What Kitchen Knives Do I Need? Collecting the Right Cutting Edges

what kitchen knives do i need

Whether you want to upgrade your current kitchen knives or are just starting out with your very first collection – check out our comprehensive list of the most essential kitchen knives every keen home cook should own.

If you’re asking yourself “what kitchen knives do I need?”, we’ve got you covered. If you love to cook but are torn between buying a regular starter knife set or selecting individual knives to suit your culinary preferences, we certainly can help. With so many types available, it can be difficult to know what you need, but our handy guide will make it easier for you.

Determining the Ideal Ones For Your Kitchen

There are plenty of different types of knives for use in the kitchen. To help you find out which ones you really need, we’ve compiled an essential list of all of the basic must-haves for everyday use.

We’ve also added some other highly useful knives that you may like to invest in depending upon your favourite cuisines, kitchen tasks, and ingredients.

Everyday Essentials

Here are the most used, everyday essential kitchen knives. Ideally, every home cook should, at the very least, have all of the following types. If you don’t, start off with a multipurpose utility knife and build up your collection from there. Here are the knives that you basically need.

Chef’s Knife

Also known as a cook’s knife, a chef’s knife features a long, wide blade that rounds to a finely pointed tip. The widest section is across the chef’s knife heel. For all-purpose use, eight to ten-inch models are recommended, with professional and serious home cooks opting for carbon steel versions.

Best Used For

Chef’s knives are an excellent all-rounder. If you are limited on your options or slowly building up your knife collection, make a chef’s knife one of your very first purchases. Strong and sturdy, the wide blade makes it ideal for cutting a variety of thick food items, including potatoes, squash, and onions. The chef’s knife’s tapered blade design gives you a good rocking motion that is perfect for finely chopping your vegetable prep, as well as lighter items such as fresh herbs.

If you don’t have many other knives, a chef’s knife will do a good job at cutting prime cuts of meat and is suitable for most kitchen chopping tasks. However, you’ll also want to invest in one or two smaller knives, plus a dedicated carving knife to make your meal preparation easier. Although a great all-rounder, a Chef’s knife could be a little large and unwieldy for smaller items, including delicate fish and meat boning tasks.

Utility Knife

Highly practical and extremely versatile, these knives are similar in form to chef’s knives but smaller and slimmer. They range from approximately four to seven inches in length, making them longer than paring knives. Quite handy and multi-functional, you’ll find both straight and serrated-edge models.

Best Used For

Easy to handle, this type of knife is ideal for chopping small vegetables, as well as slicing meat, sandwiches, and fresh herbs. If your chef’s knife is too big for the job, but you need something larger than a paring knife, a utility knife is the one to go for.

Aside from being useful for smaller food items, utility knives are also good for precision cutting, as well as any general kitchen cutting task. If you are looking for a good multipurpose kitchen knife, this one is worth a try.

Paring Knife

peeling an appleAround 3.5 to four inches in length, paring knives are sharp and short-bladed. Thanks to their simple yet precise blade, paring knives are extremely popular and make a good choice for detailed cuts or small items. If you don’t have much experience in the kitchen, you’re much more likely to feel more comfortable with a paring knife than a chef’s knife, although they’re not suitable for all kitchen cutting tasks.

Best Used For

A paring knife is great for any intricate cutting task involving small fruits and vegetables. Ideal for peeling, mincing, and dicing, if you need to cut up or prepare small items, a paring knife is your best option. A paring knife is also useful in chopping garlic, as well as deveining prawns, and deseeding fruits.

While paring knives are highly functional, they are less suitable for cutting large or tough vegetables such as pumpkins or squash. Plus, you’d struggle to use a paring knife for carving or butchering meat.

Bread Knife

Bread knives look a lot like saws with their serrated blades. They are long, generally 8-10 inches in length, and feature a scalloped, tooth-like edge. This serrated knife will stay sharp on its own, meaning you won’t have to worry about frequent sharpening, unlike most other everyday-use knives.

Best Used For

 

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A bread knife is your best choice for cutting bread. Its long blade makes it a great tool for getting through all shapes and sizes of loaves, while the serrated edge ensures you cut through without squashing your bread flat. This is the main reason why a bread knife is on our list of essential knives that should be in every kitchen. Not convinced? Try cutting your light and airy home-baked loaf with a straight blade and you’ll soon see why a bread knife is essential.

