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Most kitchen knives have pointed tips. I can imagine trying to improve safety (e.g. if they're accidentally dropped) by rounding the tip. For example, a paring knife might look like the one on the right instead of the one on the left:

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But I wonder what is lost on the culinary side? I cannot think of a recipe where the tip is essential. Usually when I need a pointy thing a fork works better than the tip of a knife. Certainly there are knives with less pronounced tips such as the Santoku stye knife and carving knife.

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The first has a less pronounced tip but could still cut through your shoe. The second had a rounded tip but is a more specialized kind of knife.

Imagine you don't have any knives with pointed tips. What tasks become more of a hassle to accomplish?

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  • Please don't answer in comments. It's not what they're for. – Cascabel Sep 27 '20 at 4:37
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    I've gone ahead and edited your question down a lot, since it's attracting attention; the actual question is just about what the pointed tip is useful for, so trying to make a case about safety is not particularly germane, and concise questions are easier for readers and answerers. Please feel free to edit futher. – Cascabel Sep 27 '20 at 21:11
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    It really doesn't matter what anyone here says. You cook how you cook - we all have our own techniques and habits and styles of cooking that we gravitate towards. A knife tip maybe incredibly useful for one chef and completely unneeded by another. What matters is how you cook - make you decisions based on that. If you find a prep task frustrating, stop and think about why that might be and work it until you find a better way. Maybe a knife tip will be part of that strategy, maybe it won't. – J... Sep 28 '20 at 13:18
  • @J... I barely use the tip at all. How about you? Do you use the tip of your knife a lot or a little? – Daron Sep 28 '20 at 16:30
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    @Daron which is chatty and open-ended. – J... Sep 28 '20 at 16:44
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A pointy tip is useful in a boning knife, particularly when getting between meat and sinew, or getting under silver skin. The pointy end of the knife is helpful when removing meat from the bone. I also use the pointy end of a fillet knife to get between the skin and meat of fish, starting the separation, when I want to remove fish skin from the fillet. I use the pointy part of the knife to pierce pork skin, for example, when I want to string a piece of jowl or belly to dry. I think you can accomplish plenty without the sharp point, but it does come in handy when you need to pierce or focus the cutting in a precise place. It's not really about recipes, rather it is a matter of the task that needs to be accomplished, and there are several where it comes in handy.

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    What you said about starting a cut probably applies to a lot of other things for people with less sharp knives. For example, when slicing tomatoes without a super sharp knife, piercing the skin with the tip and then slicing can work, where trying to just slice would crush the tomato too much before getting through the skin. – Cascabel Sep 27 '20 at 4:58
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    Wording it differently, rounding the tip removes functionality of the knife. Often we can cook using one knife--such as a chef's--and in the middle of some cutting operation you just might need that pointy tip for just one thing. – Rob Sep 27 '20 at 10:29
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    @Rob Agreed. I'm looking for examples of "just one thing". – Daron Sep 27 '20 at 19:39
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    @Cascabel If I'm cutting a lot of tomatoes and they are from the time in the season or their ripeness when they are too soft and the skin is too tough, I often have to pierce with the tip even with my pretty sharp chef's knife. I don't want to have to rinse and re-hone halfway through a batch of tomatoes and it's not much of a delay to piece then slice. Maybe I could do everything without a point, but having no sharp point would make almost all of my vegetable prep much more difficult. I routinely use the point on peppers, onions, tomatoes, and celery, in addition to meats. – Todd Wilcox Sep 28 '20 at 4:59
  • Adding to this, there are actually some things that are almost impossible without either a sharply pointed knife or some other more expensive and purpose specific tool. Coring vegetables is the classic example of this, you either need a special purpose coring tool or something that can make very narrow but deep cuts (like a pointed knife). – Austin Hemmelgarn Sep 28 '20 at 20:37
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Coring tomatoes, i.e. removing stemlike tissue, requires a pointy end knife, as does removing potato eyes and removing blemishes on fruit. Oh yes, stabbing a hole in the bottom of your can of refried beans, so you can simply blow into the can to get the paste out after you've removed the lid. Halving squash, or cutting beets in half etc. goes better if you can stab into the center pull down to cut one half, then turn the thing around and continue the cut along the slit You've already made.

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    The list of vegetable prep tasks where I use the point is long and I think I'd have a hard time thinking about all of them unless I were actually without a pointed knife for a few weeks. Definitely I use the point of my chef's knife almost daily on tomatoes (as you say), and frequently on onions. Oh yeah and peppers. Oh yeah celery. – Todd Wilcox Sep 28 '20 at 4:55
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From a practical perspective, trying to sharpen rounded edges is much more challenging than the relatively straight edge you get with a pointy knife. With the rounded blade, you're also stuck with trying to decide, rather arbitrarily, where the sharp edge ought to end. To retain much of the same functionality it seems that it will be necessary to maintain at least some portion of the rounded edge. Honing that blade on a typical steel hone is going to be tricky, too.

