Our meals almost always consist of vegetables. Of course, we have more to add to them, but with this hearty backbone of cooking, we need to know how to process vegetables of all shapes, sizes, and densities.
While you could have a one size fits all chef’s knife that you’re accustomed to working with, not all food is made the same. For this reason, your knife collection should have a few options in case your main knife is not the best choice for the job.
There is the ever so trusted chef’s knife, which is the staple of all kitchen cooking, but then we have other knives that people may not understand how or when to use. Take the Santoku or the Nakiri knives, for example: Japanese in origin, both knives have their different uses, and both are becoming much more popular in western cooking.
Then there are the boning and fillet knives, along with cleavers and carving knives, which are all designed for preparing meat but have other uses, as well. Then we move on to the smaller options, like the utility knife and the paring knife, which come in different sizes and styles.
There really are so many options to choose from, but which knife is best for cutting vegetables? Let’s slice it up for you.
The Best Knife for Cutting Veggies
With so many types of knives to choose from, we’ve broken down some of the best ones to keep in your kitchen for slicing, dicing, and mincing fresh vegetables and herbs.
The Western Chef’s Knife
As we grow as cooks, our knife collection grows as well. For most home cooks, the first knife to find its forever home in their kitchens is the Western chef’s knife, often referred to as simply the chef’s knife or even just “chef knife”. It’s also often referred to as the most important tool in the kitchen. Although there are many different styles of chef knives, anytime “the chef’s knife” is mentioned, it’s usually in reference to the Western chef’s knife.
The western chef’s knife comes from either German or French origin and is the kitchen workhorse. The blade features a curved cutting edge, known as the “belly”, with a thick heel and pointed tip (learn more about the parts of a knife with this F.N. Sharp guide). This design goes hand in hand with the rocking motion technique known as the “rock chop” – and once you’ve mastered the rock chop, along with other knife cuts, you’ll breeze right through most of your veggie cutting tasks with the chef’s knife.
A larger knife by scale of kitchen knives, the chef’s knife can be used to break down and cut up anything (think whole chicken) that may pass over your (hopefully) wooden cutting board – learn more about why wooden cutting boards are better for your knives with this F.N. Sharp guide.
Anyway, the chef’s knife is great for the hearty veggies like winter squash due to its hefty heel, and it’s one of the best knives for mincing a large amount of garlic or onion, as well.
Although it’s considered a multipurpose tool, it can be a bit too heavy and chunky when it comes to working with delicate ingredients or tasks that involve detailed handwork. This is where the paring knife comes in, but we’ll get to that in a moment.
Knife Knowledge 101: How to Use a Chef’s Knife
The Santoku Knife
Another ideal kitchen knife for working with veggies comes from the East and has been steadily gaining popularity in home kitchens over the last two decades. Known as the Japanese chef’s knife, the Santoku knife features a unique shape and cutting edge.
Smaller and lighter than the Western chef’s knife, the Santoku knife features a blade with a rounded tip, rather than coming to a sharp point like its Western counterpart. Many refer to its shape as a “sheep’s foot” due to its flat cutting edge; however, some Santoku knives – like the F.N. Sharp Santoku knife, for example – feature a slight belly to allow for the rocking motion while slicing strips of vegetables.
Another unique trait is its scalloped edge, better known as a “Granton” edge, which features small indentations that allow tiny air packets to make their way between your ingredients and the blade to help prevent your ingredients from sticking between each slice.
Translating as “three virtues” or “three uses”, the Santoku is great for slicing, dicing, and mincing a variety of vegetables, from cucumbers and zucchini to garlic and herbs. Like the Western chef’s knife, it’s also considered a multipurpose tool, however, its small size and lightweight feel bows down to the chef’s knife when it comes to dense ingredients like winter squash.
Knife Knowledge 101: The Santoku vs. The Chef’s Knife
The Nakiri Knife
Similar to the small Chinese cleaver known as the Tao, the Nakiri is a Japanese-style vegetable knife. With a straight, flat blade, this vegetable knife is not designed for the push and pull rock chop methods like the Western chef’s knife but is great for processing all kinds of vegetables. However, since they generally have quite thin-edged blades, the Nakiri knife isn’t nearly as versatile as the Western chef’s knife or even the Santoku.
