Good quality kitchen knives are an investment that should last for years. Getting familiar with characteristics and design will help you choose the best kitchen knives for any task.
Knife Blade Materials
Carbon steel, a combination of iron and carbon along with other trace metals, is found in many old-fashioned knives. It maintains a good edge and is easy to sharpen, but it may be prone to rust and staining.
Stainless steel knife blades are usually crafted from iron and chromium with nickel being a common addition. This is the most common type of steel knife blade to appear in commercial knives. The metal resists staining but is softer and requires more frequent sharpening than carbon steel.
High Carbon Stainless Steel
A higher grade and quality of stainless steel, high-carbon steel maintains its sharpness for a long time and is known for its strength. Unlike standard carbon steel, it resists staining and so maintains its appearance over time.
Knives with blades made from ceramic have very little “give” and can be brittle. However, they stay sharp longer than steel and provide a useful combination of hardness and strength. When ceramic does need sharpening, the job should be done by a professional.
Types of Kitchen Knives
There are several types of knives that are useful to have on hand to cover all your needs when cooking. Each is tailored to handle a different job, so it’s easy to prepare a variety of foods.
For Specific Tasks
- Chef’s knives are the best kitchen knives for multipurpose use. The thick, heavy blades are typically six to 12 inches long and designed for quick chopping, slicing and mincing.
- Paring knives feature three- to four-inch blades with sharp points. Use these for peeling fruits and vegetables, removing eyes from potatoes and for intricate or decorative cutting.
- Utility knives fall somewhere between chef’s and paring knives. They can be used for just about any job and come with different edge types to speed food preparation.
- Knives for boning, carving and filleting are the best kitchen knives for meat. Curved boning knives remove bones from meat or fish while the long, pointy blades of carving knives allow you to cut thin slices.
- Cleavers are heavy, flat knives used for cutting meat or vegetables. Vegetable cleavers tend to be lighter since produce is more delicate.
- A santoku knife is a multipurpose tool that’s a combination of a cleaver and a regular knife and can be used for the same purposes.
- Bread knives have long serrated blades made for cutting through hard crust and soft bread to create uniform slices.
- If you need to cut a particular type of food such as cheese, steak or tomatoes, there are also knives made just for these tasks. Each features a design that allows you to make clean, even cuts with ease.
Edge Types Available in Kitchen Knives
The edges on the knives you choose also need to be suited for their intended uses. When seeking out the best kitchen knives to tackle common prep work, look for an edge that gives you the ability to cut quickly and safely.
- Use a serrated blade to cut soft foods or for slicing anything with a crust.
- Hollow blades, also called Granton edges, feature grooves along the sides that leave space for juices and fats. This makes it easier to create clean cuts, especially when preparing meat.
- Another way to get clean cuts is to use a well-sharpened straight blade, which is common on utility knives.
- Tapered edges create a very sharp blade that powers through any task.
- If you have to cut something frozen, use a saw or raker blade. These edges feature teeth and are safer than other knives because they don’t bend when they meet with resistance.
Getting the Right Kitchen Knives for the Job
When you’re ready to put together a collection of the best kitchen knives for your needs, be prepared to test them. Pick them up, look them over and make sure that they have the features you’re looking for before you make a purchase.
Sets vs. Individual Kitchen Knives
Investing in a set of the best kitchen knives means you get everything you need in one go. In some cases, this is a cheaper option since you not only get the knives but also a solid knife block to store them in so that they stay sharp.
On the other hand, a set might give you more knives than you’re going to use. Buying knives individually ensures that you only invest in what you want. If you just need two or three knives to start with, this is a less expensive way to go. It also allows you to build a customized collection over time.
Characteristics of Kitchen Knives
Regardless of whether you get a set or individual knives, check the quality before you buy. Look for knives that are going to keep their edges such as carbon steel or high-quality stainless. Poor quality blades that get dull easily have a tendency to slip while cutting, putting you at risk for injury. Check for durability as well, since blades that bend, flex or snap are also dangerous.
Knives should be well balanced to reduce the stress on your hands while cutting. A hefty blade makes it easier to control movements when doing heavy-duty chopping. Lighter blades are necessary when preparing delicate foods or creating ornamental cuts.
- Ergonomic handles
- Solid construction
- Blades that are bolted into the handle
- Solid, well-joined hilts
- Forged blade construction
Seek out these characteristics to ensure that you’re getting knives that last.
The best kitchen knives are those that combine strong materials with quality construction to deliver consistent performance. When you find knives that you’re comfortable with and that power through kitchen tasks with ease, you can build a collection that will serve you for a long time to come.