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Kitchen cutlery is available in many configurations and sets to meet the needs of the individual chef or cook as well as the entire family's culinary utensil needs. A few of the most used knives in any kitchen cutlery set are the chef's knife, a paring knife and a bread knife. A slicing knife and steak knives often round out the collection. Professional kitchen cutlery often comes with a locking case, wooden storage block or a protective cloth bag to store the knives and keep them sharp and at the ready. There are many grades of cutlery, ranging from the inexpensive department store collections to professional-grade sets costing as much as a family car and all prices in between.
For a professional chef, a kitchen cutlery set is as important as a mechanic's tools or an artist's paints and brushes. Each individual knife has its intended purpose, and most cooks would not dare the use the incorrect knife to perform a given task. The shape of the blade as well as the length and the handle design dictate the use of the cutlery. The large flat and heavy blade of a cleaver would never be used to peel a peach by a professional chef when a paring knife was available. There are, however, multi-purpose utility knives often known as a chef's knife that can be used on a variety of tasks from cutting to chopping with great success.
Everyday kitchen cutlery such as forks, knives and spoons are more utilitarian serving a purpose such as feeding a family and can function just as well with a high or low price tag. Commonly, the steak knives are the first level of kitchen cutlery where quality and price go hand in hand, and it serves one best in most cases to spend a little more money in order to purchase a higher-quality knife set. The key to obtaining high-quality kitchen cutlery is found in the steel used to create the knives.
Most quality kitchen cutlery sets come pre-sharpened from the manufacturer with a very sharp edge. If used properly on a purpose-built cutting board, the knives will retain the sharp edge for a long period of time. Many chefs have learned that a pair of quality scissors will cut herbs and even break down poultry much better than a knife with less effort. For this reason, many kitchen cutlery sets now include a pair of kitchen scissors to be used exclusively for food preparation.
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