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Knife shopping sounds overwhelming, right? There are so many options that where to start can be mind-boggling. Don't worry; I have you covered. I have narrowed the list to the three essential kitchen knives every home cook should have. Overall I will keep it simple so you can get to cooking because who wants to spend hours trying to find the right knife?
I spent years wanting to invest in a quality knife. I would see those blocks and think, do I need all those knives? It all seemed overwhelming, and I kept putting off the investment.
After a while, I realized I did not need a giant block set of knives. Those block sets are marketed well, but they are overkill. They contain knives you will never use and clutter up precious counter space.
The knives you need in your home collection can be narrowed down to three must-have knives and seven nice-to-have knives. Included in the must-have collection is the absolute imperative chef knife.
Beyond those ten knife styles, there are several specialty knives. I recommend Chef Elan Wenzel at Element Knife Company if you want additional information beyond what I cover here. Elan has a deep knowledge of knives and is a helpful expert who loves to talk about knives.
Where to Start
If there is one tool every home cook needs, it is a good knife. This is an investment. But a good investment because the right kitchen knife can last you a lifetime if it is well-maintained. Whereas less expensive knives wear out quickly, do not sharpen well, and must consistently be replaced.
When looking for a knife, there is one consistent question, how does it feel in your hand? Overall a knife should feel natural in the pinch grip position. A pinch grip position is a static hold between the thumb and finger where the person can comfortably manipulate and control the knife.
Three Essential Kitchen Knife Styles
There are so many different types of knives on the market that it is hard to know which style you need. I will start with the must-have kitchen knives and then review the nice-to-have knives.
If you invest in one knife, it should be the chef's knife. This versatile knife is the workhorse of any kitchen. You can use it to chop, dice, julienne, carve, etc. A chef knife has a long blade, usually 8 - 10 inches long. I like Japanese chef knives; they are lightweight but strong enough to complete almost any job. This was the only working knife in my kitchen for many years. (Chef Knives)
Serrated Knife (Bread Knife)
A serrated knife has a long blade, scalloped edges, and sharp points. This design makes a serrated knife perfect for sawing items which are tougher on the outside than the inside. Because this knife is often used to cut bread, it is often known as a bread knife. However, a serrated knife is also great for slicing tomatoes, eggplants, and citrus fruits. I recommend buying a serrated knife that is at least 10 inches. (Serrated Knives)
This is the smallest knife you should have in your kitchen. The standard size is between 3.5 - 5 inches long. Don't let the size fool you; a small knife is important for delicate tasks such as coring a tomato, peeling an apple, or slicing an avocado. (Paring Knives)
Seven Useful Kitchen Knife Styles
A boning knife has a long and thin blade. The blade is flexible to trim, debone, and carve meat, poultry, and fish. (Boning Knives)
Carving Knife (Slicer)
Have a long, narrow blade that ends with a sharp point. This knife is perfect for cutting dense meat or a Sunday roast. (Carving Knives)
In my humble option, the mezzaluna knife is underrated. This knife has a curved blade and two handles. The user rocks the blades back and forth to create a fine chop. This knife works best when chopping herbs. I use this knife all the time, especially when making tabule. (Mezzulana Knife)
Serrated Paring Knife
A blend of a serrated knife and a paring knife, this knife has a short blade with all the features of a serrated knife. This is an excellent knife for small tasks on items with a soft inside. (Serrated Paring Knife)
Santoku Knives (Multi-Purpose Knives)
This knife looks similar to a chef's knife, but the edge is straighter and the blade shorter. This knife is perfect for up-down chopping or for someone who prefers a shorter blade. (Santoku Knives)
Meat eaters know these knives well. They are perfect for cutting individual-sized meats at a dinner table. Steak knives are available in serrated or non-serrated. I recommend having a matching knife for each table setting. (Steak Knives)
Utility Knife (Slicing Knife)
A utility knife is a medium-sized knife with a blade length between a chef's and a paring knife. Much like a chef's knife, this medium-sized knife can be universally used in a kitchen for most tasks. (Utility Knives)
For a complete guide on all types of knives and how they are made, I recommend Complete Kitchen Knife Buyers Guide from Element Knife Company. This guide is perfect for anyone who wants more detailed information.
What is the Best Type of Knife For.....
What is the best knife for cutting vegetables?
Chef knives are perfect for cutting vegetables. You can use this knife for all standard knife cuts, including chopping, mincing, julienne, dicing, and cubing.
What is the best knife for chopping?
Chef's knives are best for chopping. The versatile chef knife has a sharp edge, allowing the user to chop perfectly. If you want to quickly and finely chop herbs and vegetables, I recommend considering a mezzaluna knife. A mezzaluna knife has a rounded blade and a handle on each end. This design allows the user to chop small items quickly.
What is the best knife for cutting meat?
The answer depends on what type of meat you are cutting.
If removing bones or preparing meat, use a boning knife. The blade is strong and flexible to maneuver unique surfaces. This knife can also be used for cutting fruits and slicing vegetables.
If cutting large dense meat, use a carving knife. Carving knives are generally used for cutting roasts, prime rib, or turkeys into individual portions. The blade is long and thin with a narrow tip. The tip allows you to maneuver around any bones or other tricky places while carving.
If cutting cooked meat at the dinner table, use a steak knife. While considered part of cutlery and not a kitchen knife, I wanted to include it in this post. A steak knife is best for cutting dense meats at the dinner table.
What is the best knife type for cutting bread?
Serrated knives are best for cutting bread. A serrated knife has a long blade, scalloped edges, and sharp points that act as a saw tooth edge. This knife type is perfect for foods that are hard on the outside and soft on the inside, such as loaves of bread, citrus, phyllo dough, and even layered cakes.
Keeping Your Knives Sharp
I recommend having your knives professionally sharpened. How often your knives need to be sharpened depends on the knife, tasks, and how frequently it is used. Consider investing in a honing rod or a wetting stone between sharpening.
Cutting boards are often overlooked as necessary for keeping your knives sharp. I recommend using a wooden cutting board. Several are available, but I buy Park Hill Wood Works cutting boards. Each board is hand-made, stylish, and functional. Park Hill Wood Works is a small shop; check their website or contact them directly to see what is in stock.
How to Clean and Store Knives
Cleaning: Always wash your knives by hand with warm soapy water, and rinse. Do not soak your knife or place them in the dishwasher.
Storing: It is best to store your knives in a designated spot in a drawer, on a mounted magnetic strip, or in a wooden block. To be safe, do not store knives loosely in a drawer.
Hands down, the chef's knife is best for everything. This knife is commonly called "the workhorse in the kitchen." This statement is 100% true. If there is one knife you need to buy, it is the chef's knife.
A slicing knife is similar to a chef's knife but with a shorter blade. A slicing knife can be used for most tasks in the kitchen, including slicing thinner meats, chopping vegetables, and even bread.
The chef's knife. This is the single most crucial knife that every home cook should own. This knife can do just about any kitchen task.