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.
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.
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
Paring knives are 3-4 inches long, making them small, multi-functional and capable of great precision and control.
Chef’s Knife (Cook’s Knife)
This is another useful all-rounder, ranging from 6 – 12 inches. The blade is broad overall and curves upwards towards its tip. Its solid backbone ensures the knife is steady and sturdy.
Not everyone needs a cleaver, though the cool factor alone may make it a necessary object. The wide and heavy blade makes it the tool of cooks who prepare raw meat and need to be able to cut through bone rather than go around it.
On the other hand, the curved blade and flexible nature of boning knives make them perfect for going around bones rather than through them. They come in a variety of shapes depending on if you want to focus on fish (narrower) or pork/chicken (wider).
Steak knives need to be heavy-duty but not massive, usually from 4 – 6 inches with a serrated edge.
Do You Need a Whole Set?
Sets can range hugely from a few basics to a completely kitted-out culinary experience. Look for one that contains knives you’ll truly use, whether than means three or thirty.
Whatever knives you choose, take the time to identify your needs and buy quality. A high quality knife is an investment that will enhance every minute in the kitchen and last you for years. And enjoy – hey, we never argue with a man with a knife!