Are you ready to invest in some good quality knives, but aren't sure which ones you need? Worried about keeping them sharp and storing them properly? Let me walk you through how to choose a kitchen knife for your cutting and chopping needs.
How to Choose a Good Kitchen Knife
For more details on choosing a knife, check out my Misen knife review. But here are some questions you want to ask yourself when choosing a kitchen knife.
Western style knives are sharpened on both sides and are less bevelled, giving you a slightly thicker edge. Japanese knives are sharpened on one side and are more bevelled, giving you a very thin edge.
A full tang knife is a knife that is one solid piece from the tip of the knife all the way through the handle. This makes is super sturdy. In contrast, a partial tang knife is a knife that has a blade that does not extend through the handle. This makes it more likely to break.
Flat rivets ensure that food doesn't get stuck under the rivet.
Plastic handles will melt in the dishwasher or if left too close to the stove. Wood & sturdy composite resins do much better for long term use.
In a good knife, you will find the ability to rest your hand at the back of the blade for better control and good knives have a larger, D-shaped area where your hand can rest.
Price always matters for decision making, but I will say it seems to matter a little bit for quality as well. As a rule of thumb, my recommendation for high-quality expensive knives is Shun. Misen makes some great knives also. For less expensive knives, I recommend Victorinox Fibrox
How many different types of kitchen knives are there and do they really do different things?
Commonly Used Kitchen Knives
- Great all-purpose knife with a curved edge that makes rocking and chopping easier
- Range from 6-12 inches
- Misen Chef's Knife
- Shun Chef's Knife
- Victorinox Chef's Knife
- Small enough to peel fruit or cut small vegetables
- Sometimes have a curved edge to get around smaller, bumpier vegetables
- Misen Paring Knife
- Shun Paring Knife
- Victorinox Paring Knife
- Unparalleled for cutting tomatoes and other soft fruit
- Can’t really be sharpened but hold an edge for a long time
- Misen Serrated Knife
- Shun Serrated Knife
- Victorinox Serrated Knife
- Serrated edge does an incredible job of making even, smooth slices. The points
“bite” into the food, and the scalloped edges create a small vaccum to keep the food from sticking to the knife
- Can’t really be sharpened but hold an edge for a long time
- They’re also really good for cutting soft breads, tomatoes, tender pastries, big overstuffed yummy sandwiches
- Shun Bread Knife
- Mercer Bread Knife
- Good for carving large hams and roasts, turkeys, etc.
- Often sold with a carving fork
- Usually somewhat flexible to help carve but they can’t be too bendy and still cut through dense meat
- Longer blades are better for going through large roasts, but a D grip matters more since you need leverage to cut through the meat
- Shun Carving Knife
- Victorinox Carving Knife
- Can be stiff, flexible, and everything in between. The best ones are slightly flexible with a little give so you can get
- Curved thin tip makes it easier to get into small spaces and filet the meat off the bone
- Also useful for deboning fish and other delicate meats
- Shun Deboning Knife
- Victorinox Boning Knife
- Flat front edge makes it easier to make even slices than a chef’s knife
- Great for even slices for food
- Can be sold in smaller sizes than Chef’s knives so easier for smaller hands to maneuver
- Misen Santoku Knife
- Shun Santoku Knife
- Sometimes also referred to as Nigiri
- Japanese knife with great precision in cutting due to the flat even edge at the front of the knife
Commonly used Materials for Making Kitchen Knives
Stainless Steel Kitchen Knives
- It’s not entirely stain resistant. Think of it is “stains less”
- Easy to clean and inexpensive
Ceramic Kitchen Knives
- Lightweight and hold their edge forever
- Can chip if dropped or hit hard on a knife block or bone
- Should get professionally sharpened since novice sharpeners could break them
Carbon Steel Kitchen Knives
- Great knives but require a LOT of upkeep including frequent and careful sharpening
- Develops stains, discolorations and essentially a patina over time, which could be good or bad, depending on your perspective
- More likely to be found in professional/commercial kitchens than home kitchens
How to care for your kitchen knives: Dos and Don’ts
So here you are, you've chosen your favorite kitchen knives. You've made a significant investment and uou want to be sure you're taking really good care of them. Here are some easy do's and don'ts that will help you care for your kitchen knives
- Use the honing steel before each use
- Wash them immediately after using
- Use a stiff brush to wash so you don’t cut yourself
- Buy a good knife block. A good knife block has HORIZONTAL spaces, not vertical spaces. In a knife block with a vertical slot, the knife is resting on its sharp edge. No bueño.
- Invest in a good cutting board that is softer than the knife's edge.
- Set aside one day every 3 months, and sharpen all your knives with a good quality knife sharpener.
- If you feel comfortable with a whetstone, you could also use that.
- Don’t put your knives into the dishwasher. EVER. The force of the water sloshing around could make them beat against other items in the dishwasher, dulling the edges. Handles can sometimes also melt with the heat I hate handwashing. But I ALWAYS handwash my knives.
- Don’t leave them lying around unwashed. The acid in foods can eat into them, causing pitting and scarring
- Do not EVER cut on stone or a ceramic plate. You don’t want cut on anything that is harder than the knife edge, or you will dull it. Your plate will also break. Ask me how I know.
- Do not use cheap electric or manual knife sharpeners that take off metal filings off your knives
Things to keep your kitchen knives in tip-top shape
Here are a few other things I use to keep my knives in good shape.
- Work sharp knife and tool sharpener
- Japanese cutting board which is softer
- Alternatively, you may prefer a Boos Cutting board. They’re a lot heavier, but they are gorgeous and last forever with proper care
- I also like these cheap, cheerful, and very durable oxo cutting boards
- Skoy dish scrubber for a gentle but thorough scrubbing of your knives
- Kitchen Shears that come apart for thorough cleaning
Popular knife brands with links
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Originally Published September 5, 2020