3 Must-Haves Knives for the Kitchen

For the average chef of the home, there are really only three knives that are a must-have in the kitchen: a chef’s knife, a paring knife and a bread knife.

A chef’ knife is your utility knife, your do-most-of-everything knife. Whether it is cutting, slicing, mincing, dicing, or chopping a good chef knife can do it all.  Of all your knives, this knife will be the one you hold and use the most. You should get a knife that is comfortable in your hand; get a chance to hold the knife, to feel how the knife sits in your hand before purchasing it. Chef knives usually come with a 5 to 12 inch blade. A taller person tends to use a longer blade and shorter person tends to use a shorter blade: this is not a set-in-stone rule. Remember, buying a chef knife isn’t usually about the dimensions and specs, it’s more about how it feels. You want something that is comfortable and reliable; you’ll be putting ‘more miles’ on this knife than any other knife in your kitchen.

 

For the tasks your chef knife can’t quite accomplish: Paring and some precision work are tasks your chef knife cannot accomplish well. You can try paring an apple with a chef knife, but I can tell you the end result will not be pretty. A paring knife is a useful knife to have in your kitchen. It’s used for tasks that don’t require chopping or mincing, but do require a knife. A paring knife has a 3 to 4.5″ blade. You cannot choose a bad paring knife. Most $5, $10 paring knives will do the job nicely.

 

And for those of you who eat bread, you need a bread knife. You can try using a chef knife or a paring knife to cut bread. However I can assure you that 9 out of 10 times you’ll come away with a squashed piece of bread. A good bread knife will cut through hard and soft bread with ease.

 

With these three knives you should be able to accomplish most any cutting task in the kitchen. Don’t spend the money to buy the eight or nine knives set combos. Save some money and get only what you will use: a chef knife, a paring knife and a bread knife.

Western versus Japanese

Most knife manufacturers have both the Japanese-style knives and Western-style knives. If you are looking for precision and presentation, Japanese knives have those qualities. If you are looking for quantity and ease, Western knives are the knives for you.

A Japanese knife is lighter, holds its edge longer, and its edge is cut differently than its counterpart. Japanese knives are usually made with harder steel. Which means the blade holds it edge longer (it doesn’t need to be sharpened as often) and the edge itself can be cut a steeper angle (ie 40 degrees versus 36 degrees). It is recommended that you take your Japanese blades to a professional sharpener. Japanese-style knives are more about precision and exactness.

Western knives use a softer steel. Keep in mind softer steel does not always mean inferior steel. Due to the softer steel the blades do not hold their edge as long as their Japanese counterparts, but are much easier to sharpen and are not as brittle. When held western knives have a bit more heft which can be a good thing, depending on your preferences.

It is recommended with any kitchen knife to hand wash them. Many manufacturers say their knives are dishwasher safe, but do not recommend it. Why? From what I found, erosion (or something close it) and particles in the water will eat away at the knife which can cause rust, edge chipping and/or dullness. It is also recommended to clean and dry your knife immediately after use and in between ‘cutting jobs’ to avoid staining and rusting. Yes you may have a knife that is ‘rust-resistance’. Your knife can still be susceptible to rust. Proper knife care will always lengthen the life of your knife.

Like I’ve said before in previous posts: Getting the right kitchen knife is mainly about preference. Be sure you ‘test drive’ the knife before buying it. Feel the knife in your hand. It may be tool, but it will be a tool you will use everyday. Get one that is comfortable to hold and meets your requirements. 

Below shows the anatomy of a Japanese-style knife and a Western-style knife. I had a lot of fun making this little info-graphic.

 Anatomy of a Kitchen Knife @bladehq.com

Which kitchen knife should I buy? Part 1

There are three types of consumers out there. The first is what I like to call the “blind consumer”. That consumer goes and buys this or that relying on what is said on the packaging. A typical conversation between a blind consumer and the targeted product might go like this:

Blind Consumer: “I need a kitchen knife.”

<Goes to nearest store that sells kitchen knives. Finds the knife aisle. Pulls a knife off the shelf.>

Knife Product: “Buy me! I stay sharp forever! I’m the best knife out there.”
Blind Consumer: “Ooh, it stays sharp forever. AND it’s only $9.99. I’m getting a great deal!”

<Buys the knife. Blissfully unaware of what is really inside the packaging.>

I am ashamed to admit that I fall into that category sometimes. I get pulled into the sometimes-outrageous claims that get put on the packaging. “If it’s on the packaging, it’s gotta be the truth!” The blind consumer is not the smartest of shoppers. The next category of consumer is the “skeptical consumer”. This consumer is someone who will do some research when looking to buy a product (but not much).

Skeptical Consumer: “I know I need a good kitchen knife. I don’t know much about what makes a kitchen knife good, but I’ll see what others have to say.”

<Googles: Best kitchen knife to buy.> <click>

Skeptical Consumer: “This blog raves about Wusthof knives.”

<click> ”

Skeptical Consumer: “So does this site. Hmmmm, I wonder if there are any bad things I should know of before buying.”

<Googles: Wusthof knife reviews.> <click>

Skeptical Consumer: “There are a couple bad reviews here and there, but overall Wusthof seem like a good buy.”

<Orders online or finds the nearest Wusthof retailer to purchase his new kitchen knife.>

OR

Skeptical Consumer: “My friend loves her Tojiro. I think I’ll go on her recommendation and try it out.”

