We feel your pain—good kitchen knives can be expensive. But they're worth the cost. All you really need in your cutlery set are a good chef’s knife, serrated knife, utility knife, paring knife, and kitchen scissors (or shears), but there are certainly some other types of kitchen knives that come in handy. Here’s a closer look at what you want in your knife block and even a bit about knife sharpeners.
These are the most important types of kitchen knives to have. Pictured above from top to bottom and left to right:
The next three knives are worthy of runner-up status in your knife block. They are very useful, but you can get by without them.
A high-quality knife may seem costly, but compare buying a $70 knife you'll use for 20 years with the $10 knife you replace each year. Which gets you more for your money? A forged, high-carbon, stain-resistant, steel-blade knife is your best buy. It should be rigid and feel heavy yet balance lightly in your hand.
The value of good knives is in the way their stronger metal maintains a sharp edge. Contrary to what you might think, a dull knife can be more dangerous than a sharp one, since it may slip when you have to force it to cut.
Here's what to consider when shopping for the best kitchen knives:
Blades: Most higher-quality, more-expensive knives are forged (hammered) or stamped from a piece of high-carbon, stain-resistant steel. This type of metal alloy allows the blade to hold a sharp edge and sharpen easily. A quality knife should have a full tang (end of the blade that extends all or most of the way through the handle) for balance and added strength.
The blades of most inexpensive knives are made of stainless steel, making them tough and very sharp. However, these knives lack the weight, balance, and craftsmanship of more expensive models.
Handles: Heat-proof, water-resistant plastic handles usually do not warp, chip, crack, or peel. Some folks prefer attractive wood-handled knives. To avoid damaging the wood finish, hand-wash and do not soak.
In recent years we’ve seen more and more ceramic knives on the market. These knives are made of a ceramic material instead of steel. On the plus side, they are lightweight and stay sharp for a long time. And because they are not made of metal they won’t rust! Downsides are that they can be brittle and they need to be sharpened by professionals.
Carefully hand-wash knives in hot, soapy water, using a cloth or plastic scouring sponge. Unless a knife says it is "dishwasher safe," wash it by hand. Dishwashing may be harmful to both the blade and the handle of the knife.
Immediately dry the blade and handle with a clean towel and return the knife to a storage tray or block, sometimes after rubbing a little cooking oil into the blade.
Always use a cutting board when using a knife. The best choice for cutting meats and poultry is a plastic (polyethelene) board. This kind doesn't warp or crack like wood boards can, and it is dishwasher safe.
Knives lose their sharpness when the microscopic edge of the blade gets bent from cutting. To sharpen knives, break out your sharpening steel or home knife sharpener, or hire a professional service; some even make house calls.
Realign the knife blade’s edge by running the knife along a sharpening steel—a ridged rod made of diamond-coated steel or ceramic.
How to Use a Sharpening Steel:
Eventually, you’ll need more than just a sharpening steel. Try a knife sharpener at home or seek a professional who can grind a new edge.