So now you know all you need about how to buy the Best Chef Knife, that’s for you. Getting informed on how it is made, what is it made from and the different styles of chef’s knives, will help you in making the best decision. Let’s move on forward to the best Kitchen Knives you need in order to make cooking easier for you.
But what else do you need? Imagine peeling a pearl onion with a chef’s knife. Pretty much impossible, right?
Cultures have probably devised a type of knife for every ingredient. But all you really need are the “Best Basic Kitchen Knives” any cook should have.
From paring to slicing or chopping there are a whole range of knives with different shapes and sizes that “Make Cooking Easier”.
Also, I find that there are a whole range of products that might be helpful but can be easily replaced with knives you already have. For short, I call these types of products “Cool to Have”.
Now let’s explore these 3 categories in order for you to get the proper knowledge of what to choose when shopping for the best kitchen knives.
A. Best Basic Kitchen Knives
B. Make Cooking Easier
C. Cool to Have
- 1 A.Best Kitchen Knives
- 2 – Basic Knives –
- 3 B. Best Kitchen Knives
- 4 – Make Cooking Easier –
- 4.1 1. Best Paring Knives:
- 4.2 2. Best Slicing Knives:
- 4.3 The Carving Kitchen Knife
- 4.4 Japanese Slicing Knives – Sashimi Kitchen Knife
- 4.5 3. Chopping:
- 4.6 The Mezzaluna
- 4.7 Granton Santoku Knife
- 4.8 4. Best Kitchen Knives
- 4.9 – Butchery –
- 4.10 Boning Knife
- 4.11 Fillet Knife
- 4.12 Cleaver
- 5 C. Best Kitchen Knives
- 6 – Cool to Have –
- 7 Other Specialty Kitchen Knives
So, What are the Best Kitchen Knives?
A.Best Kitchen Knives
– Basic Knives –
Basic kitchen knives are divided in three categories that define the process they are used for. Chopping, paring and slicing are the three methods you will mostly encounter in your cooking endeavors. There’s probably a knife for every ingredient. Here we will show you what are the basic knives a home cook should have, in order to easily accomplish any task.
It is pretty obvious that there’s a long way from peeling an onion to chopping one. So, in order to make a cook’s life easier, different knives with different shapes and sizes were made. In order to peel an ingredient you will use a short blade because it’s easier to handle when holding it in your hand.
Differently when chopping you want a wide blade for a larger contact surface and added weight. Slicing, on the other hand, requires a long and narrow blade so that a straight cut can be achieved with any thick ingredient.
For example you won’t use a chef’s knife to cut a slice of thick roast of beef. The chef’s knife has a shorter and wider blade than a slicing knife. In this case, because it is wide the sides of the cut will stick to the blade and because it’s shorter too much blade movement is needed in order to fully slice through. This will result in a uneven slice of beef.
Ok, so what are the four basic knives that any kitchen should have?
1. Pairing knife:
The pairing knife is an indispensable tool in the kitchen. Because of it’s small blade size you have a high level of control. Thus it can be used for elaborate work. Mostly for peeling and cutting fruits and vegetables, the paring knives are the best kitchen knives for most utility work.
There are many types of paring knives. For example the chef’s paring knife, sheep’s foot, bird’s beak, wavy edge, clip point or boning knife but all you need is a basic paring knife. With exception of the bird’s beak knife any other type will do for basic tasks. The best one for you is the one that you feel most confident with.
2. Slicing knife:
For slicing you will need two types of knives. One will be used for ingredients with crunchy or hard exteriors and soft interiors and one for basic slicing. Imagine cutting a slice of bread with a normal slicing knife. To cut through the crunchy bread crust you have to apply pressure so it will result in a slice with a squished interior.
By using a serrated knife, only friction needs to be applied in order for the blade to cleanly slice through. On the other hand when slicing a large piece of meat, you’ll avoid a serrated knife blade as it will rip the meat and produce an uneven cut.
