By Benjamin St. Jacques
A decent set of kitchen knives is a must-have for any homeowner. But there are so many brands of knives available and there’s such a huge price range among them that consumers can be understandably confused about what to buy.
Ultimately, we’re all looking for high-quality knives at fair price. Before you go shopping, sharpen up your knife knowledge with these seven tips that will help you pick the right knives for your home.
1. Know Your Knife Needs
There’s a wide variety of knives that come in all shapes and sizes — and each one has a specific purpose. Before you go shopping, take a minute to familiarize yourself with these basic knives that most people have in their kitchens.
- All-purpose utility knife for a variety of needs.
- Chef’s knife for chopping, dicing, mincing, and cutting.
- Paring knife for peeling, cutting and trimming small food items (e.g., small potatoes, strawberries, radishes).
- Bread knife with a serrated edge for breads and baked goods.
- Cleaver for large pieces of meat.
- Filleting knife to fillet fish.
Of course, you may not need each one of these knives. What you purchase will largely depend on your cooking habits, budget, and personal preferences.
2. Get a Grip
Your knives are tools that you will be using on a daily basis for years to come. The grip of each knife should be comfortable and sit easily in your hand. Comfort is, of course, purely subjective. Even if knives are advertised as comfortable, you still want to make sure the grip is to your liking to you by holding the knife in your own hand.
3. Watch for Signs of Weakness
Inspect the area where the steel meets the handle (i.e., the hilt). If you see any signs of welding, glue, or other fasteners, know that’s a weak point and the knife may break after repeated use. The best knives are made from single pieces of steel from the tip to the bottom of the handle.
4. Weigh Your Options
Different knives should be different weights depending on their intended use. For example, you want a nice heavy cleaver to cut through big pieces of meat. But a knife intended for quickly chopping vegetables should be light to allow for speed and precision. And you’ll want something in the middle for chopping up root vegetables, nuts, and heartier greens.
5. Get a Handle on the Handle
Look closely at the knife handle to determine what it’s made from. If you can’t tell, then ask. You want the handle to be made of a strong and durable material like hard wood, plastic, or another tough synthetic material. Many cheaper knives use soft wood in the handle, but they will break down relatively quickly.
6. How is the Blade Made?
Probably the most important part of the knife is its blade. Here are the most common blade options:
- Ceramic: The best knife blade is made from ceramic. Ceramic can be sharpened quickly, doesn’t dull easily, and never rusts. However, these knives are fragile and often prohibitively expensive.
- Carbon steel: Carbon steel, or non-stainless steel, is your next best bet after a ceramic blade. It sharpens quickly, but it’s prone to rusting unless proper care is taken.
- Stainless steel: Knives made form stainless steel are an affordable option that are common in many homes. They won’t rust, but will dull more easily, and will therefore need to be sharpened more often. The good news is that the technology has advanced in recent years so stainless steel blades hold their sharpness longer than in the past.
Keep this in mind: Avoid knives that claim to never need sharpening. They usually are not all that sharp to begin with, and they can’t be sharpened. When they become dull (and they will), you’ll have to throw them out.
7. Focus More on Quality, Not Brands
Supposedly “good” knife brands have been known to manufacture low-quality products, and less-well-known brands can offer excellent knives at competitive prices. So focus on the knife itself and not the name on the box.
A good set of knives can last decades, so you want to avoid making a dull decision. Use these tips to cut through the confusion and pick the right set of knives for your home.
Images used with permission, courtesy of Donovan Govan, www.dreamstime.com, and www.shutterstock.com