Knife Work: Buying the Right Set

  • by Omaha Steaks
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If you think a knife is a knife is a knife, Crocodile Dundee would like a word with you. And we would, too, Dad. All knives are not created equal. A while back we even listed the knives you should have in your kitchen. But if you read that (I mean “when” you read that, right? … right?), and thought “By golly, I wish they’d cut a little deeper into this subject. How do I find the right knife for me?” Boy oh boy, have we got a deal for you!


Knife to Meet You

When looking for the blade of your dreams, there are a few criteria we should point out:

  • Are you just starting out in your own kitchen or are you equipped with a very particular set of skills? If the former, you may consider looking into getting a set of the knives you need. The latter, naturally, you’ll want to shop knives on a one-on-one basis and find those that complement your talents.
  • If you’re the type to leave dirty dishes to soak and pile up, you may want to explore low-maintenance knives like stainless steel, as high-quality knifes –Damascus steel or carbon – require much more care such as drying thoroughly and oiling after use. Simply leaving it in the sink or dishwasher is a knife no-no.
  • Would you rather have a German or Japanese-made knife? While not as terribly important as the previous two points, these two styles boast considerable differences – namely their beveled edge and the hardness of the metal.

Typically, German-made knives (ie: Wüsthof) feature a bevel on both sides of the blade that can range from an angle of 18º up to 28º. The metal is more on the softer side – if you can imagine metal knives as “soft” – to help make the blade more durable and easier to sharpen.

On the other side of the world, kitchen knives from Japan (aka: Gyutou) are traditionally crafted with a bezel on one side of the knife at an angle as little as 5º. As you can imagine, this is a formula for a much sharper blade than their western counterparts. The metal is much harder, too, but this makes Gyutou more prone to knicks and breakage, as well as requiring more precision when sharpening.

How does the knife feel in your hand? Does it seem heavy? Is it too big? Small? A kitchen knife is an oft-used tool, so before you buy, make sure it feels comfortable. If you can’t get your hands on it in the store, spring for an 8-inch blade. That’s about the average size for most people.


Mr. Knife Guy

Now that you know what to look for in a knife, what knife should you look for? Even professional chefs agree that every good kitchen should have the following three knives:

  • Your go-to knife should be a chef’s knife. Depending on your hand or kitchen size, this should run between 7 to 8 inches – long enough to slice fruits and vegetables with a tip that can handle more delicate work.
  • The second knife in your arsenal should be a paring knife. Around 3 to 4 inches should do you. This tool is crucial when you need better control over detailed work like coring strawberries or tomatoes, among other things.
  • The third essential is a serrated bread knife. Appropriate for slicing bread, obviously, but useful for when you need it to grip waxy, smooth surfaces like a tomato or saw through the shell-like exterior of a pineapple.

These three blades will be able to handle everything your kitchen throws at you. We recommend you make these the finest in your armory.

Now that you know what qualities to look for in a knife, how do you actually go about using it? There’s more to it than you think. Keep your eyes open for the next piece in our Knife Work series when we cover kitchen knife skills, tips, and techniques.