Kitchen Knives

A Cook's Best Friends

What You Need and Why

Kitchen knives of good quality are really a cook's "best friends." The cooking tools you use can make a BIG difference in safety and cooking efficiency.

You may not need to purchase an entire knife set like I did.

It really depends on how much you cook and what you cook most often.

Everyone should have at least 3 types of high quality knives: a chef’s knife, a paring knife,  and a serrated knife.  Other knives are useful, but can be expensive. 

“Life is too short to go through it with a dull knife.”



Kitchen Knives

What makes for a quality kitchen knife?

What the blade is made of, what the handle is made of and how those two elements are put together. Another factor is balance, or how the knife "behaves" in a person's hand.

Knife blades can be made from a variety of materials. The best material for home use is high carbon stainless steel (carbon steel and stainless steel combined into a new metal).

This material is tough and holds an edge longer than standard stainless steel. Unlike carbon steel, this material will not discolor or rust.

Knife handles are generally wood or wood infused with plastic, molded plastic or composition or stainless steel. I like stainless steel for a lot of things, but not for knife handles. I personally think they become slippery too easily. Others I know don't think so.

Wood provides an excellent grip but requires a lot of maintenance and may harbor micro-organisms too easily.

Wood that has been combined with plastic is easy to hold on to and does not require the same level of maintenance as a wood handle. These handles are also not as porous as wood handled knives so micro-organisms cannot find a "home" in them.

Molded plastic handles are much easier to care for than wooden handles. They clean easily and there is no worry about sanitation when cleaned properly. However, the handles may become brittle over time.

My recommendation: either wood infused with plastic with the handles riveted through the tang of the blade (the part that goes into the handle) or heavy molded plastic handles fastened in a similar manner.

The first and most important knife you MUST have is what is usually called a chef’s knife,"   or "cook's knife" (makes sense, doesn't it). :-)

These kitchen knives are basically all purpose. Chop, dice, mince, slice ...all with a chef's knife.

These knives come in different lengths: 6, 8, 10 and 12 inch blade lengths normally.

The length of the knife's blade you have or purchase is very important. The longer the blade, the heavier and more difficult it may be to use. I am a small handed cook so I am most comfortable using an 8 inch chef's knife.

A paring knife is a smaller knife with a sharp blade about three to four inches long.

The blade is thin and narrow. It works great for peeling and coring.

A serrated knife has a sharp, saw-like edge which is semi-narrow and thin.

The blades of a serrated knife vary from 5 to 10 inches long.

The one you should have should be at least 8 inches long so you can cut bread and carve with it. The shorter versions are mostly for cutting fruits and vegetables.

Those are the "BIG THREE" of kitchen knives. I will mention one other that I personally use a lot. This kitchen knife is usually called a "santoku knife."

It is similar to a chef's knife with a wide blade that has a long straight edge curving up slightly at the end. But the santoku knife has a wider, thinner and shorter blade so I can cut smoothly and precisely through vegetables that may "resist" a thicker blade.

I also use this kitchen knife for chopping, dicing, and slicing foods into narrow or fine pieces when I am sautéing.

There are many specialty knives available that most people simply won't need or want, but because I live in the Pacific Northwest (USA) I'll tell you about a specialty knife used often in my neighborhood.

An oyster or clam knife is used to safely pry open the hard shell of an oyster or clam in order to remove the meat.

And finally, because I serve a lot of cheese at home and at the restaurant, I use several cheese knives.

These are designed to cut easily through soft or hard textured cheese. These knives may also have a forked tip to pick up pieces of cheese as they are cut or you can purchase forked servers as part of a set or separately.

Cheese serving sets make a great gift.

One final cutlery tool I believe you should own: a quality kitchen shears.

I use mine all the time for a variety of tasks ...a package opener, cutting herbs, cutting foods while still in containers name it.

How are you going to maintain and store your "best friends" ...your kitchen knives?

  • PLEASE wash them by hand even if the manufacturer or sales person tells you they are dishwasher safe. Knives that are washed in a dishwasher are exposed to harsh detergents and very hot temperatures. Damage is likely to occur to the sharp edge of a knife if allowed to be moved around in a dishwasher.
  • Wipe knives clean as you use them. Food will not have an opportunity to harden and the blades cannot discolor.
  • Store your kitchen knives in a wooden or polyethylene knife block or at least do not store them with other utensils.
  • Do not use metal or plastic cutting boards. Your "best friends" do not do well with these cutting surfaces. Wood or polyethylene is what they like.
  • Learn how to sharpen your kitchen knives or get someone who knows how to sharpen them. Some people use an electric sharpener.

Please read the directions carefully if you purchase an electric sharpener. I have known people to grind their knives to "dust."

You should also know that it is nearly impossible to sharpen serrated kitchen knives. Professionals can do it. (Just another reason to take good care of your kitchen knives.)

Thanks for visiting!


"A sharp knife is a safe knife."