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What Should I Consider When Buying Kitchen Knives?

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  • Written By: A Kaminsky
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 25 September 2016
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One thing most cooks will want in their kitchens is a good set of kitchen knives. Kitchen knives are available nearly everywhere that sells kitchen utensils, and they range in price from inexpensive to prices that are jaw-dropping. Good kitchen knives will last for years -- often for decades -- so a cook may never have to replace his set of kitchen knives for as long as he feels like cooking.

The first thing a cook will notice when buying kitchen knives is how many varieties are available. How does a smart cook choose among the brands, styles, sizes, etc? Many brands feature sets of kitchen knives that generally include a chef’s knife, paring knife, utility knife, butcher/carving knife, serrated bread knife and perhaps a set of steak knives, along with a sharpening steel, and maybe even kitchen shears. Some brands sell their knives separately, allowing a cook to assemble her own custom set. For new cooks or those who are not aspiring to have their own restaurants or television shows, a set of knives is probably the best way to begin. A cook can always buy another, more specialized knife, if the need arises.

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Kitchen knives are made by the block, forge or sinter method, and this, in large part, determines the price. A blocked knife is stamped out of a sheet of steel, sharpened, given a handle and polished. The forged knife is made by heating a steel blank and pounding it into shape, then sharpening it. Sintered kitchen knives are made in two pieces, usually by fusing together the blade and tang (or handle). Forged knives are generally the most expensive, followed by sintered knives and then blocked knives.

Another criteria of choosing kitchen knives is steel composition of the blades. Not surprisingly, high carbon stainless steel, with its hard edge and stain resistant nature, is usually the most expensive steel for a knife. High carbon steel is durable, but can rust if not maintained properly. Stainless steel is the least expensive knife material and is readily available. However, it cannot hold and maintain the best possible edge. A new innovation in kitchen knives, ceramic, produces an extremely sharp, durable edge, but the edges must be sharpened with a diamond sharpener and they cannot be used as steak knives, since they are sharp enough to mar the glaze on a dinner plate. They are also somewhat brittle. On the plus side, ceramic kitchen knives can go months or even years without sharpening.

Comfort is a main consideration for a cook looking for kitchen knives. A good kitchen knife should feel good in the hand and should not be too heavy. Kitchen knives should be well-balanced to promote ease of use, and should also fit the cook’s hand. A knife with a very large handle, for instance, might not be comfortable for a cook with smaller hands, and vice versa. Kitchen knives should be comfortable enough to use for a lengthy task, without the cook’s hands becoming stiff or cramped.

Price, of course, will always come into play when considering kitchen knives. Some cooks will have the money to spend on the best high carbon stainless steel forged knives. Some cooks may only have enough for a basic knife set. If this is the case, a cook should buy the best he can afford, limiting the number of pieces, if necessary. The basic knives should include a carving knife, paring knife, utility knife and a chef’s knife. These four kitchen knives can be used to cover a multitude of kitchen tasks. For sets, kitchen knives can range from $30 US Dollars (USD) to over $1,000 USD.

The best rule of thumb to remember when looking at kitchen knives is to buy the best knives that won’t break the bank. Even if a pricey set is tempting, resist if you can’t afford it. Good kitchen knives at reasonable prices are available in stores and online.

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Discuss this Article

anon92198
Post 3

I would suggest CUTCO cutlery. It is the best in the world and it is backed with a forever guarantee so you would never have to replace them.

cuocoitalian
Post 2

I agree with screenwriter -- to a point (no pun intended.)

Most of the knife sets sold at places like Walmart are a waste of money. Better to invest in individual knives -- or a smaller set -- of a higher quality at a specialty shop.

A knife, however, is not a knife. One of the basics of a culinary education is "right tool for the job." A 12-inch chef's knife and a paring knife both cut but are not generally interchangeable.

Most chefs agree on three or four essential knives: a 10 to 12-inch chef's knife, a utility knife, a paring knife, and, perhaps, a serrated bread knife. A combination of these will handle almost any task.

My knives travel with me

since I always end up cooking someplace. And along with the high quality modern professional knives in my bag is the Ecko Eterna bread knife I inherited from my mother. It was part of a fairly expensive set she bought in the early '50s and it's still the best knife I own.
screenwriter
Post 1

Since I have lived long enough to purchase several sets of kitchen knives and since the culinary arts are a hobby of mine I fee qualified to comment.

I strongly suggest you consider purchasing individual knives rather than a set.

Why? You can acquire a better quality knife you will use rather than a collection which you will not. A knife cuts = meaning any reasonable knife can be used for more than on purpose.

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