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Best Kitchen Knives of 2020
In the market for a new set of kitchen knives? Our shopping guide is here to help you find the best kitchen knives for your cooking needs.
Chop Chop! Find the Best Kitchen Knives for a Sharp Cooking Experience
The quality of the knives in your kitchen can make cooking a sweet pleasure—or a serious pain. You don't need to invest a fortune on quality kitchen knives, but if you're in the market for new ones, we recommend that you invest some time in your buying decision.
But with so many knife manufacturers and knife types out there, where do you begin? Surely you want the best knives for your kitchen and your budget, but how do you go about finding them?
At BestReviews, we're here to answer those questions. We perform extensive product research so you don't have to. We consult experts, scour existing data, and test products in our labs to bring you fair and thorough reviews you can trust. And to avoid the potential for bias, we never accept free samples from manufacturers.
In this guide, we'll help you come to grips with the different types of kitchen knives available to you. Please read on to learn more about these critical kitchen utensils. And when you're ready to make a purchase, please check out our product recommendation matrix at the top of this page.
Kitchen Knife Types
A paring knife has a short blade of three to four inches that's smooth and sharp. It's generally used for tasks that require precision or a delicate touch, such as slicing veggies, peeling garlic, and deseeding bell peppers.
A chef's knife (or cook's knife) blade is wide at the handle and tapered at the tip. With its larger blade, it's an all-purpose knife that can tackle almost any job. Whether you want to finely chop herbs, crush cloves of garlic, or chop meat and hard vegetables, a chef's knife will get the job done.
A utility knife is larger than a paring knife but smaller than a cook's knife. It may have a serrated edge. Owners frequently use these knives to slice soft-skinned fruits and vegetables.
This long, serrated knife cuts easily through bread without squashing the crumb. It's perfect for homemade bread or an unsliced loaf from the bakery, but it can also cut sandwiches, remove crusts, and slice cakes in half to be filled.
A carving knife has a long, sharp blade. Its sole purpose is to slice cooked meat. Once a kitchen staple, these knives are becoming less popular in contemporary society, as fewer people are taking the time to prepare large roasts and other big meat dishes these days. Nevertheless, a carving knife always comes in handy when it's time to serve the Thanksgiving turkey!
With a large, wide blade that's roughly the same width the entire way down, there's no mistaking a cleaver. Although this kind of knife is generally used for chopping cuts of meat, it can also tackle tough veggies like squash and rutabaga. In addition, you can use the side of the blade to crush garlic cloves and cardamom pods.
Kitchen Knife Materials
Stainless steel is perhaps the most common knife material. It's also the most affordable.
● Fairly lightweight
● Suitable for everyday use
● Dishwasher safe
● Regular sharpening required
● Not as durable as other materials
Carbon steel knives are made of steel with a high carbon content. This makes them harder than regular stainless steel.
● Tough and durable
● Harder and sharper than the competition
● Professional quality
● Pricier than stainless steel
● Must be washed and dried by hand
Damascus knives are made of Damascus steel, a special blend of metals with carbon steel at the core and hard and soft stainless steel layered on top of it.
● Hard and extremely sharp
● Attractive mottled appearance
● Little sharpening required
● Less common; fewer to choose from
Although metal kitchen knives are still the most common, ceramic knives are growing in popularity.
● Exceptionally sharp
● Long-lasting sharp edge
● Can easily chip or break
● Can't be resharpened
● Not suitable for denser vegetables
Kitchen Knives and Knife Sets: What to Consider
Once you've selected the type of knives you want and the material you prefer, you're still not done. More customization options exist, from the number of knives you want to purchase to the way in which the cutting material attaches to the blade.
Knife Set Versus Single Knives
You could buy a set of knives, and many people do; it's a convenient option. But you could also choose to buy your knives separately.
● Knife Sets
The market offers some great knife collections, but it also offers quite a few duds. Even if you find a knife set of good quality, you might not need all of the knives in the set. Furthermore, you might buy a set only to realize that the type of knife you really want isn't included. However, some people really like owning an entire matching set of knives. And if you want to display your knives in a block, a set is a great way to go.
