You’ve heard a lot about the importance of a good knife in cooking. Maybe you’ve looked at the vast selection of knives and the wide price range and found it baffling. Maybe you’re not sure which knives to keep and which ones to donate. What do you actually NEED? I put together this simple & clear guide to help you choose the cutlery that is right for your home, your skill, and your budget.
You need three knives – a paring knife which you will use 20% of the time, a chef’s knife which you will use 80% of the time, and a serrated blade for tomatoes and bread which you will use now and then. That’s it. Buying a whole collection will be tempting but resist that “up-selling” that fills your kitchen with things you don’t want or need. If you currently have a good knife and want to donate it and upgrade to a better knife, this guide will help you find just the right one for you. I’m a foodie and a retired restaurant owner and believe me, we take knives seriously! And that’s good, because it’s possible to get hurt in a kitchen if you don’t have good knife skills. There is an awful lot of knife snobbery out there, but a great knife won’t make you a better cook – YOU are the only one that can do that. If you love to cook, and you love the minimalist concept of quality over quantity – here’s your chance to level up. Check out these knives, and then be sure to watch the video at the end.
First: The Paring Knife
Good: Chef Bittman mentions the $3 paring knife in his article in the New York Times and this Faberware paring knife is a great value at $3.51. He makes the point that a knife this cheap can be easily replaced if something happens to it. (Prices subject to change.)
Better: I’d rather spend a little more and have no need to replace the knife. I have a Chicago Cutlery paring knife that I’ve had for more than 25 years and it’s a good solid knife that now sells for $75.95.
Best: My favorite paring knife was my Cutco paring knife. Unfortunately with all my traveling around cooking in different kitchens, I managed to lose it. Thankfully they’ve come down in price and this one is $74.95 (last time I looked it was $160) and I now see that there is a pearlized handle option as well. Spiffy. Splurge: A friend recommended the German Messermeister brand of knives and they are gorgeous. The 3.5 inch paring knife is $99.95 and is a highly functional work of art.
Second: The Santoku Knife
Similar to the chef’s knife is the multi-tasker Santoku style knife, which is my favorite knife that I’m using 80% of the time. It is generally shorter and lighter than the classic chef’s knife, and has a fairly straight edge compared to the curved blade of the chef’s knife. The texture on the surface of the blade is to reduce the cling some foods (such as tomatoes) have on the blade.
GOOD: The Pure Komachi knife is an all purpose Santoku blade that I reach for all the time. I paid $20 for mine seven or eight years ago, and mine is PINK! Which is a great bonus! lol! These days it’s available for about $11 – which is really remarkable. This knife will need to be sharpened about once a week.
BETTER: The Mercer Culinary is a very affordable German Sanuoku blade with a plastic handle for $30.
BEST: The Messermeister Meridan Elite Kullenschliff knife is beautifully balanced and gorgeous in every detail, and they are finished by hand. One can achieve a sharp edge because of the quality of the steel, and one can keep the edge sharp longer.
Third: The Bread Knife
Good: This is another Pure Komachi blade, this time a serrated bread knife in a fun orange color. The price is definitely right on this knife at less than $11.
Best: The Messermeister (German for Master Knife-maker) Meridian Elite Bread knife is $100 and worth every penny.
There is a broad range of prices on knives so if you want to start out with the Pure Komachi value priced blades, or go for a middle of the road Chicago Cutlery blades, or explore a luxury brand like Cutco, or Messermeister… you can find the paring knife, chef’s knife or Santoku blade, and the serrated bread knife that is best for your home, your skill, and your budget.
Resist the urge to spend more on a boxed set to get the little extras. That’s just savy marketing. Go for quality over quantity.
You’ve chosen your knives,
Now watch this…
Really! Watch this! It’s my favorite thing!
I love how Chef Jamie Oliver explains knife skills and empowers his students to create great food simply. Brilliant!! Doesn’t that make you want to cook?! Love it!!
No matter how much you spend on a knife, if it isn’t sharp, it’s worthless… maybe even dangerous. Here is a good electric knife sharpener and a good off-grid knife sharpener option as well. No knife sharpening skills needed, and both are comparable in price to a good sharpening steel that requires some skill to use.
Finally, the Cutting Board
I choose bamboo for light-weight high-quality cutting boards that will not grow bacteria or dull your knives like the plastic ones do, plus – bamboo is a renewable resource!
This bamboo cutting board is 18 x 12.5 inches for about $23. In our tiny-haven home, we sometimes use the cutting board for a trivet, or as a tray when we are away from the table. We also sometimes use it for carrying food out to the grill or rocket stove. Choose the size and shape that suits your home, and budget.