Enhance your cooking chops with the right kitchen knives

December 16, 2014

A set of knives is an essential component of any kitchen. You may need a few or many, depending on your cooking style and expertise.

Types of knives

Kitchen knives come in a variety of styles suited for different purposes.

Chef knife: A good all-around knife for larger chopping chores. It has a heavy spine and a broad blade that curves up towards the tip to allow you to rock the knife when chopping items finely. Chef’s knives have blades six to 12 inches long.

Carving knife: At eight to 14 inches long, the blade on this knife is designed to cut cleanly through meats. It doesn't work well for chopping.

Boning knife: It features a long narrow blade that curves upward at the tip so that you can slide it between bones and meat.

Paring knife: The short handle and pointed blade on this knife is designed to peel and cut fruits and vegetables.

Utility knife: Its all-purpose serrated blade is slightly longer than that of a paring knife and best for slicing tomatoes or other soft fruits and vegetables.

Bread knife: It has a long serrated or scalloped blade that slices through tough crusts and soft bread with a sawing motion.

Kitchen knife features

  • Edge: Most knives have a double-bevel edge, so they can be used by left and right-handed people. They're all measured in degrees where a higher degree blade is stronger but less sharp.
  • Bolster: The bolster is a thick band of steel found on forged blades between the handle and the top of the blade. It balances the blade and prevents slipping.
  • Handle: The handle should feel comfortable and easy to grip. Hardened plastic, untreated wood or rubber are the best materials for handles because they’re easy to grip when wet.
  • Tang: This is the part of the blade inside the handle. A full tang is a solid piece with two handle pieces pinned on either side. A half tang runs the length of the handle but half of its width.
  • Knife block: A knife set will often come with a knife block for storage. Look for knife blocks that are heavy and well-balanced.
Enhance your cooking chops with the right kitchen knives

Factors to consider when buying kitchen knives

Carbon or stainless steel: Carbon is what makes blades strong, but high carbon blades can be brittle and subject to rust. Ideally, you’ll want a stainless steel, high carbon blade to balance strength and rust prevention. Low carbon stainless steel knives tend to dull quickly but are more affordable.

Stamped or forged: Forged knives are created by beating a single piece of metal into the proper shape. They’re more expensive, but are stronger and better balanced. Stamped blades are more affordable, made by pouring metal into a mold. They're more likely to bend and dull quickly.

Well-constructed knives are worth the investment. It’s better to buy a couple of high quality kitchen knives that you’ll use every day than a set of poor quality ones you’ll use less frequently.

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