Aside from bread, these knives are also excellent for tackling pineapples, thanks to their saw-like construction, as well as for roughly chopping chocolate. Delicate sponge cakes can benefit from being sliced with your bread knife, too. It won’t crush your cake as you slice.

Lastly, if all your knives are blunt and you’re struggling to slice a ripe tomato, grab your trusty bread knife. It might be a little too large and unwieldy, but it will slice through your tomatoes without squishing them flat.

Meat Knives

You can just about get away with the bare essentials. However, for home butchering, easy trimming, and deboning, here are the knives you need for great results.

Steak Knife

Small with serrated edges, steak knives are designed to be used at your table. Small, so they don’t look oversized with your cutlery, steak knives resemble very slim, miniature saws. Like all serrated knives, they retain their sharpness and don’t require regular sharpening.

Best Used For

While steak knives are designed to be used at your dining table, we wanted to include them in this round-up as they can be really handy in the kitchen. Like a bread knife, their serrated edge makes them a great choice for softer items, as well as all-purpose general cutting tasks.

If you are short on good kitchen knives, don’t think twice about using a good quality steak knife to help you out with small soft items or for rough cutting tasks (for example, cubing cheese, coring apples, trimming off meat fat, etc). While there are other more specialised knives, they can really be handy behind the scenes as well as invaluable at the table.

Carving Knife

Instantly recognisable with a long, slim blade, carving knives are also known as slicing knives. One of the longest knives, they typically measure between 8-15 inches in length. And thanks to its slim blade, there is less drag as you slice.

Best Used For

Your carving knife is best put to use slicing meat, especially large roasts. Its length makes it ideal for large cuts of meat, while the sharp blade and slim profile help to ensure uniform slices. Aside from family dinner joints and Christmas turkey, your carving knife can also come in useful for cutting thin slices of fruit or vegetables.

While they are excellent at slicing dense, cooked meats such as hams, bear in mind that they are not suitable for small precision tasks or cleaving meat bones. If you want thin, regular slices, then a carving knife is absolutely essential.

Boning Knife

Extremely sharp, thin, and long, a boning knife will easily stand out from your entire collection. Designed to cut where other knives can’t, its extra-sharp, fine tip can help you to save a lot of time. And though boning knives are not traditionally seen as essential kitchen knife, their usefulness has earned a rightful place in our list of top kitchen collection.

 

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Best Used For

Designed to work around bones, cutting through ligaments, and making deep cuts through connective tissue, boning knives make deboning your meat so much easier. A good boning knife will make light work of tricky cuts, thanks to its excellent manoeuvrability and sharpness.

Why do you need one? Deboning meat is a good choice when you want a faster cooking time, as bones take longer to heat through than flesh. If you have a decent boning knife, you won’t mind quickly prepping your meat with it. This could save you a lot of money in the long run as fully butchered meat tends to cost quite a bit more. You could even buy whole cuts of meat and use the offcuts for various dishes, the bones for stocks, as well as making sure you get the best prime cuts just how you like them.

Cleaver

Meat cleavers, also known as butcher’s knives, are thick-bladed, heavy knives. Their flat, rectangular-shaped blade can vary in size. All versions have a sharp tip, while most also feature a hole for hanging up when not in use. With their substantial weight and sharply bevelled edge, cleavers are amongst the heaviest, widest knives in the kitchen.

Best Used For

meat cleaverCleavers are designed to split thick meats from the bone, as well as breaking through bones themselves. The sharp tip allows you to easily cut through flesh, while the weight of the knife itself really helps to get cleanly through connective tissue and bones.

Typically used for preparing whole cuts of beef, pork, and chicken, you can also use your cleaver to tackle large fruit and vegetables, as well as using small cleavers for fast, rough dicing of hard fruit and vegetables.

Fish Knives

Don’t struggle to prepare fish without a specialised knife. You’re likely to destroy the fragile flesh, miss bones, and take a lot longer than necessary. Here are the knives you need in your knife block set to easily prepare fish at home.

Filleting Knife

Highly flexible with a very long, thin blade, a filleting knife is definitely a must-have if you are looking to prepare fish at home. Its supple, sharp blade is essential for adeptly slicing through delicate fish, enabling you to remove bones without destroying the filet. Similar in appearance to your boning knife, filleting knives are even thinner and more flexible.

