hold your chef knives in place. They provide accessibility while also offering a visual display for high-end or custom cutlery.
  3. In-Drawer System: Compartmentalized housing for your chef knives that fits inside of your kitchen drawers. Although less accessible, this option frees up counter space to work, and may be a safer alternative if you have curious children.

Everything that Makes a Chef’s Knife a Fan-Favorite in the Kitchen

We hope you found this guide educational and informative. Although a simple tool at first glance, the Chef’s Knife is carefully crafted and uniquely engineered to perform a broad range of kitchen tasks with ease. From it’s ergonomic design, aimed at reducing fatigue, to its shaped blade perfect for slicing and chopping, this knife does it all.

Described as the ‘workhorse’ of the kitchen, the right chef’s knife can help you get more done, faster, safer and with greater precision, elevating your cooking skills and wowing guests.

Get yours today from Vertoku and experience the delight of working with a chef’s knife that works harder than you do, all while looking like it belongs in a display case.