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    True, but if you truncate it square to the cutting edge (or nearly so) you won't have an issue sharpening, but you won't have a stabby thing. That's the case with my 2 damaged knives – Chris H Sep 27 '20 at 18:54
  • I never thought of maintaining the knife. I suppose you could exaggerate the santoku knife so the end is a quarter circle and the edge goes right up to the end. You still have sort of a point but it's a 90 degree point. – Daron Sep 27 '20 at 19:37
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A couple of my knives have lost their points (when my knife block got knocked onto a wooden floor - one tip is still embedded in the floorboards). I've still got the knives, because the lack of a tip doesn't really affect their use for everyday cooking.

Luckily my pizza knives are undamaged, because cutting pieces of a pizza does benefit from a sharp point.

There are a few things, mostly decorative, that really benefit from a sharp tip. I've been known to cut rice paper decorations - for normal paper I'd use a scalpel (x-acto knife). Cutting shapes from rolled icing needs a fine tip, though it doesn't have to be truly sharp (example - a pirate flag on a kid's birthday cake).

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    Odd that you bring up pizza... in my book a pizza knife not only doesn't have a point, it's actually circular. – leftaroundabout Sep 27 '20 at 17:16
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    @leftaroundabout that, or a huge (occasionally one-handled) mezzaluna is for cutting pizzas into slices. I have a pizza wheel myself. In some European countries (e.g. Italy, France, sometimes in the UK) pizza is often served unsliced, and the eater is given a sharp knife and a fork. The same knife may be used as a steak knife. I have a pair of micro-serrated kitchen knives that make excellent steak and pizza knives, though they're at the large end of what would normally be provided. – Chris H Sep 27 '20 at 17:50
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    I usually find the scissors is the best way to cut up a pizza. – Daron Sep 27 '20 at 19:38
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    @Daron I've used poultry shears before, but eating with a knife and fork is conventional, even for pizza – Chris H Sep 27 '20 at 19:55
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    @Daron "what do you put in your non-scissors hand?" Answer "Pizza!" – James K Sep 27 '20 at 20:49
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For this onion dicing technique (which I'm using all the time), the tip is essential to get deep into the onion without completely splitting it in half.

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  • I find this type of silly chopping tricks become unnecessary if you use a sharp knife. – Daron Jan 2 at 18:37
  • @Daron Now to explain how exactly sharpness can replace a fine tip. (Hint: It can't) – MaxD Jan 2 at 21:50
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Cutting out potato eyes.

Removing tomato stem attachment point.

Getting started removing the membrane from pork ribs.

Cutting a spanakopita into servings.

Poking into the tamper-resistant seal on jars of spices.

As to safety, I've had a lot more accidents with the sharp edge than the point. In fact I can't remember any accidents with the point.

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  • Opening plastic bags. Cutting thin vegetables or pizza. – Michael Sep 28 '20 at 8:59
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When I was younger, whenever my mother cooked a leg of lamb she would slice a couple of cloves of garlic, use the point of a knife to create several incisions in the lamb, and insert a slice of garlic in each (similar to steps 1 and 2 of Roast lamb studded with rosemary & garlic from the BBC's Good Food website, but with not as many incisions and usually not the rosemary).

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So, let's try to make this into a complete list of what one uses a knife point for:

  1. Coring fruits & vegetables
  2. Removing eyes, seeds, and brown spots from fruits & vegetables
  3. Making holes in skin for marination
  4. Scoring skin for roasting
  5. Deboning fowl, fish, and meat
  6. Cutting slits in fish for roasting
  7. Cutting vents in pastry and turnovers
  8. Cross-hatching onions and shallots for mincing
  9. Placing against the cutting board for rocking-motion chopping
  10. Prying open shellfish
  11. Piercing tetrapaks and tough plastic packaging
  12. Cutting thin pastry on a board
  13. Stabbing the person hovering over my food prep and asking questions about knives in the eye

So, could one get by entirely using knives with no points? Definitely yes; among others, pretty much the majority of traditional Chinese cuisine is prepared using cleaver-like knives. But are points useful? Most certainly they are.

And, if you want knives without points, why not get yourself some knives that don't have them, like a Chinese cleaver and a nice Japanese vegetable knife? Don't blunt perfectly good knives.

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