For a basic slicing knife I suggest you look for a Granton edge knife. A Granton edge means that both sides of a knife blade have scallops on. These indentations allow air to pass between the blade and the cut in order for the slice to stop sticking. You’ll have a perfect, thin slice every time.
3. Chopping knife:
There are a range of knives used for chopping. The most common is the chef’s knife but you also have variations depending on the ingredient you cut.
The Japanese deba knife gyuto, nakiri, santoku or a simple cleaver are also used for chopping. Their size weight and shape is adapted for the job in hand. From vegetables to bones, a chopping knife will increase in size and weight depending on what you want to cut. As the Japanese knives have thinner blades with a sharper edge angle, they are perfect for cutting vegetables. On the other hand a cleaver will be very good when cutting bones.
To get the best out of both worlds we suggest you get a European chefs knife as your basic chopping knife. A European chef’s knife is very good when chopping vegetables but it can also handle small bones.
B. Best Kitchen Knives
– Make Cooking Easier –
1. Best Paring Knives:
There are three paring knives that make your life easier. These are, the standard, bird’s beak and fillet paring knives. These kitchen Knives have the basic size of 2 to 4 1/2 inches but different shapes. The shapes vary to best suite you when either slicing small vegetables, peeling an onion or doing precise butchery.
Now, the standard or utility paring knife was covered in Basic Knives and the Fillet Paring knife will be covered in the Butchery section. This only leaves us with the Bird’s Beak Paring knife.
Asking yourself what this odd shape knife is good for?
Basically, because the edge of the blade is curved inside, it helps you shape or peel round fruits or vegetables. Also because the tip of the knife ends in a sharp angle, it’s really good for scoring.
When peeling an orange for example you first cut the top off. Then you score wedges of orange peel trying not to damage the fruit. The Bird’s Beak knife will help you achieve this. Both the round cut for the orange top and for scoring the peal in wedges.
Why is the Bird’s Beak the Best Kitchen Knife for this process?
Imagine, because of its shape the bird’s beak blade will only cut around the fruit. The blade will not penetrate too far. Also, the tip is sharp enough for you to score a wedge of orange peel with confidence. This applies to kiwi and onions or any round fruit or vegetable that needs peeling.
Also, in case you want to carve vegetables or create small decorations from round ingredients this knife is best. Maybe you really feel the need to impress and want to make a vegetable tourné. This cut requires you to create 7 sides to a vegetable in the shape of a football. A standard paring knife can also be used but it will be much easier with a tourné knife. Or maybe you want to make a rose out of a apple or tomato peel. Again the birds beak paring knife is best for the job.
2. Best Slicing Knives:
There are five slicing knives that will definitely make your life easier and your food look perfect. The two must have knives, the bread and slicing knife, we’ve presented in basic knives.
Now, why so many Kitchen knives for only one process?
As the name implies, a slicing knife is used for slicing ingredients. Ingredients with hard exterior and soft interior, thick roasts, poultry or perfect slices of fish. There’s a knife that makes every process easier and the result perfect.
The Carving Kitchen Knife
Different from a slicing knife that has a rounded tip, a carving knife is shorter and ends in a triangular shape. It’s not as good for slicing boneless roasts as a long slicer which will cut a perfect slice with only one cut but will surely be helpful in tighter spots.
A carving knife will be your friend in case you want to portion any meat that still has bones. The knife ends in a triangular tip sometimes a bit elevated, that makes it bad for slicing as the tip can pierce your meat. But, perfect for carving slices around bones, as you can use that tip to get around them. The carving knife will make your life easier when serving a roast chicken to friends and family.
Japanese Slicing Knives – Sashimi Kitchen Knife
Different to European knives, Japanese blades are mostly single side grind. As European knives are grind in a “V” shape, the Japanese kitchen blades have a straight edge and only one side is angled. This is makes these the best kitchen knives for precise cuts of vegetables and fish.
