Kristen Hicks on July 17, 2017 1 Comment Table of Contents Types of Kitchen Knives Factors to Consider When Buying Popular Brands to Consider For all the fancy kitchen appliances a person can choose from today, one of the most important items for every kitchen remains a good kitchen knife. If you do any cooking at all, a high-quality kitchen knife will do a lot to make the job go smoother. Having one that’s sharp enough and has just the right weight and balance ensures that your chopping will be both faster and safer. To those that have used a high-quality kitchen knife, the possibility of going back to cheaper, duller versions seems outrageous. It’s the kind of kitchen addition that just feels right once you have it. If you know it’s time to upgrade to a decent kitchen knife or replace one that’s seen better days, there’s a lot to consider to make the right choice. Our buyer’s guide to kitchen knives can help you navigate the process and identify the best knife for your needs. Types of Kitchen Knives Knives aren’t one size fits all when it comes to the purposes you put them to. Different types of knives are designed to work best for specific types of cooking tasks. A great knife can fail you completely if you try to use it for something it’s not suited for. The first step to buying the right knives for your kitchen is to understand the types available and which ones it’s most important for you to add to your collection. 1) Chef Knife The most important knife for most home chefs is the chef’s knife. This is the knife you turn to for chopping vegetables and most types of meat prep, and the one you’ll see chefs using the most often on TV shows or in restaurants. It has a large, smooth blade that can be used for crushing items when needed (like garlic and olives), as well as slicing and dicing almost anything you could need to cut up in a kitchen. If you’re only buying one knife at this time, then the chef’s knife is probably the most important for you to start with. Good ones can be expensive – some of the top brands cost over $200 for just the one knife, but many chef’s knives under $100 also get decent reviews, so you can get by with spending less. 2) Paring Knife Paring knives are smaller and shorter than chef’s knives and good for a lot of the smaller cutting tasks that come up in a kitchen that a chef’s knife might seem like overkill for. These come in handy for cutting up fruit and small vegetables like mushrooms, as well as for any peeling tasks you’d do with a knife (although often a proper peeler works better for those). They make it easier and safer to do some of the more delicate cutting tasks that smaller foods occasionally require. Paring knives are usually pretty cheap. You can find plenty that are under $10, but some of the higher end models that are more in the $30-$50 range may cut easier and last longer. 3) Serrated Knife Serrated knives are the third type of knife that most kitchens will consider essential. They have long, thin blades that are serrated on the end to make it easier to cut through bread. A good serrated knife will keep you from tearing up or smooshing the bread as you cut it, and is often your best choice for softer fruits and veggies, such as tomatoes. Any kitchen likely to have bread or other baked pastries that require cutting will want to include a serrated knife as well. Like paring knives, this category of knives is pretty affordable, and it’s actually not always worth spending more for higher quality since the blades can’t be easily sharpened and you’ll just need to replace it when it gets dull anyways. Decent serrated knives often cost in the range of $10-$30. 4) Santoku Knife A Santoku knife is used for the same types of tasks as a chef knife, but has a slightly different design. The blade is wider and straighter and some cooks prefer it for chopping vegetables and mincing herbs. The design of the knife makes it a bit easier to get thin slices of the veggies you work with. Most home cooks with a chef’s knife won’t need a Santoku knife, but many chefs find that they’re more suitable for certain types of chopping tasks than chef’s knives are and like having one either instead of or in addition to their chef’s knife. 5) Carving Knife Sometimes also called a carver or slicer, a carving knife has a long and thin blade with a sharp tip. They work great for slicing large chunks of meat into narrow and even pieces that are easier to serve. The carving knife is a pretty specialized type of knife designed for this specific task. It’s not an essential component for every kitchen. However, if you find that you make lots of roasts, fried turkeys or honey-baked hams, then this knife can really come in handy. This knife ranges from 8 to 16 inches in length, allowing you to slice through large meats with ease. If you’re looking to buy a carving knife, it is recommended that you go the longest version your budget allows for. The longer blade will minimize the “shredding” or “sawing” needed to cut a slice. If you’re looking to slice paper-thin deli meat, the carver or fillet knife would be a decent option, but oftentimes the safer route would be to buy a small meat slicer. 