Best Used For

Use your filleting knife horizontally to cut through your whole fish, removing the backbone and detaching perfect fillets. It is also an invaluable aid for skinning fish and can also be used for delicate cuts of meat.

Salmon Knife

Slim and sharp, salmon knives have flexible blades with double edges. They are also noticeably long and often feature indentations along the blade edge to reduce drag for a cleaner cut. If you enjoy fish and want to prepare larger species, a salmon knife is a must.

Best Used For

Aside from salmon, these knives can be used for most larger fish. Ideal for slicing, filleting, and skin removal, they are essential for slicing regular cuts of smoked salmon.

Santoku Knife

slicing meat with a santoku knifeA santoku knife is another popular multi-tasker to have in your set of knives. Japanese in origin, it features sharp, straight edges and a flat dimpled knife blade. Its full name, Santoku bōchō, translates to “three uses”. It features a sheepsfoot tapered blade that curves down to a drop point.

Best Used For

Particularly useful for preparing raw fish, the dimpling minimises any sticking, while the sharp drop point allows for greater precision. They are also a great choice for rapidly chopping up vegetables, while their wide blade helps to carry your chopped up ingredients over to your pan or bowl. Efficient, easy to handle, and great all-rounders, we highly recommend adding a santoku knife to your collection.

Vegetable/Fruit Knives

While your chef’s, paring, and utility knives all make great work of most fruit and vegetables, here are our top three knives that make excellent additions to your current collection.

Tomato Knife

Tomato knives are lightweight and easy to handle, thanks to their short length of around 6-7 inches long. Due to their serrated blade, they can cut through even very ripe tomatoes without crushing the flesh. Forked versions are highly distinctive and have the advantage of enabling you to use the tip to remove the cut slices.

Best Used For

A tomato serrated knife is specifically designed for slicing tomatoes, although any small soft, easily crushed ingredient will also benefit from being sliced with one. For example, you can use this type of knife blade to slice very ripe fruit or for hulling strawberries without risking deformation as the serrated edge penetrates quickly with a minimum of pressure.

You may be thinking that a tomato serrated knife is far from essential, after all, the side of the blade of any sharp knife will cut through a fresh tomato. However, you should bear in mind that slicing tomatoes is one of the main culprits for the rapid blunting of your straight cutting edge knives. The high acid content in tomato juice corrodes the blade, leading to early blunting.

Also, as the best quality knives are fairly expensive, we think it makes sense to pick one up to keep your other knives in top condition. Using a tomato knife instead will save your other knives from losing their edge and requiring more frequent knife maintenance.

Peeling Knife

Thanks to their sheepsfoot design, peeling knives are sharp and easy to handle, with a reduced risk of stabbing yourself when peeling. The short, rigid, curved edge of the blade is straight and extremely sharp, making it a fantastic addition to home knife sets.

Best Used For

Use your peeling knife to remove the skin from vegetables and fruits. Not only reserved for potatoes, your peeling knife can also slice through thick skins, such as citrus fruits. This makes it an ideal choice for zesting.

Nakiri Knife

Japanese nakiri knives have straight edges and measure approximately 5-7 inches in length. They are very similar in appearance to small meat cleavers but thinner and lighter. With their broad rectangular form, this slicing knife provides a forceful downward chopping motion as opposed to the rocking back and forth motion you get from a chef’s knife.

 

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Best Used For

Given its chopping force, a nakiri is a great slicing knife, perfect for getting through large, hard vegetables such as sweet potatoes. Thanks to their large, flat blade, they are also a suitable choice for evenly slicing through large lettuces or cabbages, as well as finely slicing all vegetables for salads or stir-frys.

Summary

Having the right types of knives for the task at hand will make easy work of all your chopping needs in the kitchen. When you have the right equipment, home cooking is so much more pleasurable and you are more likely to feel inspired to try out new recipes and different cooking styles. Whether you want to upgrade an absolute essential or to add a different style kitchen knife to your growing collection, a new one can definitely inspire you to broaden your culinary horizons.

We hope we have answered the question “what kitchen knives do I need” and you’re feeling a little less lost in this decision-making process. Of course, you could always buy a knife block set which may include everything you need. Let us know which types of knives you have in your kitchen!

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