There is a distinct line of communication between a knife and a chef. The knife is the extension of his hands. It’s his paintbrush. Like an artist, a chef has a lot of tools and gadgets at his disposal from the most basic things that are essential for cooking to the most frivolous items he will rarely use.
A reliable knife set is one of the most important tools in everyone’s kitchen—whether you are a professional cook or a reluctant food nerd—hence, choosing the right set is crucial. We made this guide to make your buying experience easier. With so many options out there, we want to help you find the best knife set for your needs so read on.
Most skilled chefs and culinary enthusiasts will give you the same advice, which is to buy knives piecemeal. We would suggest the same, but a good and really sharp set of knives has its own advantage.
Buying knife sets, for one, saves you time. It’s far more convenient than tracking down each piece individually. If you’re a newbie in the kitchen and you don’t have any idea about the types of knives you actually need, a knife set will cover the basics.
An additional knife block is almost always part of the deal, which organizes your cutlery, making that countertop clutter-free. They are also cheaper than buying knives individually.
Fine, if you cook for two and only need something that cuts well, you probably don’t need a knife set. Take a budget-friendly but high-performing chef knife, hire a professional to sharpen it periodically, and you’re good to go. But if you want to improve your cooking skills, you need a set of the most essential kitchen knives at the very least.
Improper tools and a lack of good skills can make food preparation a grudging and woefully time-consuming chore. But skills can be learned; a poorly-manufactured knife is bad for good. So if you are serious about cooking, you don’t just settle for a good enough set.
The best way to choose a knife set is to visit a demonstration, where you can ask pertinent questions to an expert, gain specialist advice, and test run your preferred knives. But most of us don’t have the time and privilege to look for shops that offer demo services. We rather buy from online merchants and hope for the best. On your hunt to find the best knife set, keep these things in mind.
Many knife sets come with filler knives to make the set seem valuable. But an average home cook only needs three or five knives. When buying a set, there’s a big chance that you are paying for things you might not need. Therefore, it’s important to know what types are essential for cooking a variety of meals, so you don’t end up with seven filler knives that will only collect dust inside the block.
Chef’s Knife – the one knife to rule them all. This all-purpose knife does the majority of your cutting, slicing, dicing, and chopping. It can skin a fish fillet, tap off garlic skins, chop huge bunches of parsley, mince cilantro, carve meat, and a lot more. If you can only buy one knife, spend most of your money on this one. A great chef’s knife is insanely sharp and feels comfortable to hold.
Paring Knife – it is the second most important knife to have in your arsenal. A sharp paring knife can easily peel apples, tomatoes, and oranges. It’s also perfect for slicing different cheeses and salamis.
Serrated Knife – a serrated bread or deli knife is the third most essential knife to consider when buying a set. They have more pronounced teeth on their blades to provide aggressive bite that keeps the knife from slipping on odd-textured crusts.
Utility Knife – also a must-have but is used less often than the “holy trinity” of knives as mentioned above. It does the tasks that are too small for the chef’s knife (or santoku) and too big for the paring knife (i.e., taking a core out of cauliflower or cabbage)
Good to Have
Santoku Knife – dubbed as the “other chef’s knife,” santoku is a good slicer and has many great attributes, but it cannot replace a good chef’s knife. If you want stability and effectiveness, especially for slicing carrots, tomatoes, and onions among others, then it’s a worthy addition to your set.
Carving Knife – this knife is useful for carving meat on the bone. The blade length ranges between 8 to 12 inches, the most useful size being 10 inches.
Boning Knife – if you will constantly do boning of meat, fish, and poultry, a boning knife is good to have. It is meant for raw meat, as it can be too short or narrow for slicing cooked meat.
Fillet Knife – like a boning knife, a fillet knife has a slightly narrower blade. It’s almost exclusively used on fish.
Stainless steel, carbon steel, and ceramic are some of the materials used to make knives, but you will most likely encounter kitchen knives that are made of stainless steel. Each has its own advantages and drawbacks.
Stainless Steel – strong, durable, stain-resistant, and easy to sharpen. These knives are less likely to rust but do not hold an edge as well as other materials.
Carbon Steel – will stay sharp for a long time but is very susceptible to stains.
High Carbon Stainless Steel – a balanced knife but can be very expensive. The high carbon content offers the best of both worlds: stain resistance and edge retention.
Ceramic – a recent addition to the knife world. These knives are super light and feel like a toy, but they can also be very sharp. However, they tend to be brittle and prone to breaking under normal use.
You’ve probably heard about the “forged is superior to stamped” myth in nearly every online resource and magazine articles out there. The battle hasn’t really ended even if the process of knife making has significantly changed over the years. A forged knife is made from a single piece of steel, which is heated and pounded into form. On the other hand, a stamped knife is cut from a large piece of metal using a machine.
While forged knives will usually have an advantage in overall quality: they hold their edge longer and will not be ground down with years of use, the quality of stamped knives has also vastly improved. Whether it’s forged or stamped, you should choose a knife that can give you many years of solid and comfortable use.
With regards to knives, how do you define quality? Years ago, you only have to choose between Swiss, German, and Japan knives. You can be sure that these knives would stay sharp and last for years. But rules have changed. Since it became cheaper to make knives, they become more readily available. Many knife companies produce reputable products and have their devotees. Japan, German, and other European brands, as well as American brands, can produce good and less-than-good products. As we have reiterated in this guide, if a knife feels comfortable and balanced in your hand, then you should buy it.
In the end, what you will purchase primarily depends on what you usually prepare at home. Consider the knife’s purpose. If your lifestyle dictates that you eat out most days and just prepare light meals here and there, you will need fewer knives than if you are a daily cook. You can get by with three knives. A serious amateur cook needs no more than five or six knives.
Q: What makes a good kitchen knife set?
A: A good knife set must include all the essential kitchen knives, and less of the filler knives. It could be made of stainless steel or high carbon stainless steel. If durability is your main concern, stay away from ceramic knives as they break easily.
Q: Can you put knives in a dishwasher?
A: While there are knives that are dishwasher-safe, it is better to clean them by hand. The detergent used in dishwashers can dull the knife’s blade.
Q: What’s the difference between German and Japan knives?
A: In terms of quality, both countries are known for producing high-performing and durable knives. The difference is that the blades of Japanese knives are often thinner and more lightweight.
Q: What is the best way to store a knife set?
A: There are many ways to store knives. You can use a knife block if you want to keep your knives on the kitchen counter. Some people with limited countertop space store their knives in a drawer. A magnetized wall strip is also a good way to store a small collection of knives.
Q: Do ceramic knives need sharpening?
A: Ceramic knives hold their edge longer, but may also require sharpening after continued use. You need a professional to sharpen them as they are brittle and tend to break easily.