6) Boning Knife This is another specialty knife that only a few home chefs will feel the need to have. If you’re a hunter or like to save money by buying meat that still needs some butchering, this is a knife that can handle cutting through bones, tendons and ligaments. As the name implies, a boning knife makes it as easy as possible to remove bones from your meat. They typically come with a blade about 4 to 6 inches in length. One unique characteristic of this type of knife is they are available in various degrees of flexibility. If you find yourself cooking up lots of thick meats, then you’ll want a stiffer blade. Whereas if you often cook more delicate meats, then a boning knife that is more flexible may be the better choice for you. Boning knives vary wildly in price from under $10 to over $100. How much it’s worth spending will have a lot to do with how often you’re likely to use it and the types of meats you’ll be using it on. 7) Filleting Knife A fillet knife is a type of boning knife that’s a good choice for anyone that cooks a lot of fish. This is another kitchen knife that is considered to be optional. While it is very similar to a boning knife, the fillet knife is going to have a thinner, sharper and more flexible blade. This design is to allow for better performance when filleting fish. They often come in larger sizes, ranging from 4 to 10 inches in length. The price range on these is similar to that of the boning knife, anywhere from under $10 to over $100. If you find yourself cooking lots of seafood dishes or grilling lots of fish, then a fillet knife is going to be a useful tool for your kitchen. If not, then you can pass it by. Factors to Consider When Buying a Kitchen Knife Figuring out which types of knives to add to your kitchen is one of the most important parts of the process, but in finding the right knives in each category there are a number of other factors it’s important to consider. Cost If you do a lot of cooking and know the knives you buy will get a lot of use, then it’s probably worth spending some money to get the knife that’s best for you – at least for some types of knives. When it comes to a good chef’s knife or Santoku knife, finding one that stays sharp, is well constructed, and lasts will be worth the cost. For many of the other knife types, it’s probably not as important to spend a lot of money, as they won’t get used as frequently, and often don’t cost as much upfront to begin with. But in some cases, spending a little more to upgrade to a better brand will mean the knife lasts longer or is more comfortable to use. While a good chef knife can easily cost over $200, for those who want a decent knife but aren’t prepared to spend that much, do a little bit of research. You should be able to find a knife that gets the job done and has plenty of fans for less than $100. Construction There are two main ways that knives are made: forged and stamped. Forged Knives — These are created when extreme heat is applied to a piece of steel, which is then molded into the desired shape. These are generally considered to be of especially high-quality and cost more than stamped knives. The forging process creates a strong blade that’s less prone to bending over time. Stamped Knives — These are made with a machine, punched out of a piece of steel. The edge is sharpened after the blade is formed and the knife is the same thickness throughout. While these aren’t generally considered as high-quality as forged knives, there are plenty of stamped knives that perform well. If you go with a forged knife, you should expect to need to sharpen them more often and might need to replace them sooner. Sharpness A dull knife won’t do you any good. The best kitchen knives come sharp and stay sharp for long periods of time before you need to sharpen them. One of the main indicators of a knife’s quality is, therefore, how sharp it is and how often it needs a tune up. A knife’s sharpness doesn’t just determine how well it works, it also influences how safe it is to use. While you might think the sharper a knife is, the bigger the risk, the opposite is actually true. Yes, you can do some real damage if you cut yourself with a super-sharp knife (don’t go taking unnecessary chances), but you’re more likely to cut yourself if you’re struggling to cut something else with a dull blade – that’s when chefs most risk losing control of the knife. If you’re buying a kitchen knife online, it can be hard to tell how sharp it really is. Even if you’re buying it in a store, it’s hard to know for sure without putting it to the test. That’s where reviews are your friends. See what people who have real experience with the