Unlike many of the gadgets found in today’s kitchens, knives are essential. While there is no universally perfect knife — a knife needs to fit the cook’s hand with the right heft, balance, and grip — there are a few standouts that are good for most people. And there are a few types of knives that every kitchen needs. Then you’ll have to make the decision whether to buy each knife one by one, or opt for a knife set.
While it’s generally smarter to buy your knives individually, there are a few... times when opting for a cutlery set makes sense. If you’re starting a new kitchen, upgrading a lot of worn-out cutlery all at once, or stocking a vacation home, a set can make sense.
If you’re buying knives one at a time and you love one knife that you already own, it makes sense to look at that brand for your next knife. But don’t let that stop you from checking out various brands and comparing features. And keep in mind that all knives need to be sharpened from time to time, and should always be hand-washed to keep the blade in good shape.
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If you’re buying a knife set, look for one that has everything you could possibly need. This set includes a 4 1/2-inch paring knife, a 5-inch boning knife, a 5-inch santoku knife, a 5 1/2-inch tomato and bagel knife, a 6-inch utility knife, a 6-inch fork, a 7-inch santoku knife, an 8-inch chef’s knife, a 8-inch slicing knife, an 8-inch bread knife, eight steak knives, kitchen shears, and a dark-colored wooden knife block.
This set has one feature that makes it different from most others—the knife... block has integrated sharpeners in selected slots, so the knives get a little sharpening every time you put them in or remove them from the block. The knives are also labeled, so you can see which knife you’re grabbing before you remove it from the block.
The steak knives are made from stamped Asian steel, the other knives are made from forged German steel.
This is one of the larger knife sets available, with every knife you might need. However, if you know you won’t use all of these, there are smaller sets available as well, and at a lower price point.
02 of 08
This set has quality carbon steel knives at a budget price. It includes a 3 1/4-inch paring knife, a 3-inch peeler, a 5-inch utility knife, a 7 3/4-inch chef’s knife, and 8-inch slicing knife, a 7 3/4-inch bread knife, a 5-inch partoku, a 7-inch santoku, eight steak knives, a sharpening steel, and a wooden knife block.
The high-carbon stainless steel resists stains and is easy to sharpen, and the knives have comfort-grip black poly handles. These knives are made in China.
03 of 08
A chef’s knife is a multipurpose tool that’s a must-have in every kitchen. It’s used for chopping, mincing, and dicing. If you don’t have a slicing knife, you can use this to slice your roast, and the wide blade makes it perfect for smashing garlic before mincing.
This knife is made in Switzerland by the same company that makes Swiss army knives. They use a special tempering process that makes it easy to re-sharpen the blade when needed. It has a high-carbon stainless steel blade that is... laser-tested to ensure the best cutting edge. The handle design is patented, and has a textured, slip-resistant grip, and an ergonomic design.
Unlike more expensive knives, this does not have a full tang (meaning that the handle is in two pieces around the knife blade, which extends into the handle), but it is still well-balanced and easy to hold.
04 of 08
For some tasks, a large knife is too clunky and unwieldy. In those instances, a small paring knife is essential. This little knife is ideal for peeling fruits and vegetables, coring tomatoes and strawberries, and other tasks where the agility of a small knife is needed.
This knife has a no-stain, tapered blade and a soft, comfortable handle that’s easy to hold. This is a very affordable knife, but well made. This knife is made in China from Japanese steel.Continue to 5 of 8 below.
05 of 08
While a bread knife isn’t essential for every kitchen, if you bake your own bread or buy unsliced bread from a local bakery you know the frustration of trying to slice through a fresh loaf that has a crisp or chewy crust and a soft interior. A bread knife is designed to do exactly that, leaving you with perfect slices and a loaf that isn’t smashed in the process.
This 8-inch knife, made in Germany, is a good length for slicing through most any size of bread loaf, and the serrations grab and cut... through tough crusts easily, all while treating the soft inside of the bread gently. The synthetic handle offers good grip and balance. Besides using it for bread, this knife also works well for slicing cakes into layers, however you might want a 10-inch serrated knife if you use it frequently for 8-inch round cakes.
06 of 08
Kitchen shears aren’t just scissors that moved from the office to the kitchen—they’re serious tools for cutting everything from kitchen twine to chicken thighs. You can use them to snip delicate herbs into small pieces or even to cut your pizza.
These scissors, made in Japan, come apart for easy cleaning. The blades are made from a high-carbon, molybdenum-vanadium stainless steel for durability, and they have rubberized handles for a secure grip. The angle of the blades makes it easier to get... under food that’s lying flat on a cutting board as well.
Shun has a reputation for high-end knives with a high price, and these scissors are similarly expensive, but worth the cost for how often you’ll use them. These are designed for right-hand use and won’t be comfortable for left-handers.
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It’s great to have good steak knives, but they’re not a utensil that sees a lot of use, so these high-quality but reasonably-priced knives are a great buy. The set includes eight knives with micro-serrated edges that cut easily but never need sharpening.
Like many more expensive knives, the blade is forged from a single piece of metal and continues to the end of the handle. Each knife has three rivets to securely attach the metal to the handle. The knives have black handles that are classic... enough to match with most flatware sets, and the metal is stain-resistant. These should be hand washed.
While these don’t have the status of a brand-name knife and they don’t look flashy, they do their job well.
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A good cleaver has to be heavy enough to whack through bone and meat, and this one is designed to do just that. Dexter-Russell might not be a well-known name in home kitchens, but they are well respected and make a lot of knives and cutlery for the food-service industry. This cleaver has good balance, with a stain-free, high-carbon blade and a rosewood handle. It has a hole in the top corner of the blade so it can be hung for storage and is made in China.
If you want to use this for chopping... though meat and bone, you’ll need a heavy-duty cutting board or butcher block, or you might find that you’ve whacked and cracked your board as well.