Kitchen Knives Buying Guide
Regular watchers of infomercials may be surprised to learn that knife sets are actually available for purchase, rather than being exclusively acquired through giveaways. And knife shoppers will inevitably find out that this purchase involves more decision making than one might imagine.
For a tool designed to do nothing more than cut, there are quite a range of knives on the market, and they can offer surprisingly different experiences to their users.
So what considerations should be made when purchasing kitchen knives? We have created a kitchen knives buying guide which highlights a few key considerations you should make when hunting for your perfect kitchen tool.
Kitchen knife materials
What materials do kitchen knives come in?
Stainless steel: By far the most common type of knife, stainless steel is inexpensive, but will need to be sharpened semi-regularly.
Carbon steel: Far harder than stainless steel (and thus requiring sharpening less often), carbon steel is a favourite of professional chefs.
Damascus steel: Looking for a high performance knife that also looks the part? Damascus steel combines a carbon steel core with beautiful exterior layers of soft and hard stainless steel, producing a mottled look. Damascus is both tough and beautiful, but comes with a price tag to match.
Ceramic: A relatively new entrant to the market, ceramic knives retain their sharpness well if treated with the utmost care, but one wrong move can see a chip develop, and if they do go blunt they cannot be sharpened.
Kitchen knife manufacturing
Steel kitchen knives are made using two main methods.
Forged steel: Forged metal knives are made from a single piece of steel, which is heated, moulded, hardened and tempered before being grinded to a sharp edge. They are the more expensive choice, but have a heavy, well-balanced feel.
Stamped steel: Stamped out of a piece of steel before being honed, grinded and polished, stamped metal knives are generally lighter and cheaper than forged.
Forming a complete set
Can a single knife do the job of a set? No – anyone who has tried to cut sourdough with a smooth blade can tell you that. A complete knife set is a must for every kitchen, and should contain the following pieces:
Paring knife: The smallest knife in the set, its smooth blade is perfect for peeling, trimming and dicing fruit, vegetables, herbs and spices.
Filleting knife: Designed to separate the fish fillet from the scales and bones, filleting knives are also great at dicing, slicing and butterflying meat and poultry.
Carving knife: The perfect tool for a Sunday roast, use the carving knife to slice up larger chunks of meat.
Chef's knife: The widest knife in your set, the chef’s knife is particularly versatile, and great for when you need a little bit of extra weight to help the blade get through.
All-purpose knife: Essentially a paring knife with a longer blade, this knife will be up to most tasks.
Bread knife: Bread and other baked goods require knives with a serrated edge, or they’ll be less cut than squashed.
Kitchen scissors/shears: Kitchen scissors are good for a range of tasks that see knives fall short, from cutting around chicken bones to opening packaging.
Knife sharpener/honing steel: With proper technique, this tool can have your set lasting a lifetime.
Matching a knife to your hand
With your choice in materials limited, and most sets including the same pieces, the deciding factor for many knife shoppers will be how the tool feels in the hand.
Matching a knife to your hand is all about personal preference, but a good knife will generally feature a solid sized, comfortable and grippy handle, nice weight and balance, and a decent curve on the blade. If it feels good as soon as you put it in your hand, you’ve likely found your match.
Looking after your knife
Your knife set will only look after you if you look after it. To ensure that your tools continue to perform, be sure to:
- Always use a chopping board that’s softer than the knife blade, and never use your knives to open cans or cut tough packaging.
- Sharpen your knives regularly, not just when they’re particularly blunt. Use a sharpening stone for best results.
- Store your knives in a knife block. If carelessly handled magnetic strips can deaden the knives.
- Hand wash your knives. While they may well be labelled dishwasher safe, some detergents can deaden the blade.
Finally, before shopping, ask yourself:
What is my budget? Once you’ve settled on the type of knife you’re looking for, set a firm budget.
How much cooking do I do? If you’ll be using your knives every day it may be worth making more of an investment.
Do I need a single piece or an entire set? Take stock of your current knife situation. Do you have all of the required knives? Are they looking a little worse for wear? Would you prefer to have a matching set?
Ready to buy your kitchen knives online? Shop the category now!