For example when making a cut in a thick, hard vegetable a “V” shaped blade will most certainly move a bit and the resulting cut will not be perfectly straight. Differently a single grind helps in keeping the blade straight when slicing. The angled side will help displace the slice while the straight side will keep your blade on the path you choose. If you intend on doing precise cuts in vegetables and fish for awesome presentations a single grind sashimi knife will surely make your life easier.
Mezzaluna means half moon in Italian in this case reflecting the shape of the blade. Two handles are positioned on each end with an exterior cutting edge. The knife is held with both hands and is used in a rocking motion. Thus making them the best kitchen knives for chopping greens like parsley, dill, basil or any greens the will otherwise get all over your cutting board.
Gather your greens in a pile then use the mezzaluna in a rocking motion on top of them. This really makes chopping easier and a lot faster.
Granton Santoku Knife
As we’ve showed you before a granton blade helps with cutting ingredients that are prone to sticking. To avoid this, the granton indentation in the blade will help to easily get the slices off your knife. Imagine cutting slices of onion (julienne) with a normal blade. It really gets annoying when you have to take each slice of onion off.
Why a Santoku?
When thinking of chopping harder ingredient the best blade will be a heavier blade as the increased weight will make you use less muscle force. At the same time Japanese knives are best for cutting vegetables as they have a high edge angle, thus easily cutting through. So a granton santoku will be your best friend when chopping onion or other hard ingredients that are prone to sticking.
4. Best Kitchen Knives
– Butchery –
If you plan on doing any butchery, and you should, here are three knives that will surely make your life easier in the kitchen.
Typically a boning knife is used for removing bones from meat. Different from a fillet knife where you take the meat off the bones, but we will cover that shortly.
A boning knife is a must have in case you want to remove small bones. This knife is best when trying to remove the wishbone from a chicken or when cleaning the connective tendons and meat from the ribs of a rack of lamb. Thus a boning knife should have a narrow blade but, be less flexible than a fillet knife and have a straight tip.
Now, the size of a boning knife varies between 5 and 6 inches. Because the hardest work, you’ll most probably do as a beginner, will be cutting around tight areas, we suggest you buy a small, 5 inch knife for better handling.
A fillet knife looks almost the same as a boning knife with just a few differences. First, a fillet knife ranges between 4 to 9 inches. Basically a bit longer than a boning knife.
Second, your fillet knife should have a thinner blade for increased flexibility. You need this when removing meat off curved bones or when skinning fish. Third, a fillet knife should have a softly upward pointing, sharp tip for easy piercing.
The size range is pretty wide but taking into account that it is easier to skin a wide fillet of fish with a longer knife than a shorter we suggest you buy a 7.5 inch knife to make your life easier when filleting or skinning.
Last but not least, the cleaver, is a must have in a well equipped kitchen. OK, we know we’ve said before that you can use your European chef’s knife for chopping small bones. But what if you have a Japanese chef’s knife? Or, if the bones are not so small?
A cleaver always comes in hand when you try to cut through bones. So, don’t chip or nick your chef’s knife, get a cleaver!
Cleavers are basically used by chopping in a single motion or by pressing on the back of the blade. Thus the weight of the cleaver is most important. By having a light cleaver you’ll have to use more force when using any technique and that could be dangerous.
At the same time a very heavy cleaver can also be dangerous as that weight will get you tired and thus loose coordination of your hand. Cleavers range between 1/2 – 2 pounds or even more for heavy duty work. We suggest you pick a cleaver that is around 1 pound for a average weight to use ratio. But keep in mind you have to feel comfortable with it in order to stay safe.
C. Best Kitchen Knives
– Cool to Have –
In this section I want to show you some of the best kitchen knives that are “cool to have”. These do make your life easier but can be replaced with the ones presented before. We will show you the tools with their characteristics and qualities alongside with the knife that can replace them.
