Get to know the anatomy of your kitchen knives.

By Peggy Kieran
February 24, 2020

Whether you're a home cook or a professional chef, you know that your knives are your most important tools in the kitchen. You use them daily—and hopefully care for them properly, keeping them sharp and never putting them in the dishwasher. There may be variations in the material, size, and weight that set chefs or paring knives apart, but all kitchen knives have the same basic parts and construction, and that's true whether they cost $20 or $200. Here's an overview of the anatomy of your chef's knife and other kitchen knives.

Related: Why the Salad Spinner Is Such an Essential Tool

Cutting Edge

This side of the knife blade has been ground to a very thin, very sharp point. It is used for most types of cutting and slicing. The edge dulls just a bit with every use, and it must be sharpened regularly.

Back

Also referred to as the spine, this side of the blade is thicker and blunter than the cutting edge. Steady it with the heel of your hand or grip it with your fingers as you work.

Heel

When using the blade's base, known as the heel, you can get better leverage than when using the tip, making this the part of the blade for heavy-duty cutting, such as through a chicken-bone joint or a dense, hard root vegetable like a rutabega.

Bolster

The bolster is the thick metal section between the blade and the handle. It used to be found only on forged blades (those hand-hammered from metal), but some manufacturers now attach bolsters to machine-stamped blades. The bolster provides a knife with both balance and stability, making it easy to use and comfortable to hold.

Related: Here's How to Use a Chef's Knife to Crush Garlic

Shoulder

This is where the blade thickens as it meets the handle. In kitchen knives, it keeps chopped items from moving back toward the hand as they pile up.

Tang

This is the part of the blade that extends into the handle. High-quality knives generally have a full tang, which means the metal extends all the way to the butt of the knife, and is cut to the same shape as the handle (which is riveted to or molded around the tang). A full tang gives a knife durability and balance.

Butt

The back end of the knife is known as the butt. On a knife with a full tang and riveted handle, the tang is visible at the butt, between the two pieces of the handle.

Scales

The pieces used to make a knife handle are called scales.

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