Buying a kitchen knife is a personal decision. Just like clothes - not one size or type fits all! You may be attracted to one because of the design, but it may not fit or feel well in your hand. It may not even be the best suited for your everyday needs or budget. With that being said though, once you buy one it will last you many years to come with proper care. Buying a quality knife will never come with regrets. So, let's break it down to a few simple steps to make your decision.
For a chef, a knife is the most important tool they use in the kitchen. Therefore, a lot of research will go into the purchase because they will be using it for many hours each day. It is really important that it serves their needs comfortably for the tasks they perform daily.
For home cooks, the right set of knives can also make a world of difference in your cooking. Certain knives are suited for certain types of tasks, and if you're using the correct knife, you'll find cooking easier and more pleasurable.
What size knife is best to start with?
Although many people will start out with a 10-piece Kitchen Block Knife Set, there are only 3 knives in that set you will continually use. So instead of buying what's usually lesser quality in a block set (but within your budget), splurge on buying these 3 knives to start.
- Chef's Knife - A chef's knife is a professional chef's best friend. We obsessively care for it knowing it will serve us well if properly sharpened, honed, cleaned & stored. They are simply called "Chef's Knife" and they come in varying lengths - 7" & 8" are probably the most popular.
- Paring Knife - A paring knife is second best to have and is great for smaller tasks.
- Serrated Knife - Lastly is a serrated knife which is especially great for slicing tomatoes and bread.
Understanding the anatomy and materials that make up a knife will be helpful in your decision-making process. For a more detailed description, check out knife depot which gives a great breakdown.
Should you buy a kitchen knife based on brand names?
There are some top names to look at when purchasing knives. We share them because they are worthwhile mentions for the quality of workmanship put into their knives. Our top 5 picks are:
- J.A. Henckels
It is worth making a trip to the store actually to hold the knife in your hand. Be sure to properly hold it in your hand, how you would when you are chopping and dicing - that means, not just by the handle. Buying online based on brand or size isn't recommended unless you have already tested the knife out in person.
Purchase Tip: Always save your knife protector sleeves (guards) - they come in really handy for storage or for shipping knives out to be sharpened!
Are Japanese kitchen knives the best?
Japanese knives are preferred by many because they tend to be lighter in weight and have a sharper blade. They are especially great for chopping, dicing, and slicing. But there are times you may need a knife for heavier duty jobs like cutting open a butternut squash. That's where a German knife tends to be the stronger blade proving less worry that you're going to cause damage by chipping the edge.
What are the best kitchen knives sets?
With all that said, if you still want to start out with the block set and work your way towards the higher quality knives, I would recommend staying with these 3 sets
- Wusthof Classic Nine Piece Block Set
- Shun Classic 5-Piece Starter Block Set
- Henckels Classic 15-Piece Self-Sharpening Block Set
Tips for using a knife
- Be aware of your knife at all times - holding, passing, and using.
- Hold it close to your side, pointing down when moving in the kitchen
- Pass it by placing it down on a flat surface for another person to pick up by the handle.
- Use it safest manner - cut side down of food which produces stability.
- Dry with the sharp edge away from your hand.
- Always cut on wood, plastic, or hard rubber - never metal.
- Store knives properly in a holder, not scattered in a drawer with other kitchen utensils.
- Never wash in a dishwasher, or let sit in the sink with other items.
- Always let a falling knife drop.
- Always cut away from your body.
- Be conscious to hold food using the “bear claw” technique.
- Remember, a sharp knife is safer than a dull one.
How to care for and store knives
Chefs are known to care for their knives obsessively by sharpening and honing them frequently. As a home chef, learning to do this yourself will save you time and money. But if you are uncomfortable with sharpening your own knives, you can bring your knives to a local Williams-Sonoma or Sur La Table store. Many even offer free sharpening! You can Google search "knife sharpening services" and find out where to send your knives out to be sharpened.
When storing knives, it is crucial to keep the sharp side of the blade covered. This will prevent any damage to the edge or getting a knife cut when reaching into a drawer. If you can, store your knives in a block on your counter or in a drawer with a knife organizer. There are many to choose from depending on the dimensions of your allocated space.
Caring for knives also means always cutting on proper surfaces. Check out our Resources Page for TMF Cutting Board recommendations.
If you want to learn more, subscribe to The Mindful Fork where we will announce a FREE Introductory Knife Skills Course that is exclusive to our subscribers - coming soon!