What knives do I really need in the kitchen?


The workhorse of your kitchen, knives can last you a lifetime, so it’s worth investing in quality. I inherited my grandmother’s carbon steel chef knife, which keeps a clean edge to this day, one better than some of my newer knives. Carbon steel stains, however and must be looked after properly, so I would not recommend buying one.

Knives come in all sizes and prices. A bare bones set should include a chef’s knife, a small serrated-edge knife and a paring knife. There are dozens of additions you can make, such as a good slicer, a boning knife, a cleaver, a santoku or a long serrated edge bread knife.

Buying knives is highly personal. It is about the feel in your hand and the price you want to pay but don’t skimp on this important kitchen tool.

As more couples and families cook together, I would suggest buying two quality knives: a standard chef’s knife and a santoku, or Japanese chef’s knife. These are the basis for all good kitchen work. They will chop, dice, mince, slice, take apart a chicken or clean a fish. I find the 8-inch length for a chef’s knife and 7-inch for a Santoku works for most hands, but it is a matter of personal preference.

Some brands will feel more comfortable than others. Try holding several until you find one that feels right. Keep your knife sharp, as it will bruise the food it’s cutting if it is dull and you are more likely to cut yourself.

One of my favourite knives is a Japanese santoku with a rounded end, more like a cleaver. I find it efficient for most tasks and mine has hollows cut into the knife blade, which is known as a Granton edge. I find that it picks up food more easily to be transferred to a pan. My personal favourite is the Zwilling 7-inch Santoku Pro. It has a thin edge, better for slicing, and it fulfills most of my chopping, slicing and dicing needs. I like the rounded end for most tasks, although the pointed end of a chef’s knife has its uses when you are cutting up chicken or boning fish.

Serrated knives, with their tiny serrations, are used for cutting fruit, tomatoes and chocolate. Long serrated knives cut bread and cold meat. They stay sharp for a long time. And paring knives are used for paring skins off fruits and vegetables.

You’ll also need a honing steel. Run the straight-edged knives over the steel every time you use them for a perfect edge and have them professionally sharpened at least once a year.

One caveat: Do not buy a knife rack full of knives no matter what the price. You won’t use some of them, so why pay for them? Buy knives individually.