Tips & Techniques

Knife Basics

Knowing the names of the parts of a knife will help you in understanding descriptions and instructions.

Parts of a French Sabatier 4 Star Elephant Knife

  • Basically, a knife consists of a blade and a handle.
  • The point (or tip) is the end of the blade used for piercing.
  • The heel is the part of the cutting surface farthest from the point.
  • The cutting edge extends from the point to the heel and the spine is the thickest section of the blade.
  • The bolster (sometimes called the “shank”) is between the handle and the cutting surface of a cooking knife and prevents the hand from slipping.
  • The tang is the part where the handle is affixed to the blade.
  • Full tang means that the tang runs completely through the handle from the bolster to the butt.

 All of our Sabatier Five-Star Elephant knives are full tang.


What knives should I own?

For most cooks, a basic set will do. As you develop your skills you will want to add more task specific knives.

A good basic set would include:

A mincing knife – a 2 – 3 1/2 inch knife with a fine sharp tip used for small tasks such as mincing garlic and testing foods for doneness.

An all purpose knife – approximately 4 inches long with a finely tapered tip and broader shank used for small to medium sized tasks. It is probably the most used knife in this size category.

Utility knives – 6 and 8 inch knives following the general chef shape that are used in middle range cutting, that is, foods too large for the 4 inch knife and too small for the chefs knife.

A chefs knife – a 10 and/or 12 inch knife with a less defined tip that increases to a broad base (shank). This knife is essentially designed for the necessary rocking motion used in swift slicing and chopping.

A tomato knife – a small serrated knife used for careful, thin slicing of foods with a stubborn skin such as tomatoes and lemons.

A bread knife – long and deeply serrated knife for sawing or cutting through bread with thick or thin crusts without crushing the loaf

Check out our Starter Set!


How To Grip Your Knife


Basic Cutting Techniques

We hope these videos get you off to a good start.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help! Many local cooking schools and continuing education programs offer classes in knife skills.

In the greater Seattle area, you can join one of Bon Vivant School of Cooking‘s monthly Knife Skills Workshops.


Knife Care

Hand wash, dry and put away your knives after every use

  • The dishwasher will affect the temper of the blade. The heat and harsh soap will injure the blade’s sharp edge, as well as wear down the lovely finish of the handles.
  • The hard surface of the sink, as well as rubbing against plates and utensils, will abuse the good sharp edge of your knife.
  • Soaking the knives in water or leaving them sitting in a puddle on the drainboard will abuse the lovely wood handles.
  • Hand washing individually is a good safety measure to protect your hands.
  • Store your knives in a knife block, against a magnetic bar, in a special drawer with each blade covered or in a knife case.

Keep your knives sharp

  • When the blade feels dull or not as sharp as you are accustomed to, use your steel to bring it up to standard. Draw the blade from the shank (wide end) of the blade to the tip along the upper half of the steel. Alternate sides, about 8 strokes alternating on each side should be enough. Maintain an equal (approximately 10 degree) angle on each side. You may refine the edge by drawing it a few times across the lower part of the steel.
  • While your knives come sharp, we recommend you have your knives professionally sharpened first. A well-sharpened knife can be maintained with the use of a steel for up to a year or more.
  • In the Seattle area, we recommend: Seattle Knife Sharpening Service

Check out Bob Tate demonstrating how to use a sharpening steel:


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