Knives are a kitchen essential, but it can be hard to decide which knife you need for which task. Read our guide to discover which three kitchen knives are essential, which brand to choose and how to sharpen your knives
What are kitchen knives?
What are the different types of kitchen knives?
There are knives for almost every job, be it shucking an oyster or slicing a loaf of sourdough. There are knife handles made with walnut wood, others with harwood. Some knife blades are carved from German stainless steel, others from Damascus steel.
These are the different types of kitchen knives, and what each knife should be used for:
- Paring knives are for peeling and slicing fruits and vegetables as well as intricate tasks such as removing the eyes from potatoes.
- Chef’s knives are for dicing, slicing and chopping small to medium-sized ingredients such as herbs, vegetables, cheese as well as fillets of fish and meat.
- Bread knives are serrated - perfect for slicing bread and cakes as well as ingredients with hard skins such as a pineapple.
- Boning knives have a very narrow blade and sharp point. Use them to remove the bones from poultry, fish and meat.
- Peeling knives are perfect for small, intricate tasks including hulling strawberries and slicing wafer-thin slivers of garlic. They have a short, beak-shaped curved blade.
- Sashimi knives have a very long blade and can slice sashimi in one, neat cut.
- Pocket-sized mushroom knives fold up neatly and are perfect when foraging for fungi.
- Lame blades are for the bread bakers. The straight blade lets you score dough with ease and precision, and allows you to create intricate patterns.
- Oyster and shellfish knives have short blades and a narrow point for easily getting between two shell halves - not an essential knife, but the only one that will successfully do this job!
- Carving knives have a smooth blade that glides through cooked and cured meats.
- Steak knives have smooth, study handles and either serrated or flat blades. Using steak knives makes light work of slicing through meat.
- A kitchen knife set is a great place to start if you want a compact yet complete selection of knives. Knife sets often include a serrated knife, paring knife and chef’s knife - the three essentials.
What are the three most important kitchen knives?
If you only buy three kitchen knives, make it a chef’s knife, a paring knife and a serrated slicer. This trio covers most basic kitchen tasks - you can slice, dice, cut and chop anything from fruit to fish to focaccia.
What are the different brands of kitchen knives?
Knives come in all shapes and sizes, and the variety doesn’t stop there. The blade and handle material, plus the design all depends on the maker.
The Senzo 33 layer knives are high quality Japanese chef knives. Superb quality ultra-sharp blades with a stunning aesthetic. The Senzo knives have a VG10 core which is one of the most popular stainless steels among professional chefs – they covet its hardness, ability to hold an edge and its resistance to rust. The blade has been cold forged under extremely high pressure, for a denser, tougher blade overall.
Global knives have been hand-crafted in Japan for over 30 years following Japanese sword-making traditions. Global kitchen knives were first designed in 1985 by Komin Yamada. His aim was to create a series of knives using the best raw materials available, which were easy to handle yet durable, and could be used by both chefs and home cooks alike.
The classic knives collection have Global’s famous Cromova18 blades and are sharpened to a 15 degree angle to provide a smoother feel when chopping. Each knife has a weighted hollow handle for ease of holding.
French knife makers, Opinel, are particularly famous for their folding pocket knife. And Opinel's high-quality kitchen knives are starting to prove just as popular. Their Parallele range is elegant, functional and makes even the most everyday cooking task a joy.
Robert Welch knives are made in the Cotswolds. The key principles of this brand are functionality and beautiful design. Robert Welch pioneered the introduction of stainless steel cutlery to the UK and uses German stainless steel for the blade.
Which are the best kitchen knives to buy?
The choice of which knives you buy comes down to what you need it for, how frequently you’ll be using it, and how much you’re willing to pay.
Best kitchen knife for vegetable preparation
The flat, almost cleaver-like blade makes short work of a cabbage or roughly chopping harder vegetables such as potatoes. The nakiri also has a wickedly sharp edge, so you can do more precise slicing.
Best kitchen knife for chopping & dicing meat, vegetables and herbs
The Japanese AUS10 chef’s knife is ideal for high-speed slicing and dicing. This large, well-balanced knife, also known as a gyuto, is Japan’s answer to the Western chef’s knife. With a curved belly and a narrow point, it’s well suited to the ‘rolling’ action - the very quick French method of slicing where the tip of the knife never leaves the cutting board.
Best kitchen knife for smaller ingredients
This Senzo 33 layer utility knife is the ultimate knife for handheld kitchen tasks – such as removing the eyes from potatoes, peeling fruits and vegetables, or even intricate carving for artistic garnishes.
Best kitchen knife for slicing bread
This serrated slicer is perfect for cutting meat or slicing bread and cakes. Swibo knives are well-weighted, so you can cut on repeat without tiring. The nylon handle is great to grip making them a joy to use repeatedly.
Best kitchen knife for cutting meat
This stainless steel chopper, or Chinese chopper, is a versatile piece of kit perfect for cutting meat and vegetables. The large, rectangular blade has a similar use to a Santoku knife, and is a great everyday knife for preparing meat and vegetable stir fries.
Best complete knife collection
This knife collection includes a carving knife, bread knife, cook’s knife, santoku knife, kitchen knife and paring knife. Each knife is made of fully forged German stainless steel with a full tang blade that reaches right into the handle, for completely accurate and stable slicing.
Best kitchen knife for sushi
Every sushi chef should have a fantastic sushi knife they can rely on. This sushi knife has a long 20.5cm blade, for slicing smoothly and evenly through fish and maki rolls. One long, smooth motion also helps keep your sushi an even thickness.
Best kitchen knife for shellfish preparation
The Opinel oyster & shellfish folding knife is a robust, short-bladed knife for opening oysters and other shellfish. The narrow point of the blade easily gets in between the two shell halves, and the African bubinga wood handle provides good grip for the twisting motions needed to prise open the shell.
Best kitchen blade for bakers
This professional baker's knife - often known in French as a grignette or lame - is made by Mure & Peyrot, the largest supplier of bakeries across Europe. Their Landaise knife is specially designed for scoring bread dough, with an ergonomic handle for both left and right handed bakers.
Frequently Asked Questions
When should I sharpen my kitchen knives?
It’s important to keep knives sharp so that they can cut and slice through food with ease. A dull, blunt blade requires more pressure, meaning it’s more likely to slip and cause injury.
If you’re not entirely sure what you’re doing, it’s a good idea to take your knives to a professional to have them sharpened correctly. However, it is possible to sharpen knives at home with the following products.
This 3-slot knife sharpener offers three stages of sharpening - coarse (to restore a blunted edge), sharpen (to give the knife a little more life) and hone (to maintain good condition).
This 10cm stone is ideal for pocket-sized knives. For best results, always wet the stone and knife blade first. Hold the blade at a 20° angle to the surface of the stone, and sweep towards you along the whole length of the stone.
Ellie Edwards is a food writer for Sous Chef. Previously she worked at olive magazine, writing about exciting new ingredients, UK restaurants and travelling the world to find the best cinnamon buns. When she's not exploring the likes of Belize, Kerala and Zanzibar, Ellie loves rustling up a feast in her London kitchen, with a particular passion for porridge, sourdough and negronis.