Whether you fancy yourself a novice in the kitchen or are a home chef with friends and family who flock to you every time you host a party, having the right utensils is key. For one, it makes cooking and prep so much easier — and you can invest in products that will stand the test of time.
When it comes to knives, there are many (many) opinions on which are the best to have, including the best brands, the most important knives to have in your arsenal, and how to care for them to give them the longest life possible. We’ve done our research, and though this article is just scratching the surface, we’ve given you a great start to getting on your way.
In terms of what knives you need in your kitchen, the two that you have to have are an 8-inch (or, if you have very small hands, 6-inch) chef’s knife and a 3- or 4-inch paring knife. You can do 80% or more of all kitchen tasks with these two knives. The third knife we recommend if you’re starting out is a serrated knife for bread, tomatoes, etc. Again, experienced home chefs will have many more in their arsenal, but these will most definitely get you well on your way in the cooking department.
It’s also important to have a sharpening steel, which, despite the name, isn’t actually for sharpening. It’s actually for honing an already-sharp knife. A knife’s edge is made of microscopic teeth; over time, those teeth get out of alignment, so the steel brings them back into line (sort of like braces for human teeth). If your knife is dull, it needs to be sharpened on a whetstone (and generally by a professional), says home chef Brian Hoffmeyer. His Instagram page, HomeChefHoff, is a wealth of information if you’re in a pinch for something to cook, and he often gives tutorials as well as product opinions.
If you aren’t ready to spend a lot but want a quality product that lasts, buy a Victorinox. You can get one of the best budget knife sets that way. They have an 8-inch chef’s knife for under $45 on Amazon. They make a great stamped blade and are used by professionals and home chefs alike. They are also a great option if you’re just getting into cooking and aren’t yet ready to commit to a bigger investment.
A great starter Japanese knife that is easily available is Shun. An 8-inch chef’s knife is more expensive, coming in around $150 on sites like Crate & Barrel and William Sonoma, but you can usually find sales on this brand. They also have knife sets available, so you can get a five-piece set that comes with “a trio of essential knives, a honing steel, and a space-saving storage block.” It’s an investment, so if possible, test the knives out so you know they fit what you’re looking for.
Our favorite German knife brand is Henckels (Wusthof is good, too). This set from creator Zwilling includes a 4-inch paring knife, 5.5-inch serrated utility knife, and a 7-inch cook’s knife. All this for under $100 is a steal. If you want to add one more to the mix, definitely scoop up its boning knife, especially if you are a big barbecuer or smoker.
Sites like Chuboknives.com or Korin.com are great resources for finding out more information before you buy. Knives and knife sets are definitely an investment, so you’ll want to do your research beforehand. Knives are also very personal, and, if possible, you should try before you buy. Different hands result in what’s good for one person not fitting another, so make sure it feels balanced and natural in your hand.
Many buyers get confused by the various terms that can describe a knife’s construction: Full-tang, stamped, forged (considered the best type because it’s made from individual pieces of metal, so it’s heavy and durable), high-carbon, and so on, so do a little reading on what each means so you feel educated going into the purchase.
The good news is that the research and investment will be worth it in the end. A good knife and a quality knife set, if cared for well, will last a lifetime, so choose carefully, and happy cooking!
Meanwhile, read on further because we’re giving you everything you need to know about sharpening ceramic knives – and whether it is even advisable to do so.
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