What to look for
The best quality knives are forged from high-carbon, no-stain steel. Knives stamped from a single sheet of steel are generally more affordable and also work well. Regardless of the construction the blade should not bend easily, there should be some weight to it and the handle should fit your hand well. Buy the best quality knives you can afford, focusing on a few key choices that will perform many different tasks.
Skip the block
So many people have large knife blocks on their countertops, but how many of the dozen or so knives are really used? Most cooks rely on a tried-and-true few to perform the bulk of their kitchen duties. Buying your knives separately enables you to choose your favorites, regardless of whether they make a nice matched set.
Caring for your knives
Your knives will last longer and stay sharp if you hand wash them — no dishwasher, please. Make sure to dry them completely so that they don't rust. Take the time to learn the proper way to sharpen your knives yourself, or take them to a professional when they are in need of sharpening. With the proper care, your investment in quality knives will pay off.
Which knives should be on your must-have list?
Chef's knife — 8 to 10 inches
If there is only room for one knife in your kitchen tool budget, this is the one. Heavy enough to mince garlic or onions quickly — yet long enough to slice a pork roast — this is one tool no cook should be without. Choose the best you can afford, since this is the knife that will see the most game time in your kitchen. This Wusthof Grand Prix II chef's knife (Williams Sonoma, $100) is made in Germany and forged from a single sheet of high-carbon steel.
Choose a paring knife with a blade slightly longer than the traditional 3-inch blade, and this quickly becomes one of the most versatile items in your kitchen. Paring knives are commonly used for mincing garlic or shallots and peeling apples or pears, but a longer blade makes it useful for cutting cheese or fruit, even deboning chicken breasts. This Henckels 4-inch paring knife (Cutlery and More, $60) is ideal for peeling and cutting and forged from a single piece of high-carbon steel.
Serrated bread knife
Who doesn't love a loaf of crusty bread? Using your chef's knife to slice bread quickly dulls the blade, making your other cutting duties more difficult. A good bread knife is sharp enough to slice through the toughest sourdough, yet still ready to slice a tomato for your BLT. We love this Wusthof bread knife (Amazon, $49) that is tough enough to cut the crustiest loaf yet gentle enough to slice that croissant.
New kid on the block — Santoku
Think there isn't anything new on the knife scene? Think again. The Santoku is like a cross between a classic French chef's knife and a Japanese cleaver — and rapidly becoming a kitchen favorite. Good for a wide range of applications, this knife would be a welcome addition to any kitchen. This Calphalon Santoku knife (Amazon, $25) has a 5-inch blade and indentations along the blade to keep food from sticking.
This tool isn't actually a knife, but quickly becomes your kitchen's best friend. Keeping your blades sharp and ready for action is important, and with a high-quality sharpening steel you can care for your own knives efficiently. This Henckels sharpening steel (Bed Bath and Beyond, $35) will keep all of your new knives sharp and ready for action.
While you won't be carving the Thanksgiving turkey often, a nice addition to your knife collection is a carving set. Think roast chicken, spiral-sliced ham at Easter or prime rib on New Year's Eve — this isn't just a turkey tool. We found a great value in this Wusthof two-piece carving set (Williams-Sonoma, $50) which includes an 8-inch carver and a meat fork that any cook would love.
Add a few of these knives to your tool collection and watch the cooking get easier — and more fun.
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