Deveiner Kitchen Knife
The deveiner is a knife used for removing the shrimps colon (vein). There are a few models around from curved knife type deveiners to plastic models. But if you don’t have one, a simple paring knife will do. It is true that with a deveiner/peeler around you’ll work much faster and easier. But honestly now, do you plan on peeling pounds of prawns every day?
The knife type deveiner is used by inserting it in the bodyside end of the prawn tail and by slowly moving it like a can opener along the back. The knife opens an incision, a couple of millimeters deep in the prawn, making it easy to peel and devein.
The plastic models are just inserted on the same side and pushed through the whole length of the prawn. The deveiner passes through the colon channel cleaning it with one move.
Now all of this can be achieved with a simple paring knife. Clean the shell of the prawn, set it on the cutting board on one side and make an incision 1 or 2 millimeters on the back of the tail. You will then be able to see the vein and easily remove it.
There are many types of oyster knives. Probably there is one type for every region where oysters grow. Different knives for different types of oyster but basically all have the same characteristics. They help with the process of shucking an oyster.
When trying to open an oyster you have to know the anatomy of one and you will understand the characteristics of the knife and process. An oyster has a bottom cup shaped shell and a flat top shell. The wide side where it opens is called the mouth and the narrow side where the two shells come together is called the hinge.
Basically the oyster sticks to the shell in three spots, the hinge, the top and the bottom side of the shell. The hinge is the hardest part of the joining tendon and the narrowest side of the oyster making it pretty hard to pop open. Thus, oyster knives are stiff and narrow. Second, you have to apply some force when sticking your blade in the hinge between the two shells. So, most knives have a shield on the handle and a blunt tip to reduce the chance of hurting yourself.
After you’ve popped it open scrape the top and bottom shell and your done. If you don’t have an oyster knife, an old, blunt paring knife will do. Or, I find that a small flat-blade screwdriver works magic when shucking a oyster.
Other Specialty Kitchen Knives
Trimming, fluting, grapefruit and chestnut knives can be easily replaced by a paring knife. Everything might work best with these kitchen knives but do you really need them?
Well, It depends on how much of trimming, decorating or eating grapefruit and chestnuts you plan on doing. Thus we recommend on getting some skills with your paring knife and you won’t really need any.
Best Cheese Kitchen Knives
For breaking or slicing hard cheese a parmesan, cheese slicer or hard cheese knife is required. Very useful equipment if you plan on opening a cheese business. But if you only plan on buying small slices to use in your cooking, this equipment becomes somewhat irrelevant.
Let’s take a look at the parmesan knife. The parmesan knife is used to break smaller pieces of parmesan cheese from a large wheel. The knife is commonly used by pressing it inside the cheese from side to side in order for the cheese to break on a predetermined cut. I imagine you won’t buy a 84 lb. wheel of parmesan soon right? So then if you intend to break smaller pieces from a slice, a paring knife is everything you need.
On the other hand, you will mostly use shaved or grated parmesan in your cooking endeavors so a chef’s knife and a simple kitchen grater will do the job. Same goes for the cheese slicer which can be mostly replaced with a vegetable peeler and the hard cheese knife which could be easily replaced by a Granton edge chef’s knife. It all depends on how much cheese cutting you are up for.
In this category the soft cheese knife and cheese wire are mostly used. The soft cheese knife is basically a serrated edge, thin and hollowed blade knife that ends in a fork like tip. Soft cheese is prone to sticking when slicing. Thus a thin blade that has holes through is required for air to pass in between the slices and easily separate them.
Although this is a very useful knife I find that a fillet knife works pretty good for this cheese. Because of it’s thin and narrow blade, the slices, will not stick to the blade too much and you can get perfect, thin cuts.
Same works for the stainless steel cheese wire. Because of it’s very low surface contact to the ingredient, the cheese wire will just slide through with almost no sticking. Although it is a great tool for perfect slices, you will still manage with a very narrow and thin blade or even better with dental floss.