The skeptical consumer knows not to rely completely on what the manufacturer claims its product will do. But he also doesn’t do serious in-depth research. He does enough research to assure himself that the product he is buying is of good value. The last category is what I like to call the “deep consumer”. She does her research. It may be months before she is ready to make a purchase. She combs through the blogs, wiki, reviews, anything that will give her the upper edge. She asks questions on blogs. She becomes an ‘expert’ or very close to one in the product she wants to buy.

Deep Consumer: “I need a quality kitchen knife. Which brands are reputable? etc.”

<Googles: Kitchen Knives, Brands of kitchen knives, etc.> <click> <click> <click>

Deep Consumer: “Hmm.. there are Japanese, German and French style knives. This is more complicated than I thought.” <Googles: style of kitchen knives, Japanese knives versus German knives, steel qualities, etc.>

<click> <click> <Googles> <more clicking>
….(weeks of research to months of research to perhaps even a year later)

Deep Consumer: “I feel confident enough to make a choice. I’m going to buy…”

I think everyone can remember falling into one or more of these categories.  Which are you? I would love to have the time to be a Deep Consumer. I think everyone would like to always be a deep consumer. Despite my desire to be the educated consumer, I can’t always afford the time to sit down and do in-depth research on a product. And so with this blog I hope I can help you, the consumer, to feel more comfortable in the world of cutlery which will hopefully help you make an educated purchase.

But I diverge…Why this huge intro when this post is suppose to be on kitchen knife brands?

There is so much information out there that I decided to divide the information in the following post: What brands are reputable and have quality knives; what the difference is between a Japanese-made knife from a German-made knife from a French-made knife; and what are the must-have knives in a kitchen; and the anatomy of a kitchen knife and how to take care of it. I thought it would be a simple task of finding the top 5 brands of kitchen knives. After doing my research, my task grew into a intricate tree of information. My research branched out from what I thought would be a simple topic to types of steel, types of edges, handle types, brands, sharpening, types of specialty knives,  etc. I still feel like I only know the bare minimum of what is cutlery.

However, I feel confident enough to say this: When buying a kitchen knife, it’s all about preference of the chef. It’s like buying a mattress. The feel of the mattress under you is oh-so more important than what brand it is. A knife is like that. If you don’t like how it feels in your hand and how it ‘drives’, then it’s not the knife for you. Like most artistic forms, it’s mainly about the feel, the touch and less about the mechanics.

Meanwhile, take a look at this  infographic. It shows you what each type of knife is used for. I find it very helpful in deciphering what’s being said when floating around the different kitchenware blogs.

 

If you're looking for Kitchen Knives…

…we recommend shopping for kitchen knives and kitchen knife needs at BladeHQ.com. These guys try so hard. JA Henckles, Kershaw, Boker, Benchmade- they have all the obscure brands no one has heard of. But just you wait- shortly their shelves will be lined with amazing brands like Al Mar, Microtech, Spyderco, Victorinox, Wüsthof and more brands you may not have heard of. Progress isn’t always pretty.

Want to learn more about the kitchen knife? Visit Wikipedia’s kitchen knife page. There’s a ton of great info on blade materials, manufacturing, edge types and grinds, handles, knife types and uses as well as some fascinating historical information. Who knew that the kitchen knife could be this interesting? Wait for it… that’s right. We did. KitchenKnife.com- dedicated to all things kitchen knife and kitchen knife related.

If there are specific kitchen products you’re interested in just drop us a line and we’ll consider adding them to our website. At some point in the near future KitchenKnife.com will open it’s own ecommerce shop filled with kitchen knives and kitchen knife accessories. For the time bring you can ship at BladeHQ.com.  Thanks for stopping by!

KKC

Welcome to KitchenKnife.com

Welcome to our website, www.kitchenknife.com. We are thrilled to occupy this spot on the web. Why? Well, because we love kitchen knives and all things kitchen knife related!* The kitchen knife is probably one of the first knives that people are exposed to. Growing up you see your parents use a kitchen knife to prepare food and you probably used one yourself while eating dinner. The knife, as people quickly discover, is a very useful tool. Individuals and companies dedicate their time, resources and mental energies to the creation and care of  incredible knives for the kitchen (as well as the outdoors).

Kitchen Knife

In any event, if you’re here it’s because you’re interested in kitchen knives. A kitchen knife is a knife which has the intended primary purpose of food preparation. Often most food preparation can be accomplished with a few simple kitchen knife variations such as the parring knife, large chef’s knife and cleaver.  However, over time dozens of variations have evolved for specific tasks. Kitchen knives can be made from any number of blade and/or handle materials. Kitchen knives can rage in price from a few dollars to many hundreds of dollars each.  From the casual kitchen vigilante to the professional Chef the kitchen knife has carved (sorry) out a home in every corner of life. And with that brief introduction, we welcome you again to www.kitchenknife.com.

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*And if you think about it, the number of kitchen knife related items is staggering. There’s knife sharpeners, kitchen blocks and chopping boards. Not to mention cutting gloves, knife bags (you know, when you need to bring your kitchen knives with you), edge protectors and electric sharpeners. And then you have your peelers, your can openers, food processors, and a whole array of related products that you’ll need to buy in connection with a kitchen knife set. And cookbooks. You’ll need a ton of cookbooks.  

KKC