Have you ever prepared a meal from scratch and not used a knife or two? It’s unlikely. Knives are undoubtedly the most important and a most used kitchen utensil. When you have a good set of kitchen knives, or cutlery, you will find that preparing meals is much easier and more enjoyable.
Did you know that a good quality knife set has the potential to last you a lifetime? Granted, a set of knives with such superior quality will not be inexpensive. However, you get what you pay for with kitchen knives. You should always buy the best set you can afford. In the long run you will spend less money because you will not need to replace your knives every couple of years.
TIP: Buying knives in a set is generally less expensive than buying several knives individually.
A high quality knife set from a major manufacturer usually includes all the basic knives along with a knife block or holder for storage. If you need to purchase more specific knives in the future to complete the basic set you’ll be able to do that. If you lose or break a knife you also have the option to have the knife replaced or purchase a new one. Many manufacturers, such as CUTCO offer lifetime guarantees on their knifes.
Most knife sets will contain the following knives:
Chef’s Knife - Has a triangular blade that ranges from 6 to 12 inches long. Used for slicing, dicing and chopping. This is the knife that is used the most when preparing meals. Also called a cook’s knife.
Paring knife - Has a blade that is approximately 3 inches long and is about 3/4 of an inch wide. Probably the second most-used kitchen knife. Used to peel apples and other fruits and vegetables. Also used to slice, dice, and chop foods too small for the chef knife.
Serrated knife - Long knives are used to slice bread without mashing it. Shorter paring knives are used for slicing tomatoes and other soft fruits and vegetables.
Utility knife - Has a blade around 6 inches long. Smaller than the chef knife and can be used for many purposes in the kitchen.
Just the four knives above can make up a good starter set. There are also a multitude of specialty knives that can be added over time.
Chefs and serious cooks normally choose fine edge knives due to the weight and feel. The blade is very sharp which allows for precision cutting. Fine edge knives will require some maintenance however, such as steeling.
Knives that never need sharpening are a good choice for most people who cook for themselves and their families on a daily basis. Knives that never need sharpening will not make the same precision cuts as fine edge knives, but they retain their sharpness over time. These knives are excellent if you are seeking basic quality at reasonable prices.
The type of steel used in knife blades is one of the most important factors in choosing a knife set. The majority of knives are manufactured with a blend of high carbon stainless steel that will resist rust and corrosion. The tang is the part of the knife in which the metal is attached to the handle. The best knives will have a tang in which the metal extends to the end of the handle. Knife blades are normally tapered at the edges to allow for easier sharpening.
In purchasing a knife set, you will need to know the difference between stamped and forged. Forging is the process of taking a heated piece of metal and grinding it into the shape of a blade. Stamped blades are cut from a single sheet of metal and pressed into a blade. Forged knives are generally heavier than stamped knives, giving you better quality.
Quality knives are balanced and feel good in the cook’s hand. The knife should be easy to handle and feel solid. A good knife should feel like an extension of your hand and allow adequate space between where your fingers grip the knife and the surface on which you are cutting.