If you're just starting out and setting up your own kitchen for the first time, it can be difficult to know exactly what you'll need. The vast array of kitchen knives available today can make choosing very confusing.
Our Top Kitchen Knife Picks
If we had to choose 3 knives for a new kitchen, we would choose:
While you might think that simply purchasing a set of knives from any knife brand would do, you would probably be wrong.
In this article, we will discuss and review some of the best kitchen knives that every kitchen needs and explain why it may be better to purchase them one by one rather than to buy them in a complete knife set.
What Knives Do You Need?
In addition to knowing the parts of a high quality knife, it is also important to understand the purpose of each knife you purchase. A knife intended for chopping is quite different than a knife intended for filleting or shucking.
While it may seem very tempting to purchase a complete set of knives, you may quickly find that your large collection of knives does not contain very many that you use frequently.
This is why it is so much better to specifically select your knives and invest in them to get the most use out of them over the long term. In essence, the best kitchen knives are the ones you’re going to use often.
Here are five knives that every well-functioning kitchen should have:
The 7.5” Wusthof cleaver is made from high quality German steel that will chop and smash through bones and meat without breaking or staining.
If you will be cutting through large chunks of meat, separating ribs, cutting up frying chickens and performing similar tasks, you will need a cleaver.
This is a large sized knife with a hatchet-like blade. This blade is usually thick and heavy and not especially sharp.
It is made of a softer type of steel than most kitchen knives because a harder material might buckle or shatter under heavy use.
2. Chef's Knife
The 8”J.A. Henckels chef knife can last a life time if taken care of properly. J.A. Henckels knives are well recognized in home and professional kitchens globally.
An 8 or 10 inch chef's knife is essential to any kitchen. It is a multipurpose instrument that can be used for cutting meat from bone, cutting large cuts of meat, cutting through gourds, melons and other produce with thick rinds and much more. The curved blade can also be used for quick mincing.
The size of the chef knife you choose should depend upon your comfort when using it. Naturally, a smaller chef should choose a smaller knife! The size of your workspace also plays into your choice.
There are two styles of chef’s knives, French and German. The difference between the two is the curvature of the blade. Your personal preference is all that matters in determining your choice.
3. Bread Knife
The 8” DALSTRONG bread knife is made from ceramic which means it will never rust. Be careful, this serrated knife is extremely sharp!
Also known as a serrated utility knife, a bread knife is essential for slicing bread and other foods that would crush under a lot of pressure.
For example, the serrated edge of a good bread knife is invaluable when slicing peaches and tomatoes or cutting up fatty meat.
Your serrated edge utility knife should have a slightly flexible blade.
4. Fillet or Boning Knife
The 6” Victorinox boning knife features an edge the full length of the blade which makes it easier to sharpen and the Fibrox handle helps prevent slips.
A fillet knife is used to remove delicate meats from the bone. You would use it when preparing small poultry or fish.
Boning knives allow you to work with a great deal of precision. You'll want to select one that has a long, thin, flexible blade. The blade length should be between 6 and 11 inches.
5. Paring Knife
The 3.5” Mercer Culinary paring knife has a full tang which runs the full length of the handle to increase balance and strength compared to other paring knives.
This type of knife looks like a very much like a small chef's knife, and it is extremely useful for performing a great many detailed tasks.
You would use a paring knife to take the seeds out of bell peppers and other fruits and veggies, to de-vein shrimp, to peel apples, carrots and cucumbers and generally take care of small cutting tasks.
6. Steak Knives
The 8 pc Henckels steak knife set features full tang knives with 3 rivets each which provides long lasting strength. These knives never require sharpening!
As tableware, steak knives should be attractive, sharp, well-balanced and high quality. Investing in a high quality set of steak knives will help you set a good-looking table and enjoy many trouble-free meals.
Be sure that your steak knife blades have a slightly serrated edge to make cutting easy and clean.
Nice To Have But Not Needed
The 8.2” Tojiro sushi knife can be used by both right and left handed people and has a double bevel.
There are actually many different types of sushi knives. Each one has its own purpose. For general kitchen use you will want to choose the sashimi knife.
These traditional Japanese knives are very slim, sharp and useful as an all-purpose kitchen knife.
The Norpro EZ cheese knife has a large handle to make slicing easier. It’s dishwasher safe although we recommend you always hand wash your knives.
There are a variety of different types of knives designed specifically for cutting cheese. This is because cheeses may be very hard, crumbly or soft.
For this reason, you may be best off purchasing a set of cheese knives if you tend to eat a variety of cheeses.
Think about the types of cheese you frequently use in your kitchen and make your choices carefully based upon how often you will use your cheese knives.
The 7” Zelite Infinity santoku knife is razor sharp using imported Japanese steel made from 67 layers and tempered with liquid nitrogen.
This type of trendy knife is a flat bladed knife that is especially suited to chopping and slicing. Because of its flat shape, it makes short work of onions and other foods that must be chopped fine.
The blade of a Santoku knife is hollow and has a Granton edge, which is especially fine and sharp. This makes it quicker and easier to cut wet, starchy foods such as potatoes because there is less friction.
The Santoku knife is short, light and small so you will experience less fatigue when using it for general kitchen cutting tasks. It can be a good alternative to a chef’s knife.
