A kitchen is not complete without a good group of knives to cut your prep and cooking tasks down to size. However, there are so many types of kitchen knives to choose from that figuring out what blades are going to be essential can be complicated. Often, a home cook may wind up with far too many kitchen knives or, worse, just one that is not suitable to all the work knives need to be able to do.
The types of kitchen knives that are best for you all depends on how and what you typically cook at home, the price range that is most comfortable for you and how much time and effort are you willing to put into maintaining your knives. This guide will help you answer these questions so you can build your culinary arsenal.
Best Kitchen Knives for General Prep
Your first knife should always be one that can be used for a wide number of kitchen tasks. Chef's knives or a santoku knife is your best choice for an all-around knife, suitable for almost any task on a cutting board.
The best chef's knife will have a nice blade curve that allows for rocking the knife against a cutting surface, a sharp tip and a defined and sturdy blade heel to help provide a little more force when cutting tough food or removing pits. Most of the best chef's knives will be made from high-quality carbon steel. This helps the blade hold its edge, resist rust and makes the knife easy to renew with professional sharpening.
Tip: If swift, rocking-style chopping is what you're after, choose a chef's knife. This knife can range from 6 inches to 10 inches long, with 8 inches being the most popular length. Choose the length that is most comfortable in your hand.
Best Kitchen Knives for Produce
Paring knives are used for fruits and vegetables; "to pare" is to cut away the outer skin of something and is the main task of the paring knife. A paring knife is 3 to 4 inches long and is often used in the hand rather than on a cutting board.
The best paring knives are lightweight with a comfortable grip and a non-slip surface on the knife handle. The blade should be very sharp and the tip of the knife should come to a well-defined point to help the knife pierce the flesh of the produce.
With a chef's knife and paring knife, you can navigate most of your recipes easily, but there are a few other kitchen knives that can be added to your collection to get even more accomplished.
Best Kitchen Knives for Bread
A serrated bread knife cuts through thick bread crust without crushing the soft crumb beneath, resulting in perfect slices of bread. It can also be used for cakes and hard-skinned fruit and vegetables like pineapple and squash. The best bread knives will have long, narrow blades. The number of teeth per inch also makes a difference. The fewer serrations the knife has, the rougher the cut will be.
The only drawback to a bread knife is that it is more difficult to sharpen than a standard kitchen knife. However, there are sharpeners sold that are specifically for honing serrated blades.
Best Kitchen Knives for Serving Meats
A carving knife is at least 8 inches long and the blade is much thinner than that of a chef’s knife. It is used to cut precise, thin slices of roasts and poultry.
Best Kitchen Knives For Tableware
Steak knives are an important investment if your set of flatware does not include table knives that are sharp enough to cut bites of meat.
Specialty Knives - Utility Knives
Utility knives are typically 5 to 6 inches long and are used for everyday tasks that don't require the full length of a chef's knife. They may or may not be serrated.
Specialty Knives - Slicing Knives
Slicing knives measure 8 to 12 inches and are best for large pieces of meat or cakes. Slicing knives are used similarly to carving knives but are usually made with rounded or blunt tips and may sometimes have serrated rather than straight blades.
Specialty Knives - Task Knives
Task knives are designed for a single function. One example is a serrated grapefruit and orange knife.
Specialty Knives - Filet Knife
A filet knife removes the bones and skin from fish. This specialty knife is 7 to 10 inches long on average, very flexible and ideal for sweeping movements.
Specialty Knives - Boning Knife
A boning knife is 5 inches long with a thin blade. This knife runs easily along bone and around joints.
Specialty Knives - Cleaver
A cleaver is essential if you plan on butchering, along with a boning knife. A 7-inch striking knife easily severs bones and joints, splits lobster and chops very thick vegetables.
Materials and Construction
The two factors that most affect the price of a knife are the materials it's made of and how it's made.
- Stainless steel: This iron alloy resists corrosion and is the most common blade material. Lower grades are softer, which means they can't take as sharp an edge and need to be sharpened more often. Higher grades of stainless steel, especially those alloys including molybdenum, are harder. High-carbon stainless steel is top of the line. The higher the grade, the higher the price.
- Titanium-plated steel: Titanium-plated knives are extremely low-maintenance and won't rust. They're almost impossible to break. They last for years, if not decades. However, they don't hold as sharp an edge as high-grade stainless steel. These knives are priced comparably to stainless steel.
- Ceramic knives are exceptionally sharp, producing thin, accurate slices. They're also very light and prone to chipping, so they shouldn't be used on harder items like tough vegetables and bones. They won’t rust, don’t absorb odor and are easy to maintain, retaining their cutting edge much longer than metal knives. They're also more expensive.
Method of Construction:
Most metal knives are either stamped or forged.
- Stamped knives are the least expensive. They are cut from a single piece of sheet metal, then ground and edged. Stamped knives aren't as strong or as heavy as forged knives. They can't hold quite as sharp an edge, but they're light and perform very well.
- Forged knives are less likely to bend over time, and they hold a sharper edge longer. They also have a thick bolster between the blade and the handle that guards your fingers and helps distribute weight. To create a forged knife, a single piece of molten steel is formed and beaten into shape. This results in a sturdier, stronger and heavier blade. Due to the complexity of the construction process, forged blades are more expensive than stamped.
Before purchasing, you must consider the time and effort you're willing to put into cleaning and sharpening your knives.
All knives, regardless of material and construction, should be washed by hand. Avoid putting them in the dishwasher. The high heat and powerful water spray can be damaging. You also shouldn't use scouring pads or abrasive cleaners on any knife.
Stainless steel knives resist corrosion, but they may still form spots over time. Hand wash and dry stainless steel knives immediately after use.
Titanium-plated steel knives resist rust. It is not necessary to wash them immediately, and there's no need to dry them.
While you must be careful not to chip them, ceramic knives are the easiest to clean. They're non-porous, so food rinses right off. Since they don't rust, there's no need to immediately dry them after washing.
There are several methods of knife-sharpening varying on convenience and knife style. For instance, ceramic knives need a sharpener with diamond grit.
Types of Knife Sharpeners
Storing Your Knives
Storing your knives properly is important, both for safety and for maintaining the quality of the blades.
- Blade guards are the most basic way to protect your knives. These allow you to store knives in a drawer without the danger of accidental injury.
- A knife block is the best storage option as it will keep your knives organized and separated. Choose from a countertop option or a block that fits into a drawer. Many of the best knife sets include a block.
- A magnetic knife bar puts your stainless steel blades on display while keeping them at hand.
Use wood or plastic cutting boards. Cutting boards made of harder materials like stone will damage all blades; ceramic blades will actually chip or break.
Find Your Knives
This table provides a quick overview to help you determine which knives are right for you.