The right kitchen knife set provides smooth and precise cuts, which can make your time in the kitchen easier, safer, and more efficient. Nothing will make you feel more like a professional chef than a set of high-quality knives that deliver clean cuts and perfect slices. (Plus, they’ll feel great in your hands because of the comfortable handles.)
“Delicious cuisine comes from the knowledge and sensibilities of an excellent chef, and an excellent chef chooses excellent tools,” says Iverson Guo, head chef and owner of Karma Asian Fusion in Burlington, Massachusetts. “For culinary purposes, look for brands that are reputable for sharpness, long useable life, and ease of sharpening.”
As it relates to cooking Japanese cuisine and sushi, Iverson suggests avoiding any type of stainless blade sushi knife, and recommends a carbon steel (blue steel) instead. He adds, “Other key elements to proper knife selections consumers should focus on are making sure the weight of the knife is ideal for the chef, it varies by person—not too light, but not too heavy—and must be right for cutting.” Iverson notes that the material of the handle—especially for sushi—is also important.
Though some people purchase knives based on how they look, that could be a huge mistake. “The most important aspect of selecting a knife and/or knife set is the comfort for the user and would you love to use these knives,” explains Greg Frey Jr., chef at Golden Door in San Marcos, California. “The best, most wonderful knife in the world is worthless if it just sits in the drawer because it’s uncomfortable, clunky, heavy, or is just not an enjoyable tool.” Greg views his knives as extensions of his own limbs.
According to Mat Schuster, chef and owner of Canela in San Francisco, the decision should be based on what type of kitchen knives you’ll use the most, and which ones feel comfortable to you. But, if you’re a home cook—not a professional chef—how do you figure out what should be in your kitchen knife set?
“First, I recommend a chef’s knife (pointed end) or a santoku (blunt end) as your primary knife,” he explains. They can be anywhere from 6 to 14 inches in length, and he advises holding them to gauge how they feel in your hands. A good chef’s knife can be used for everything from cutting and disjointing meat to chopping nuts to dicing vegetables.
Next, Mat recommends a paring knife for more intricate tasks, like peeling fruits and mincing small veggies. “Your set should also include a serrated knife (it has scalloped edges), which is around eight inches in length, and is good for slicing a loaf of bread, whole citrus fruits and tomatoes, and even layer cakes.”
Mat doesn’t think a boning knife is necessary, but insists that a utility knife—which has a thin blade and is approximately six inches long—could come in handy. It’s ideal for general culinary needs and is not as imposing as the large chef’s knife. He also recommends scissors, adding that a good pair of kitchen shears is a great kitchen tool, and they’re used routinely in his restaurant.