Build a better block when you understand each knife's purpose.

By Maryn Liles
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You probably use your kitchen knives on the daily to slice and dice ingredients for meal prep. A chef's knife likely gets the bulk of the work, but you may have your other favorites — a paring knife for your apple, for example. But despite being one of your go-to kitchen tools and likely one of the most prominent items on your kitchen counter, you might not be acquainted with each type of knife in that block you use every day.

Here, we're breaking down the basics of knife blocks. We detail which type of knife you should use to cut certain foods, and we have tips for making cutting easier. After all, knowing the basics of a knife block can help you cut down on time in the kitchen and make the job go more smoothly.

We asked Kathleen Donovan, Senior Social Media and Public Relations Coordinator at Cutco, to give us the scoop on the most common types of knives you'll find in your butcher's block.

The Most Common Knives in a Knife Block

If you bought a set of knives complete with a butcher's block and sharpening tool ($55; amazon.com), then at the bare minimum, you probably own the five most common types of knives available.

They are:

  • a chef knife
  • a utility knife
  • a bread knife
  • a carving knife
  • a paring knife

"Those would be the standard pieces," Donovan explains. "However, there's also the Santoku knife, boning knife, butcher knife, and carving fork that would make up a more complete set."

To help you get a handle on these five basics, Donovan explains exactly what to use each type of knife in your butcher's block to cut:

1. Chef Knife

"With a straight edge and slightly rounded belly, this knife is good for chopping, dicing, and mincing on the cutting board," Donovan says. "This is an all-around good knife to have for prepping fruits and veggies" — and it's probably one of the knives you'll use most often, too, since it's essential for meal prep.

2. Utility Knife

Second only to the chef knife in frequent use, "this is a knife with a blade that's usually about 4- to 5-inches long," Donovan explains. "Think of it as a large paring knife that can slice, core, and trim," which is why Cutco's version is called the Trimmer.

3. Bread Knife

With jagged, saw-like edges, a bread knife gently "saws" through bread without you having to exert a lot of downward force, which could crush it. That's why it's the best choice for cutting delicate bakery goods.

4. Carving Knife

This knife is used for carving meats, like "whole turkey, chicken, or bone-in ham," says Donovan. "The tip of the knife also allows you to easily cut around bones," she explains.

5. Paring Knife

"This is the unsung hero of the kitchen!" Donovan says. "Paring knives, which have straight edges and come in various lengths, are for intricate cutting. They can be used to peel, remove blemishes from fruits and veggies, and to slice smaller fruits and vegetables on the cutting board. You can also try your hand at making decorative garnishes with these knives."

WATCH: How to Choose the Right Knife

Picking the Right Knife for the Job

Aside from using the right type of knife for whatever you're cutting, using the right size knife is most important, Donovan explains: "Look for a knife that has the right length blade to slice through whatever you're cutting."

And don't forget to sharpen them regularly. Most knife kits come with a sharpener, but you can buy an inexpensive knife sharpener ($6; amazon.com) in stores and online.

"Remember that a sharp knife is a safe knife, since it requires less pressure to cut allowing for more control," Donovan cautions, which is why you should keep them well-maintained.

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