If used with meat or bones, or even fish, there’s a high chance of damaging a Nakiri blade. This means you’ll have to stick to just veggies, and if you’re trying to limit your collection of kitchen knives or simply don’t have the space, then you may want to just stick with the essentials.
The Gyuto Knife
Another popular knife for cutting veggies is the Gyuto knife, which is another Japanese version of the Western chef’s knife. Similar in shape and size but with a thinner edge compared to the chef’s knife, the Gyuto is also double beveled, meaning it’s sharpened on both sides.
The Gyuto blade is thicker compared to other Japanese-style kitchen knives and is usually smaller but can make for a great all-purpose knife in the kitchen – just without the heft of the west. If your veggie cutting tasks cover a wide variety of vegetables, including squash and potatoes, then you’re better off with the Western chef’s knife in terms of the best multipurpose tool.
The Paring Knife
The baby of all kitchen knives, the paring knife is tiny when compared to the other knives on this list, but it is very unique to its purpose.
Paring knives come in different shapes and sizes and each has a specific purpose. The Spear Point, which every kitchen should have, is the classic straight-edged, sharp-tipped paring knife that is used for all general-purpose paring and slicing. The Bird’s Beak, just as it sounds, is slightly curved and is perfect for peeling rounded fruit or citrus. The Sheep’s Foot or flat paring knife is slightly longer and larger than the Spear Point and is ideal for small items like garlic, shallots, ginger, and the like.
Straight-edged paring knives are perfect for paring, peeling, and slicing smaller veggies. Quickly making thin slices of cucumber to top your gazpacho or cutting that apple up while on a picnic are ideal uses for the paring knife. They can also be used to peel veggies (and fruits) using carefully honed skills, but be careful because the blade might be tiny but it’s still sharp!
Knife Knowledge 101: Top Uses for a Paring Knife
The Utility Knife
Another multipurpose tool for the kitchen, the utility knife is another go-to knife when it comes to cutting veggies. Smaller than a chef’s knife but larger than the paring knife, the utility knife ideal is for slicing and dicing mid-sized veggies and herbs – and it’s great to have on hand for other quick meal prep in the kitchen. Think slicing up citrus or chopping just a few herbs to finish a dish.
This handy knife is often referred to as the “tomato knife” or the “sandwich knife” because it’s also perfect for prepping small meals and, you guessed it, sandwiches. While utility knives commonly feature serrated blades, they can also be non-serrated (or straight edged) which actually allows for a much nicer, cleaner cut when you keep up with maintaining its sharpness.
For example, the F.N. Sharp Utility Knife features a straight-edged blade crafted from premium Japanese VG10 steel, which is known for its strength and ability to hold an exceptionally sharp, long-lasting edge.
Get All the F.N. Sharp Essentials: The 6-Knife Set & Magnetic Knife Block
Pro Kitchen Tips for Veggies
When it comes to meal prep, you can find all kinds of tips online – and every chef will have their own tricks of the trade. After talking about knives and working with local chef’s, we’ve gathered a few tips that can help take the work out of prep work.
Find Your Stability
When working with a round ingredient, like an onion, be sure to stabilize it on your cutting board by cutting a small slice off the top or bottom, or simply cut the whole thing in half. Stabilizing your ingredients will make slicing, dicing and mincing much easier – and faster – not to mention it’s a top tip for following the rules of kitchen knife safety.
Find Your Roll
Recipes that call for sliced greens and herbs can become quite tedious when trying to slice them all one by one or in a stack that gives way mid-way through slicing it. A pro tip for making quick work of such tedious tasks is to roll them up like a wad of Benji’s, then slice with that chef’s knife or utility knife and watch perfect strips fall away like rain. Check out our guide for more tips on cooking with herbs and spices.
Now that you’ve had an F.N. Sharp rundown on the best knife for cutting veggies, get to slicing, dicing and mincing with this delicious (and healthy) chicken tortilla soup!