Whether you’re a devotee of delivery or you’re mastering the art of French cooking, there is a knife for you. Survival obsessives look away now, we’re talking culinary cutters. Every kitchen needs knives that are long lasting, strong, sharp and rust resistant. A dull, cheap knife is not just inconvenient and frustrating, but dangerous – let’s julienne those carrots and not your fingers! The right knife will fit your hand, style and budget.

First, ask yourself some simple questions:

  • What do you usually eat: are you carnivore, omnivore, vegetarian or fast foodatarian?
  • Do you cook from scratch or buy pre-made with minimal prep required?
  • What tasks do you currently struggle with in the kitchen, such as paring, chopping or handling large cuts of meat?

It seems obvious, but you don’t need a meat cleaver if you cook mostly vegetarian, although you might need a knife long and sturdy enough to handle a pumpkin. If you eat mostly ready-made, you won’t need as many cutting tools as an aspiring home chef.

Blade Material

There are two main materials to consider: stainless steel and ceramic. Stainless steel is the more common of the two because it’s durable and easy to sharpen. Ceramic is nonreactive and won’t change the taste of your food where a metal knife might. Ceramic knives hold their edge better than metal, but the trade off is that they are very fragile and will shatter if dropped.

The Handle

This leads us to the handle. Handles can be made of wood, resin, plastic, metal, or padded. The most important thing is to choose the material that feels right in your hand. Keep in mind that if you’re doing heavy work in a humid kitchen, your hands will sweat and you might prefer a wooden or rubber handle to prevent slippage. If your top priority is durability, you’ll want to look at all metal.

Shape of Blade

There are two main knife shapes: European and Japanese. Both types are multipurpose, but lend themselves to slightly different cutting styles. European-style knives usually have the same width throughout and the last few inches of the blade narrow into a fine sharp tip that makes it great for a rocking cutting motion. Japanese knives have a flat edge and a curve at the spine instead of a blade. This knife is best employed for straight up and down chopping.

Now you’re familiar with the basic types of material and blades, let’s talk specifics.

The Paring Knife