● Individual Knives
Buying your knives individually allows you to customize your collection. If you appreciate having this type of control over each and every knife in your kitchen, we advise you to buy them separately. For example, you may wish to own five stainless-steel paring knives and one superior-quality chef's knife of carbon steel. A set probably wouldn't offer this assortment, but you could tailor several separate purchases to this ideal. If you wish to buy knives separately but you like the appearance of a knife block, you could always buy an individual knife block, too.
Knife handles come in a variety of materials and shapes. Common materials include wood, metal, and plastic. Some knife handles are enhanced with a soft-grip material like rubber that makes them easier to hold.
● Wood: Wooden knife handles are comfortable and attractive, and many people like their traditional appearance. Wood can trap bacteria, however, so knives with wooden handles lose points for hygienic reasons.
● Metal: Metal knife handles are generally made of stainless steel. They're heavy, durable, and provide good balance, especially for larger blades. On the downside, they don't provide very good grip and can become slippery when wet.
● Plastic: This is an excellent material for knife handles because it's durable, hygienic, and easy to clean. On the other hand, plastic knife handles can crack over time, especially if subjected to extreme changes in temperature.
In terms of shape, some knife handles are straight whereas others are ergonomically designed. The latter refers to how the knife feels in your hand. If you're concerned about comfort or precision, look for knives with handles that feel balanced when you hold them. Notably, some people prefer knives with heavier handles; it gives them an added sense of control.
In knife-speak, the "tang" is the part of the blade that extends into the handle.
● A full tang runs the entire length of the knife's handle. It adds a sense of strength and balance to the knife.
● A half tang only runs about halfway up the handle. Knives with half tangs aren't quite as strong or durable as their full-tang counterparts.
Forged Versus Stamped
There are two different methods for manufacturing knife blades: forging and stamping.
● A fully forged kitchen knife is made from just one piece of steel. The steel has been heated and pounded into the right shape.
● A stamped knife is stamped out from a sheet of steel in much the same way that a cookie cutter stamps out a cookie.
Lots of hype surrounds fully forged knives, but it's not all to be believed. A contemporary forged knife is usually made by a machine, not a skilled craftsman in a workshop. Modern machinery can produce perfectly good stamped knives at a fraction of the cost.
Price of Kitchen Knives
Knife prices vary wildly. You could pick up a basic stainless-steel paring knife for a couple of dollars, but a custom-made Damascus steel cleaver might cost you several hundred dollars.
● For $10 to $20, you should be able to find a decent stainless-steel kitchen knife.
● For $20 to $30, you could upgrade to carbon-steel or ceramic. Of course, this depends on the type of knife you want to get.
● For $50 to $100, you could find a great Damascus-steel knife. These are by far the priciest knives on the market, but their quality is unparalleled.
If you're more interested in a matching collection, quality knife sets can run up to several hundred dollars. Depending on your needs, and as long as you don't mind relinquishing some control over your collection, knife sets will usually give you more bang for your buck than buying each knife individually.
Kitchen Knife FAQ
Q. Are kitchen knives dishwasher safe?
A. If you want your kitchen knives to last a long time, you should always wash them by hand. Placing kitchen knives in a dishwasher will corrode them and dull their blades faster.
Q. Do I need to sharpen my kitchen knives?
A. Unless they have ceramic blades, all straight-edged (non-serrated) knives will benefit from occasional sharpening. You can do so at home with a basic knife-sharpening kit. However, if you're not comfortable sharpening the knives yourself, you could hire a professional to do the job. Some hardware and kitchen stores have staff on site for this purpose.
Q. What's the best material for a kitchen knife?
A. There's no perfect material for a kitchen knife; they all have their pros and cons. However, if you seek a blend of sharpness (and retention of that sharp edge), durability, versatility, and relative affordability, we recommend a carbon-steel knife.