knife say about its sharpness and whether they mention having to frequently re-sharpen it. Weight A big part of the equation of finding the right knife for you, especially when it comes to a chef’s or Santoku knife, is how comfortable you find it to use. And weight is a big part of that. There’s not a general “correct” weight to look for when it comes to kitchen knives, this is really a factor that’s all about personal preference, and newbie home chefs may have to do a little bit of experimenting to see what works for them. Some people will find a lightweight knife easier to use, others will appreciate the heft of a heavier one and feel like they have more control over it. This is a personal preference. If you don’t have much experience with different chef’s knives yet, see if you have some friends willing to let you try out theirs to get a feel for how they work. If you’re offering to cook for them in exchange, they’ll likely be pleased to comply. Balance Balance goes hand in hand with weight in determining how comfortable you’ll find using the knife. If the weight falls too much to one side or the other, then chopping will be more work for you. This is another category where it’s hard to judge a knife without the chance to pick it up and hold it. If you don’t have that option with a knife you’re considering, once again, take some time to check the reviews and see what other people report. Handle Comfort The final factor that makes a big difference in how comfortable holding and using a particular knife will feel to you is handle comfort. Much of this largely depends on the material used – wood, plastic, metal, and composites are the most common option – and the shape and weight of it. You probably won’t be surprised to learn that this is another subjective category. What’s comfortable for you will depend on things like your hands’ size, strength, and shape as well as just your general preference. Ease of Use Many of the categories above play a big role in ease of use. A sharp knife will make chopping things easier, and a comfortable feel in the hand will make food prep more pleasant and efficient for you. Additionally, making sure you use the right knife for the right job is important to not making the work harder for yourself. The whole variety of knife styles exists specifically to ensure that you can approach the variety of chopping tasks you may need to tackle more easily. Maintenance, Rusting & Corrosion One additional factor to consider in terms of ease of use is maintenance. Some knives are more prone to rusting or corrosion than others, so if you’re not someone who tends to be on top of cleaning and drying things by hand, then you may want to spend a little less or seek out a knife that’s less sensitive to corrosion. Additionally, many types of knives will require occasional sharpening. If that’s the kind of chore you avoid, then look for a knife known for staying sharp longer. Material Most kitchen knives you encounter will be made of stainless steel, which is strong, durable, and easy to sharpen. Some higher-end knives instead use carbon steel, which is stronger and sturdier, but less durable. With these, you’re more likely to deal with rust and stains, especially if you’re not very on top of cleaning and drying them right away after each use. Another option is high-carbon stainless steel, which falls somewhere between the other two: it’s a bit stronger than stainless steel, but more durable than carbon steel. While not as common as any of the steel options, some brands offer ceramic knives. These are very sharp, while being more lightweight than metal. They stay sharp for a long time, but once they do start to dull, they’re harder to sharpen – you’ll have to send them to a professional rather than take care of it at home. Storage Any new item you buy for the kitchen has to go somewhere, and if you do a lot of cooking or baking, then you probably already have a lot of items taking up your storage space. Before you purchase new kitchen knives, consider where in the kitchen you’ll be keeping them. You can buy whole sets of knives that include a convenient block that will hold them on your countertopa, but these don’t give you the option to pick out your specific preferences for each knife, you just end up with whatever is included in the set. Magnetic Knife Rack One trick for storing more knives without taking up too much space is a magnetic knife rack. You can find a wide variety available online, all in different stypes and materials. Or, if you’re looking for a weekend diy project, you can make a magnetic knife rack pretty easily. Storing your knives with a magnetic wall holder is actually better for them, as they won’t clang up against other gadgets and cutlery stored alongside within the drawer. If you can find room on your wall, then this is your best bet. Features & Extras: Knife Sharpener — Many of the kitchen knives you buy will need to be sharpened at some point. Once you start investing in a good set of kitchen knives, a sharpener may also be a smart investment to help ensure they last as long as possible. (View all sharpeners) Sheath & Holder — Some knives come with a sheath you can slip over them in between uses to protect the blade from bumping into other items in the kitchen and prolong its life. (View more storage options) Magnetic Knife Rack — As previously mentioned, this is the best method of storing high-quality kitchen knives as it both ensures they take up less space in crowded kitchens and keeps them from being damaged by bumping up against other kitchen items.