If you are looking to buy kitchen knives and are wanting to know what makes up a good kitchen knife set — you should find the following helpful.
Why is this relevant? By getting to know the functions and performance of different knife types, you’ll enjoy preparing food in the kitchen the best and easiest way.
Kitchen knife buying guide
In this guide, you will find the different knives described and the qualities to look for in getting together a good kitchen knife set.
Some would say there are only five knives you need: the chef’s knife, the carving, the boning knife, the paring knife, and the serrated knife. But this may not be right for everyone. And why would you need different ones?
What is a good kitchen knife set?
A good kitchen knife set would at least cover the fundamental needs in the kitchen. There are five knives you need if you simply want to cover the basics:
- a chef’s knife
- a carving knife
- a utility knife
- a paring knife
- a bread knife
– an all-purpose broad and heavy-bladed knife. The top chef knives are curved for rocking on the cutting board and are between 6 and 12-inch in length. This will be something you use every time you cook.
– A Japanese type of chef’s knife but with a rounded nose. It’s useful for thinly slicing meat, seafood, cheese, fruit, and vegetables.
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– A knife for carving meats including roasts. This one is typically longer and narrower than a chef’s knife.
Utility or Boning
– a knife in between a chef and a paring knife in size. Usually between 4.5 and 8 inches in length. Great for folks who feel they want a smaller knife than a chef’s knife but not quite as small as a paring knife.
– A small useful knife for fine work in decoration or for peeling fruit and mincing herbs and garlic.
– serrated edge for cutting through bread crust without bruising the soft inside part. Also good for slicing tomatoes and lemons or peeling pineapples or melons.
What knives do I need – if looking to buy only three
If the choice was limited to three knives, consider these…
- a chef’s knife (or a carving knife)
- a utility knife
- a serrated bread knife
You could choose the carving knife over the chef’s knife. It depends on how much carving of roasts and meats you do and your preference here.
You can get away with using a utility knife for paring and while the serrated knife is a must for slicing bread, I find I use mine quite a lot for other things. It’s purely a preference.
Other knives useful in the kitchen
It’s worth adding in the following…
I do like my cheese knives. We enjoy cheese and crackers with drinks when entertaining or just chilling. Cheese knives are best for parting the cheeses and serving them from cheese boards.
Another knife we have in our kitchen is a cleaver. I find the weight of the cleaver is practical for helping to finely chop herbs and nuts.
A set of good steak knives is a must if you want to enjoy dining on a juicy steak or chops at the table.
There are lots of knives to choose from and consider for your kitchen. This graphic shows twelve.
How do you pick a good knife set?
Buying a set of really good kitchen knives starts with knowing features and purposes. What to look for in a good knife set…There are some main design elements and personal preferences to consider:
- Sharpness that lasts – look for quality steel or ceramic
The quality will set knives apart. Knives that sharp make preparation work easier and those that retain their sharpness for longer will give you more satisfaction. Ceramic and steel are materials used in knife blades. If the blade is steel, what grade of steel is it? Good quality stainless steel won’t rust, neither will ceramic. Ceramic blades are said to stay sharpest for the longest.
- Knives that are well-balanced – how does it feel in your hand
The way the knife feels in your hand affects your enjoyment and the efficiency of using it. A well-balanced knife is best – one with weight evenly distributed. It’ll mean better cutting and less exertion by you.
- Consider grip and hygiene
Rubber or plastic handles are typically molded for ergonomics. They are hygienic but may be slippery when wet and break down with time. Handcrafted wooden handles look stylish and offer better grip making them pleasing to hold. However, watch for grim build-up. You’ll need to keep these out of water and oil from time to time. Overall, you’ll want the handle to feel comfortable and secure when doing its job. Knuckle clearance is important as well, especially with chef’s knives.
- The function of the knives
If you are looking for precision slicing, for example, look for those that stay ultra sharp and lightweight (like the ceramic types) to provide the easy fine-slicing of things like tomatoes or fillets of fish.
- Compare prices
Looking for the best knives for the money? Some good quality kitchen knife sets are available on the market. Sets range in price, from low to high, so there are options for everyone’s budget. What’s a good knife price? You’ll find knife sets under 100 dollars and just over, with affordable ones at around about $10-50. What you choose depends on how much you want to invest and the quality you are prepared to accept.
- Think about the size and the quantity you need
What do you need for everyday cooking? There are various styles, sizes, and the number of pieces in a set. The types of knives you choose will depend on what you mostly prepare.
Japanese kitchen knives
Japanese knives are popular right now. The traditional Japanese knives are chisel ground with bevelling on one side.
Styles that are available in ceramic include the Gyuto – a chef’s knife for professional Western cuisine, and the Santoku (sahn-toh-koo) – a general purpose kitchen knife that’s flatter than the Gyuto and with a rounded tip. Both are hugely popular.
Other Japanese knives, available in stainless steel include:
- Sashimo bocho – group of thin knives used in slicing raw fish and seafood
- Nakiri bocho – home use for chopping vegetables
- Usuba bocho – professional use for chopping vegetables
- Deba bocho for cutting fish
You’ll find a range of Japanese knives at Amazon at varying prices — See details here.
Bottom line on what makes a good kitchen knife set?
All the best kitchen knife reviews will recommend you consider your style of cooking and how much you are prepared to spend for quality and performance you will be satisfied with.
You’ll want to consider the design of the knife, and naturally, your budget because you’ll want the best knives for the money you can afford.
For the home kitchen, start with the basics, as a minimum. You will want, at least, a good knife for chopping, slicing, and carving.
You might like to check out my review of ceramic knives. Adding at least one ceramic knife will complete your collection. It will give you that ultimate sharpness when you need it in preparing finely sliced foods for the table and in decorating platters.
I also cover the best way to store sharp knives.
Popular Science: How knives are made