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Guide To The Best Knives Every Cook Needs

August 14, 2012

OK, admit it—when you watch a cooking show on TV, or attend a class taught by a master chef, don’t you love watching those shiny knives doing their jobs so quickly and efficiently, and don’t you envy the chef’s knife skills?  They make it look so easy, as they slice through a ripe tomato as if it were butter, mince cloves of garlic in what seems like seconds, or carve a roast into perfectly uniform slices.

It isn’t all just technique learned at culinary school—having the right knife for each job makes a big difference as well. Whether your cooking style is cutting edge or traditional, whether you like playing around with complicated recipes or you prefer to just cut to the chase, a good set of knives will not only help to make time spent in the kitchen more enjoyable,  but will produce better looking results.  Soon, other people will be envying your knife skills!

Basic Cutlery

These are the knives that should be in every kitchen. (Hint: Cutlery should always be stored in a knife block, wall mounted rack or magnetic strip, in drawer tray, or in individual sheaths.  Do not store them loose in a drawer or container with other utensils.)

Pairing Knife

Shun Paring Knife

An all-around favorite and used for small-scale work like coring, peeling, trimming, slicing fruits and vegetables, or chopping small ingredients like garlic cloves, this knife has a 3”-4” blade that is tapered and evenly proportioned.  The pairing knife’s pointed tip makes it ideal for trimming vegetables or fruits for garnishes.

Utility Knife

Henckels Utility Knife

As the name implies, this knife is used for a wide range of tasks, from peeling, slicing and dicing, to carving or trimming smaller cuts of meat.  Similar in appearance to a paring knife, the blade can measure anywhere from 4 ½’-8”, with either a serrated (great for cutting bread, dense cheeses or delicate tomatoes) or smooth edge.

Boning Knife

Henckels Boning Knife

With a narrow, curved-edge 5”-7” blade, this is the knife for cutting raw meat and poultry, as it maneuvers easily between bone joints and through cartilage and tendons. A stiffer blade works better on red meat, while a more flexible blade is ideal for poultry.  It can act as a fillet knife in a pinch, as well.

Chef’s Knife

Shun Chefs Knife

Also called a cook’s knife, this is usually considered the most essential knife in the any professional chef or serious cook’s collection.  The evenly proportioned, tapered blade can range from 4”-12”, but 8” is considered the most utilitarian and versatile for a variety of tasks.  With a slight curve on the wide rigid blade, the weight balance between the handle and the blade allows that efficient rhythmic, rocking motion for slicing and chopping that looks so impressive in cooking shows and demonstrations.

Serrated Knife

Wusthof Bread Knife

This is the essential knife for cleanly slicing through both the crusts and soft interiors of bread loaves.  The long, straight blade with a sharp, serrated edge measures anywhere from 7 ½’-12”, and is also well suited for tasks like cutting tomatoes or chopping chocolate.

Honing Steel

Honing Steel

A honing or sharpening steel is an essential component of any knife set.   It is not a sharpening tool, but rather it should be used frequently to maintain and realign the cutting edge on an already sharp knife.


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