Carving Knife Set
The Jamie Oliver carving knife set features a carving knife and fork which helps you control the hot meat or fish when slicing. Another familiar brand in kitchens globally.
You will also want a good carving set that includes a good, sharp carving and slicing knife and a matching meat fork. Having a nice set adds graciousness to your dinner table and can save you from embarrassing carving incidents.
When you have a good carving set at the ready, you will not have to struggle with your holiday turkey or goose, and you won’t end up sending the roast flying off the table due making do with improper tools.
Parts Of A Kitchen Knife
Before you ever purchase a kitchen knife, you should understand a few things about basic knife construction. Just as with any tool, it is always smartest to invest in the best quality possible.
No matter what you plan to use a knife for, you will get the best results you use a high quality tool. Conversely, if you use poor quality knives you are sure to find yourself frustrated with both the process and the results.
Knowing the parts of a knife will help you make wise choices.
- Point: The point is the very end of the blade. It is used for piercing.
- Tip: The tip of the knife is just behind the point. It is the end one-quarter of the blade, and you use it to cut and separate small items.
- Center: The center of the knife is used for long, slicing motions. It is the area of the knife that gets the most wear and needs the most sharpening.
- Edge: The edge is the sharp part of the blade from tip to base.
- Spine: The spine is the top side of the blade.
- Heel: The heel is the back one-quarter of the blade. It is located at the base of the blade. This portion of the blade is used for cutting through tougher items where force or weight is necessary. You can press down on the back portion of the spine to give the heel more power.
- Bolster: The bolster is a thick steel band that is found between blade and handle of a high quality knife. It serves to balance the knife and also serves to protect your hand. The bolster is in place to prevent your hand slipping forward and encountering the blade. You will only find bolsters on knives that have been forged. They are not present on stamped knives. A forged knife is one that has been made by heating and grinding metal to the desired blade shape. A stamped knife is one that has been cut or stamped from a sheet of metal and pressed into the desired blade shape. A forged knife will be heavier and better balanced than a stamped knife. A knife with a bolster is a higher quality knife.
- Scales or Handle: The handle is also known as the scales. The end of the handle is called the butt. Knife handles may be made of metal, wood or a synthetic material. Unlike in many instances, when it comes to knife handles synthetic materials may be the best choice. A good synthetic can provide you with a better grip and can withstand higher temperatures safely.
- Tang: The tang is the portion of the knife blade that is inserted within the handle. In a high quality knife, the tang is embedded deeply into the handle. In fact, it should extend the entire length of the handle. In a cheap knife, you will see that the tang is often very short. This kind of skimping on quality interferes with both the balance and the durability of your knife.
- Fasteners: The handle fasteners connect the tang to the handle. They may be rivets, or they may be screws. More often than not, you'll see rivets because they are inexpensive and require no maintenance. Unfortunately, if a rivet becomes loose there is nothing you can do about it. Screws, on the other hand can be tightened and adjusted. They can also be removed so that you can take your knife apart and clean it completely. The downside of screws is that you need to check them from time to time because they can become loose when you use your knife. Some very cheap knives do not have handle fasteners. Instead, the tang and the handles are simply epoxied together.
Should You Buy Your Knives Separately or As a Set?
While it is occasionally possible to get a nice, high quality set of knives, more often than not you will end up with lots of knives you never use and a few knives you wish were better.
All-in-all, you're far better off choosing your knives one-by-one to perfectly fit your hand and perfectly suit your purpose. A high quality knife that is well-cared-for will last a lifetime and more.
Exceptions to this are cheese knives, steak knives and your carving set. Cheese knife sets can be delightful and useful. Seek out high quality sets that are well put together and will not fall apart with frequent washing and use.
A solid stainless steel cheese knife set is an excellent choice because it will last forever and blends in elegantly with any table setting.
Naturally, you want to purchase your steak knives in multiples and you want them all to match. Look for a high quality set from a trusted manufacturer.
Don't just buy a boxed set without feeling the weight and heft of the knife in your hand. You want your steak knives to be pleasant to touch and hold, and you want them to work effectively and efficiently.
Your carving set should match your steak knives, and often these items of tableware are sold together. Be sure that the carving knife is easy for you to hold and handle.
Make certain it has a blade that can be sharpened, and purchase the proper sharpening equipment to keep it at its best.
Take Good Care Of Your Knives
It is smart to set up your kitchen so that every time you use a knife you can quickly rinse it, wipe it off and put it away. If you keep your knives clean and dry, they will stay sharper and they will not become rusty.
Avoid putting good knives into the dishwasher as this can dull their edge. Likewise, do not soak knives for a long period of time as this can cause rust and make your knife dull. If your knives have wooden handles, they will be ruined by soaking and by being washed in the dishwasher.
Avoid storing your knives loose in a drawer where they will rattle around every time the drawer slides open and shut. This can dull them, and it is a bit dangerous. Instead, you should keep your knives in a knife block or wrapped in flannel to protect them from rubbing against each other while stored.
Be sure your knives are sharp! A sharp knife is both easier and safer to use. Dull knives cause you to struggle to do your job, and this sets up a situation where accidents are more likely to happen. When you purchase your knives, be sure that you have the right equipment to keep them sharpened.