Buying Guide

How to Choose a Knife

Essential Prep Knives-Chef's Knife or Santoku Knife
chef's knife

 A chef's knife or a santoku knife is your all-rounder, suitable for almost any task on a cutting board knife.

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.

Essential Prep Knives-Paring Knife
paring knife

A paring knife is 3 to 4 inches long, and peels and cuts fruits and vegetables. It is often used in the hand rather than on a cutting board.

Whether you're serving home-cooked specialties or store-bought delights, you'll need the following knives.

Essential Serving Knives-Serrated Bread Knife
Serrated Bread Knives

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.

Essential Serving Knives-Carving Knife
Carving Knives

A carving knife that is at least 8 inches long cuts thin, even slices of roasts and poultry.

Essential Serving Knives-Steak Knives
Steak Knives

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.

If you don't cook often, you can skip ahead to the price section. However, if you expect to use knives on specialized tasks, read on to see which you may need.

Specialty Knives-Utility 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

Slicing knives measure 8 to 12 inches and are best for large pieces of meat or cakes.

Specialty Knives-Task Knives
Task Knives

Task knives are designed for a single function. One example is a serrated grapefruit and orange knife.

Specialty Knives-Filet Knife
Filet Knives

A filet knife removes the bones and skin from fish. This special knife is 7 to 10 inches long, very flexible and ideal for sweeping movements.

Specialty Knives-Boning Knife
Boning Knives

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 the boning knife.

This 7-inch striking knife easily severs bones and joints, splits lobster and chops very thick vegetables


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 the 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.

Knife Maintenance

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
electric knife sharpeners manual knife sharpeners sharpening stones honing steels
Description Electric knife sharpeners are the fastest and most convenient way to keep straight-edged stainless steel knives sharp. They will always sharpen at the same angle, and they can even repair damaged knives. However, they generally don’t work with forged knives, Asian-style knives or serrated knives. Manual sharpeners are inexpensive, take up very little space and can be used on any knife. Whetstones can also be used on any knife, but they require skill. You can use them to sharpen your knife at any angle you want, but you must maintain the angle yourself. It also takes longer to sharpen your knife than using a manual sharpener. Honing steels can help delay the need to sharpen a straight-edged knife but they will not completely resharpen a blade.
Blade guards/knife block/magnetic knife bar

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 knife sets include a block.

A magnetic knife bar puts your stainless steel blades on display while keeping them at hand.

Cutting boards
cutting board

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
Knives Table

This table provides a quick overview to help you determine which knives are right for you.