(View more magnetic knife racks) Top Kitchen Knife Brands A few main brands dominate the kitchen knife space. To find the best kitchen knife for you, it’s worth taking some time to understand the reputations of the main brands you consider. To help you with that, we looked at customer reviews of knives made by each brand to bring you a summary of what people say about them. Chef’s Choice Chef’s Choice is primarily known for their knife sharpeners, but they also sell some kitchen knives that have been recommended by celebrity chefs. Customers are mixed on their knives. Some say they’re of high quality, made of good steel and with impressive sharpness. Others say they have to be sharpened often and don’t hold up to frequent use. The mixed responses suggest you may well be happy with a Chef’s Choice knife, but you may be disappointed. Friedr Friedr’s kitchen knives earn rave reviews from customers who routinely praise how well balanced and sharp they are. Customers frequently mention how well the knives compare to those of other brands they’ve tried and say they look good to boot. If you can afford it, a knife from Friedr is a good buy. J.A. Henckels Henckel’s is a well-respected German brand that’s generally known for producing high-quality knives. That said, their reviews vary considerably across products. Many of their kitchen knives earn strong reviews, with people praising them for being sharp, of excellent quality, and a great knife for the price. Some other knives earned complaints for being cheap, breaking soon after purchase, and not being dishwasher safe as advertised. Before buying a Henckel knife, check the reviews to make sure you’re getting one of the good ones. Shun Shun’s knives earn consistently positive reviews. Customers say they’re of a high quality, are sharp, lightweight, and balanced. On top of all that, they also get high praise for being beautiful as well. A few less satisfied customers complained about the blades chipping, but they’re in a clear minority. You’ll likely be pleased with a Shun kitchen knife. Mac Mac’s kitchen knives get strong reviews all around. Customers say they’re high quality, cut various vegetables and meats “like butter,” and stay sharp for long periods of use. Mac knives are costly, but reviews suggest the price is well worth it. Messermeister Messermeister sells high-end kitchen knives that customers are consistently pleased with. They say the knives are high-quality, sharp, balanced, and make chopping easy. Almost all their reviews include five-star ratings, many from experienced chefs who compare them favorably to other brands they’ve tried. If you’re willing to spend the money, they’re a good buy. Robert Welch Robert Welch has a strong reputation for making quality knives customers are happy with. Reviews say the brand’s knives are great for everyday cooking, ergonomic, and make food prep easy. You do have to re-sharpen them from time to time, but customers are generally satisfied. Tojiro Tojiro sells kitchen knives that get very favorable reviews from customers. Reviewers, several of whom are chefs, talk about how well made and sharp the knives are. They say they fit comfortably in your hand, are a great value for the price, and are beautiful. Based on customer reviews, Tojiro’s a smart choice to go with. Vitorinox The affordable knives sold by Vitorinox surprise many reviewers by how well made and functional they are for the low price point they sell at. Reviewers are routinely impressed and say you won’t find a better knife for the price. Wusthof Reviewers talk about Wusthof’s knives as a long-term investment they intend to use for many years. They say they’re solid, well balanced, and worth the cost. They also say they’re sharp – they rarely need to be sharpened – and they feel like an upgrade on the other knives they tried. If you’re ready to make a serious investment in good knives, customers say Wusthof is the way to go. Final Thoughts If you haven’t tried a high-quality kitchen knife before, then count on feeling a big difference. Your chopping gets easier, your food prep goes faster, and the whole experience of cooking becomes more pleasant. If you like cooking at home, then finding the right kitchen knife will be well worth the time, cost, and trouble.