What knives are needed for your kitchen?

This is a guest post.

In many discussions about cookware, the question about what cookware is really necessary for the kitchen comes up frequently.  Everyone likes to talk about their favorite sauce pan, skillet or even Dutch oven.  But with all of these different pots and pans, the one essential topic seldom comes into the discussion.  And that is knives.

Probably the single most important tools a chef or chefwannabee can have are good, sharp knives combined with a cutting board and a means of sharpening those knives.

Now the mixer, blenders and other appliances along with pots and pans are needed for the completion of most any recipe. But everything starts with cutting and preparing the ingredients.  So what knives do you need?

There are many to choose from and one approach is to select a good set of 6 to 8 pieces as this will provide most of what you will need.  But similar to buying sets of pots and pans, you may get some things that you either do not like or will not use much.

The thing to do is to think about the things  you like to do and how you like to work in the kitchen.  Then select the items  that match what you do.

With this in mind, I can offer a few suggestions however. Start with the three kitchen knives that cover most of our cutting tasks:

  • Chef’s knife
  • Paring knife
  • Serrated bread knife

The chef’s knife is the work horse in the kitchen and can be used for most every job.  They are available in lengths from 6 to 12 inches. But the 8 inch knife is the most popular and probably most versatile.   But get one that is comfortable and easy to manage when slicing and chopping.  The chef’s knife has a rounded edge so that it can be rocked back and forth to quickly chip things

The paring knife is shorter ranging from 3 to 6 inches.  The primary use is for peeling, slicing small items and other detailed work.  These come with either a curved or straight blade.  Select the one that fits your hand and eye bests.

The serrated bread knife has a tooth like edge that can saw through foods with a hard exterior and softer interior such as French b read but works will in slicing squash, fruits and cabbage also.  These knives usually range from 9 to 12 inches.

There are other useful knives as well such as a carving or slicing knife for meats, filet knife or the recently popular Santoku knife.  But the basic three will get you through most of the basic  activities in the kitchen.

Some useful things to remember with the use of your knives:

  • Always use a cutting board and avoid using them on hard surfaces such as glass, granite or marble.  The newer polyethylene plastic cutting boards are easier on the knives and easier to clean than even wooden options.
  • Keep you knives sharp by using a steel or stone with every use or at least once a week.  A sharp knife is safer to use than one that is dull.
  • Do not put knives in the dishwasher.  It is harsh on the surface of  the knives and there is increased danger of getting cut in getting the knives out.

Lastly, selecting good quality knives pays in the long run as they will last a lifetime with proper care.  As an example, Fissler has recently announced a great set of knives that combines German engineering with Japanese artistry.

William Sullivan is a personal chef and recommends stainless steel cookware or cast iron cookware.