There are a wide variety of kitchen knives out there and no matter your skill level in the kitchen, you cannot get far without a decent knife. Of course you can simply go out and buy a knife block with a full set of knives already in it but that may be a bit too much for most that simply need the essentials. Here are the three main types of kitchen knives we recommend for all of your cutting, slicing, and dicing needs.
1.) A Chef’s Knife
A chef’s knife, or cook’s knife, is indisputably the most important knife in your kitchen. They typically range in length from 8” to 12” (though you can find some “chef” knives in the 6”-7” range), the most common length being the 8”. The knife is intended to be the main knife that you use and is simply your kitchen workhorse. It is perfect for slicing and dicing just about anything – from fruits and vegetables to meat and fish. Professionals do recommend that you use a smaller knife for jobs such as removing the skin of large vegetables (like butternut squash) and butchering or carving poultry. The broadness of the blade makes these tasks quite difficult. The blade of a chef’s knife is typically longer than other kitchen knives, it is typically pretty wide, and has a nice overall weight to it. The main variables to consider when selecting a chef’s knife are the blade length, weight, and the material the blade is made from. You want to select a knife that is made of high quality steel, has good balance, and feels good in your hand. The most popular blade length is 8” long but you can select other lengths – both shorter and longer – depending on your preference.
2.) A Paring Knife
A paring knife is a small knife with a blade typically between 2” to 4” in length, which is designed for smaller kitchen tasks such as trimming vegetables, peeling fruits, and other delicate tasks. Professionals do recommend that you use a larger knife for cutting very hard vegetables (such as parsnips and carrots) since the smaller paring knife simply does not have the weight to cut these items easily. When selecting a paring knife you really want to think about similar considerations as you would when selecting a chef’s knife – the quality of the material and how it feels in your hand. This is typically the second most used knife in the kitchen since they are light, easy to use, and incredibly versatile.
3.) A Serrated Knife
A decent serrated knife is always great to have on hand. These are frequently thought to only be useful for cutting bread (which is why they are also known as bread knives) but they are so much more versatile than that! The serrated edge does a lot of the cutting work for you. It is perfect for food items with textured surfaces (like crusty bread) and anything else you need to cut or slice that requires pressure to cut but you don’t want to mash or bruise (like tomatoes). Professionals recommend that you use a straight blade for items such as garlic, herbs, and berries – a serrated blade will tear these items instead of cutting them. Basically a serrated knife is great for cutting any items that have a textured edge or slippery exterior that a straight blade would simply slip off of; the serrated edge grips and penetrates instead.
These knives typically range in length from 12” down to about 4”. When selecting a serrated knife you really want to think about similar considerations as the two others above and you also want to pay attention to the size of the teeth. You want teeth that are not too big, as that will tear up soft items – but you also don’t want them too small, as they won’t be efficient for cutting. Also, if you plan on cutting a lot of bread consider a serrated knife with an offset handle; the offset provides more leverage while remaining more comfortable for you to hold.
How much can you expect to spend on these knives?
Professional chefs recommend that you steer clear of ceramic knives and choose a quality metal knife. Metal has a longer overall life-span and can be more easily re-sharpened. Choose a blade that is full tang (meaning one solid piece of metal that extends the full length of the knife). Full tang knives are more balanced, more sturdy, and last longer than those that are not.
- Chef’s knife: This knife, if you can swing it, should be the most expensive knife in your kitchen. A high-quality chef’s knife should last you a lifetime. You will most likely end up spending over $100 for a good chef’s knife.
- Paring knife: This is the only blade on the list that can be less expensive than the others. You still want to select a quality knife but you will end up replacing this one more often than any other knife you use. You can get decent paring knives starting at $30 but we recommend spending a bit more.
- Serrated knife: If you buy a quality serrated knife it should stay sharp for years to come. Once dull, it is recommended that you replace the knife. You can typically get a decent serrated knife for about $100 as well.
What else do you need to know about kitchen knives?
Keep in mind that using the correct knife in the kitchen is important. Why?
Size: You want to make sure that the knife you select is the right size for the item you are cutting. For example cutting up a hard vegetable such as a butternut squash would be best done with a 8” chef knife. Why? The knife will easily cut through the vegetables hard skin and core. Using a knife that is too small (or too large) will make the overall job harder on your hands, harder on the knife, you will not have proper control over the knife, and your odds of accidentally cutting yourself are much higher.
Sharpness: Another thing to keep in mind is the sharpness of your blade. Your kitchen knives should be kept sharpened at all times – try to make a habit of running a sharpening stone or steel before and after each use to maintain the blade’s edge. Many kitchen knife accidents and cuts are caused by a dull blade. The dull blade will slip, cause you to use too much force, and keep you from having proper control over the knife. Forcing any cut on any item in the kitchen means you are using the wrong knife. This can be dangerous as the knife can slip and you can accidentally cut your hand.
What are your go-to kitchen knives?
Let us know in the comments below!