As a paintbrush is to an artist, so is a kitchen knife to chefs. Although we often say that with sufficient skill, one can use pretty much any material at their disposal to achieve their goal. We can also argue that having the right culinary tools makes a cook’s life a lot easier.
While that’s the case, knowing how to choose the best knife that’ll make specific tasks easier, and knowing what you want to have in place before considering specialty blades can often be a problem.
Luckily, we hope to have this all sorted out for you after reading this article. We’ve discussed in detail how to choose the best kitchen knife and how these considerations affect your user experience so you can find the right balance.
We’ve also added general conceptions you can use to make quick picks, and of course, the types of knives you ought to be getting for a start especially if you’re running a private kitchen.
What to Consider Before Choosing a Kitchen Knife
Every knife has a specific function. Even though some knives can perform a couple more functions and even functions of others, it doesn’t give the same result compared to using a knife for its specific purpose.
While that’s the case, your perfect guide to choosing the best kitchen knife will always be tied to its purpose, and type of material used.
1. Design, Material, and Weight
Design: The basic design of a kitchen knife isn’t very dynamic – it’s either a wooden or plastic handle, coupled with the specific type of blade size and shape that’s suitable for cutting specific items. Blade design can either be single or double bevel.
While a single bevel blade achieves better cutting precision, the double bevel Western-style is easier to use for beginners and most people.
Material: Meanwhile, when considering the material, that’s where we get to see some dynamism. Stainless steel is what’s used to make common household knives.
Going a little higher, there are knives being made from carbon steel, and these ones will cost you more; they can maintain their sheen and edge better than carbon steel.
Other knives made from materials like titanium and ceramic are usually used occasionally because of their appealing appearance. More so, knives from these materials are lightweight and quite flexible.
As such, it’s not always the best pick for the average cook, even though it can be quite effective in the hands of an experienced chef.
Weight: Generally, you want to always choose a knife that’s not too heavy so it can be held for an extended period. It shouldn’t be too light so it’s able to cut whatever variation of the type of food item you expect it to cut; lighter knives can’t cut thick items.
Above all, there should be proper weight distribution that supports the sharp edges, making your slicing moves a lot easier to manage.
The best way to have a knife pass a weight test is by using it to make actual cuts and slices. Other than that, you’re usually just at the mercy of what’s written by the manufacturer.
2. What You’d Like to Cut and How Often You Want to Sharpen Your Knife
Generally, if you don’t intend to work professionally, or won’t be cutting a specific item repeatedly or in bulk, getting a Sankotu (Japanese chef’s knife), or a Gyuto is the best choice.
This kind of knife is suitable for cutting pretty much anything. If the quantity of whatever you want to cut is not on a commercial scale, a general knife is all you need.
3. Knife Construction
Choosing a knife made from chrome steel is always preferred as these types often hold their sharpness for a longer period than regular stainless steel.
While that’s the case, picking a forged knife over a stamped knife is usually the best option. This is especially true if you’re looking for something with the best combination of materials and gives a blade quality that’ll last for more than a lifetime.
Most forged knives are often used as family heirlooms because they can outlive their owners if properly used. Forged knives are made from a single bar of steel which is heated and then pounded into shape.
Stamped knives, on the other hand, are cut from from a large metal sheet. They’re then honed and treated with heat to improve their durability.
General Rules for Choosing Blade Designs
As said earlier, the handles of knives are either wooden or plastic, the major differences lie in the types of blades. More so, the handles are often picked based on the specific ergonomic requirements of the user.
If you must follow any rules while searching for the best kitchen knives to buy, then keep these points in mind:
- Wide blades are for cutting vegetables and fruits, and they’re less suitable for general tasks. Conversely, narrow blades are ideal for cutting raw meat or fish, but not suitable for fast chopping – vegetables for example.
- A Chef’s knife is the safest bet if you want a type of knife that’ll suffice in cutting meat, fish, and vegetables. You can buy multiple chef knives with slight variations in width so they’re more tailored for specific tasks.
- To cut on a single slice, the weight distribution and sharpness of the knife are critical. Sharp thinner blades are better for tricky tasks like fish slicing or bone cutting. Sharp and thicker knives are ideal for cutting heavy items.
What Knives You Should Buy First
If somehow don’t get where we’re going with this, we might as well just tell you the knives to shop for first, then let others flow naturally.
That being said, this selection was prioritized based on what’s needed in a private kitchen – you’re not looking to (even though you can) cook in commercial quantity with this lineup.
1. Chef’s Knife
If you won’t be going with the common Western chef knife, you can opt for a Gyuto or a Santoku. This should be your primary knife as they’re an all-rounder for slicing, dicing, mincing, and chopping a variety of items from fruits, vegetables, meats, and fish.
2. Paring Knife
If you could accommodate another knife in your budget after getting the chef’s knife, you’ll want it to be the paring knife.
Often seen as the chef’s knife’s junior, it’s used for getting extra precision for your cuttings especially when it comes to cutting smaller-sized items.
3. Bread/Serrated Knife
Now you can start considering some specialized knives that don’t only give precision but style to the entire cutting process. Aside from cutting bread loaves which it gets its name from, it’s used for odd-ball fruits and vegetables with tough skins – cabbage, pineapple, tomatoes, and hard winter squash are some examples of what it cuts quite nicely.
4. Sharpening Steel
If you’re going to be active in the kitchen, the last situation you want to be in is having your knives dull out and needing a replacement every three months – better just get sharpening steel.
By adding sharpening steel as the fourth item in your collection, you’re not only ensuring that the knives gotten earlier are always sharp, but you’re also making provisions for any specialty knife you choose to purchase in the future.
Takeaway: Start to Get Others That You See Fit
When the basics are covered, you can now start exporting specialty tools – that’s if you really want to be dedicated to the art of slicing and dicing. An unserrated utility knife will be a great tool if you want a different feel when cutting general items, and a serrated utility knife can really be useful for breakfast/lunch preps.
To kick things up a notch, you can consider a boning knife for removing bones from meats. This will save you all the added effort you’d need to apply to try to use your chef’s knife or paring knife for the job.
Then there’s the slicing knife, the fillet, the carving knife, the steak knife, and the cleaver which you can try out according to what your budget permits. To learn more about the types of blades, you can read our post on the different types of kitchen knife blades.