Which knives should you have in your kitchen?

One of the most important tools in your kitchen arsenal is your knife.

Not only can you find a knife in any shape or size, but different colors and material. Price? Yeah. There’s definitely that too. 

You really only need a few knives to get you through your food prep. The trick is to find a knife that you feel comfortable holding. Is there a difference? There absolutely is a difference. The hilt could be too heavy, too light, it could be round, square, or just shaped oddly. It has to feel good in your hand. The weight of it, the texture of it. It all works together and it should fit like a glove. 

Here are the knives I use on a daily basis at home and in a restaurant:

Chef’s Knife

This knife is the workhorse. It should be anywhere between 8 and 10” inches long. No more, no less. You can find them smaller and you can find them longer but the 8-10 inch range really is more practical.

I have 3 chef knifes. What? Ok, I actually have 4 BUT some are my house knives and the others are my professional knives that are not used by ANYONE but me. My Mercer knife is the knife I had while in culinary school. It’s solid. It’s sharp, and it does most of my prep work. 

My other 2 knives are Japanese knives; Shuns (shun.kaiusa.com) to be exact. One of them has a synthetic hilt and doesn’t keep an edge as long. This is the only reason I don’t use it as much as my workhorse or my other Shun. 

My favorite knife of all time is my Shun Classic, an 8-inch lightweight and VERY sharp knife. It’s also beautiful to look at. This is my go-to knife for finished products. Meaning, after meat, poultry, pork, or even fruits and vegetables are cooked, I use the Classic to slice the food for presentation. Occasionally I will use it for prep depending on my mood and what I need to cut. It works great for fabricating cuts of fish and skinning.

The blade is thin yet durable and made of Damascus steel. Damascus steel is famous for the wavy patterns made from folding and forging. 

Price: You can spend anywhere from $5.00 to sky’s the limit. My Shun was around the $200 mark but I have had it for close to 5 years and it’s as sharp as the day I got it. The workhorse was about $45.00 and I’ve had it for almost 6 years. You can find a knife in your budget range but remember, it’s about quality. 

Paring Knife

I mentioned it in my article las month and I’ll mention it again here. Use the right tool for the job! A Paring Knife is essential for those small jobs. No, not to cut your wheel of cheese (but you could I suppose). They are for smaller fruits and vegetables used in peeling, trimming, design work, and some dicing. 

You’ll find that this knife can be interchanged with a larger Utility knife which will do the same work. These smaller knives are ideal for their intricate cutting and detailed work. Think trimming the stems off strawberries, peeling cooked (or raw) potatoes. You can even use them for peeling tomatoes. 

Sure, you can use your chef knife, or whatever your go to knife is, but usually you cut too much off and have a lot of food waste. In a restaurant, that’s a no-no and we try to use as much of the food as possible.

Price: You can find these at about $5 to $70 (or more). I have mixed feelings about the price because you can find a decent paring knife for $10 or $15.

Steak Knives

This is a big one. Steak Knives. They are very important. Use them for steak, chicken, pork, or any item you need to cut while having your meal.

Price: The price runs the gamut here as well. Quality steak knives will last a long time.

Honing Steel

No, it’s not a knife but it’s your knife’s best friend. This is necessary for the care of whatever knife you choose to have in your home. The honing steel doesn’t sharpen the blade. What it does do is straightens your blade edge back to a point.

Every time you use your knife (on a cutting board) it dulls the edge making it flat. A few passes of the honing steel and your knife at a 20 degree angle will bring the edge back and lengthen the life of your knife.

One of my favorite steel is the Diamond Carbon Steel. The shaft is oval in shape unlike the honing steel which is a round rod. The Diamond Carbon Steel reminds me of a fine sandpaper and it brings the edge back to your knife quickly. 

The difference between a honing steel and a sharpener is that when you sharpen your knife, you are actually grinding your knife away. The honing steel makes a straight edge.

Typically, you would use your honing steel before every use of your knife. You should have your knife sharpened at least once a month.

Price: You can pick these up for around $20 and they last forever.

Honorable Mentions

These are in my home and get some use out of them. They are great accessories but they don’t have daily use.

  • Cleaver: This is great for breaking down larger cuts of meat and poultry. Especially when cutting through bone.
  • Serrated Bread Knife: The chef’s knife will definitely cut through bread but a nice bread knife is great to have on hand.
  • Slicer: I have a 12-inch slicer that is almost paper-thin and extremely sharp. I use this on holidays for ham, turkey, and roasts.

Knife care tips:

  1. NUMBER ONE RULE - Never put the knife in the dishwasher. Always wash it by hand. 
  2. Store your knives in a manner that they will not touch other utensils. You can purchase blade covers and then store the knives in a drawer.
  3. ALWAYS, and I mean ALWAYS, use a cutting board.
  4. Use the honing steel regularly and sharpen once per month
  5. Do not let the knife sit in water to soak.

No matter how many knives you decide to have or what type you go with, just make sure that it’s high-quality and you take care of it. One suggestion is to stay away from cute color coded knives, ceramic knives, and low quality knives.

It’s better to cut yourself with a sharp knife than it is with a dull knife. Why? Because the cut will be cleaner and heal faster. A dull knife has a tendency to rip the skin and have a greater chance at infection…trust me, I know.

Photo by Kenny Eliason on Unsplash

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