When choosing a kitchen knife, the one that will become your staunchest ally and help you achieve your loftiest culinary dreams, you must give careful thought to its size.
To that effect, you will need to learn how to measure a kitchen knife because its length will dictate to a significant degree what cutting you will be able to do with it and how.
How Do You Measure A Kitchen Knife?
There are two ways to measure a knife: you can measure the length of the entire knife from tip to tip, or you can measure from the tip of the blade to the knife’s bolster. Tip to bolster is the preferred method and the most common way to measure a chef’s knife.
This means that a kitchen knife that is advertised as a 6-inch knife will have a blade that is 6 inches long, while a kitchen knife with an 8-inch long blade will be sold and advertised as an 8-inch kitchen knife.
Does That Mean That Knife Length Does Not Include The Handle?
While you can certainly include the length of the knife’s handle in your measurement of the knife, the number you get will not be entirely representative of the experience you can expect to have by using that knife.
When most people, including professional chefs, hear a kitchen knife measurement, they understand that it translates to the length between the tip of the blade and the bolster.
Parts of a Kitchen Knife
To be able to properly measure a kitchen knife you will need to know all of its parts. Thankfully, there aren’t many parts to keep track of. However, being able to properly identify each part, will allow you to make the most out of your knife.
Here are the primary components of a kitchen knife’s anatomy:
The blade is the flat cutting part of the knife. It is usually made of forged or stainless steel and consists of everything past the edge of the handle. Some blades extend all the way to the bottom of the handle, this part of the blade is generally referred to as the tang.
The edge is the sharp part of the knife’s blade that has been honed to cut. This is the part of the knife that does the work that a knife is supposed to do, and is the part of the knife that requires the most care and maintenance. It extends all the way from the point of the knife to the bolster.
The spine of the knife is found opposite the blade’s edge. The spine extends all the way from the point of the knife to the beginning of the hilt or handle. The spine of a knife does not have a honed edge, which means that it does not cut.
The point of a kitchen knife is the end portion of the blade where the edge and the spine of the knife meet. There are many different styles of knife points, each with different advantages and disadvantages. The most common styles of knife points are Straight Point, Drop Point, Tanto Point, and Trailing Point.
The bolster of the knife is the part that provides its user with both leverage and protection. It is the part of the blade that expands to a thicker band of metal where the handle attaches to the blade. This is typically the limiting factor of a kitchen knife’s length since the blade will be as long as the distance between the point and the bolster.
The handle is the part that allows you to hold and manipulate the knife. Usually made of wood, or plastic depending on how cheap the knife is, the handle is also integral to the overall balance of the knife. This is important because a well-balanced knife provides its user with more comfort and overall better control. A poorly-balanced chef’s knife, on the other hand, does the exact opposite and will leave the user with a tired wrist in a short time.
Changing these 5 aspects of knife design significantly alters the overall shape of the knife as well as its capabilities in the kitchen.
There are many specialized knives in the culinary world, each capable of providing its user with a very specific set of capabilities. However, the vast majority of food preparation, i.e., chopping, dicing, slicing, paring, and mincing, can be completed with a well-balanced chef’s knife.
What Is The Best Length For A Kitchen Knife?
The best length of a kitchen knife will depend on the skill level of the person using it. Modern kitchen knives are typically found in lengths of 6, 8, and 12 inches.
If you are comfortable using a specific knife, no one should tell you otherwise.
In my experience, though, an 8-inch long steel knife provides the perfect balance for the vast majority of cooks out there. Ultimately, the only way to truly know if a knife is the “correct” length for you is to go to a store and handle the various sizes until you find the style that feels right in your hands.