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Knives / Cutlery Buying Guide

A comprehensive knives/cutlery guide that will give you all the information you need on how to buy a new set of knives for your home.

Getting Started
Many cooks have a favorite pan or spoon, but none of that comes close to the relationship cooks have with their favorite knives. A good knife is the most important part of the kitchen. Even a master chef can prepare a delicious meal with inferior pots and pans, but a bad knife just won't do. Whether you are slicing, dicing, chopping, paring mincing or carving, the right knife is an essential tool in the kitchen.
Types
When purchasing knives, it is necessary to know what you plan to use them for. Each knife is designed to be used for a specific job. Below you will find information and images of each knife type, as well as their intended uses.

Paring Knife
Paring Knife
The Paring Knife is best used for controlled, detailed, cutting, such as cutting shapes, cutting vents into dough, as well as scoring designs and patterns on surfaces of food. The proper way to hold a paring knife is aloft, as though it is an extension of your hand. It is great for peeling fruits and vegetables, or for slicing a single garlic clove or shallot.

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Peeling Knife
Peeling Knife
The Peeling Knife, also known as a bird's beak knife, is called this due to its pointed tip that curves downward. Peeling knives are mainly used to cut decorative garnishes, such as rosettes, mushrooms, and soft fruits. Peeling knives can also remove skins and blemishes from fruits and vegetables. In addition, peeling knives are used to make a cut known as a "tourné" in vegetables such as carrots.

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Tomato / Cheese Knife
Tomato / Cheese Knife
The Tomato and Cheese Knife is used for neatly slicing tomatoes and cheese, which is due to the tiny serrations on the blade that prevents tearing. Tomato and cheese knives have a forked tip as well that is perfect for picking up any slices.

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Bread Knife
Bread Knife
The Bread Knife has a thick-blade that is perfect for cutting loaves of bread. Bread knives generally havean 8 to 9 inch blade that has a serrated edge. The serrated edge allows bread knives to cut through soft and hard fresh loaves, without squishing or tearing the insides.

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Utility Knife
Utility Knife
The Utility Knife is smaller than a chef's knife but larger than a paring knife, and the blade itself is usually anywhere from 4 to 7 inches. It excels in everyday tasks, whether that task is cutting sandwiches or slicing meats. Utility knives are very likely to become your daily go-to knife choice for smaller tasks.

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Steak Knives
Peeling Knife
A Steak Knife has a serrated or straight-edge, and is used, just as the name suggests, to cut through steak or other heartier meats. Since steak knives have a serrated blade, they do not need frequent sharpening.

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Trimming Knife
Trimming Knife
The Trimming Knife is designed for smaller jobs. The narrow curved blade allows the knife to move smoothly and cleanly along the bones for clean cuts, such as trimming the fat from chickens.

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Fillet Knife
Fillet Knife
Fillet Knives can be described as being very flexible boning knives that are used to fillet and prepare fish. Their blades are usually about 6 to 11 inches long, allowing them to move easily along the backbone, and under the skin of the fish.

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Boning Knife
Boning Knife
The Boning Knife is an ideal kitchen knife mainly used for the removal of meat from bones. Boning knives have a narrow blade that curves inward to give you precision control when removing the meat and poultry from the bone.

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Carving / Slicing Knife
Carving Knife
The Carving and Slicing Knife is used to slice through cooked meats, such as poultry and fish. It has a long, thin, blade, which enables it to cut large pieces of meat into neat and even slices. Since it has a thinner blade, it is wise to note that chopping with a carver or slicer can damage the knife, so be sure to use a sawing motion when using this particular knife.

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Honesuki Knife
Honesuki Knife
A Honesuki Knife is a Japanese-style boning knife that has a triangular blade and pointed tip. Honesuki knives are perfect when you must work around the bones and joints in poultry.

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Santoku Knife
Santoku Knife
When you combine the chef's knife and cleaver, you get the Japanese version of both called a Santoku Knife. This multipurpose knife is used to perfectly mince, dice, and slice. The Santoku knife is also excellent for chopping vegetables, while the wide blade works well for scooping sliced food off a cutting board. With a narrow spine Santoku knives are great for slicing meat or making thin cuts.

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Chef's Knife / Cook's Knife
Chef's Knife / Cook's Knife
The Chef's and Cook's knife is among the most versatile in its category. This knife is used for daily chopping, slicing, dicing, and mincing. Most chef's knives have a broad blade that curves upwards towards the tip to allow the knife to rock for fine mincing. The spine of the blade is thick for added weight and strength. Many chef's knives also include a bolster between the blade and handle, to help prevent the knife from slipping.

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Nakiri Knife
Nakiri Knife
With a shape similar to that of a slender cleaver, this Japanese style Nakiri Knife is mainly used for vegetables. It has a straight cutting edge that excels at slicing when used in an up-and-down motion.

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Vegetable Cleaver
Vegetable Cleaver
A Vegetable Cleaver has a finer blade than that of a meat cleaver. Vegetable cleavers efficiently chop and slice produce, as well as aid in transferring food, with extreme ease, to the pot or bowl.

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Meat Cleaver
Meat Cleaver
The Meat Cleaver is a knife that has a wide-blade and a thick-spine. Meat cleavers are used to cut through meat or poultry bones. They use their weight to cut through tough food with a chopping motion; usually, meat cleavers are not meant for slicing.

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Steel - Honing Steel - Knife Sharpener
Steel - Honing Steel - Knife Sharpener
A Honing Steel Knife Sharpener is essential for honing your knives so they stay sharp longer. The steel smoothes and helps realign the worn carbon steel on the blade's edge.

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Kitchen Shears
Kitchen Shears
Kitchen Shears or kitchen scissors come in handy when it comes to tasks such as trimming pastry dough, snipping herbs, cutting twine, as well as parchment paper.

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Anatomy of a Knife
Knife Anatomy title
click to enlarge
Things to Keep in Mind...
How many will you need?
You can purchase cutlery as individual pieces or as a set. Typically buying it as a set is a better deal as it will most likely be cheaper than buying individual knives. A basic knife set should come with several starter pieces: a paring knife, a chef's knife, a utility knife, a carving knife and a bread knife. Sometimes a set will also come with scissors and a steel sharpening tool. Also, getting a block to store it all is the safest and best way to keep your cutlery because it protects the blades from damage.

Comfort is Key!
One of the most important things to consider when buying a knife is to figure out what is most comfortable for you. When shopping, make sure to hold each knife in your hand and see how it feels. You'll want it to be comfortable. Make sure it has a good grip and feels balanced. The handle should be riveted to the blade for security. Also, check the weight of the knife. A heavier knife will have a better balance through the pivot point where the handle meets the blade.
Cleaning and Care
Knife Blocks
Getting a block to store all of your knives is the safest and best way to keep your cutlery. This is because Knife Blocks protect the blades from any damage. Knife blocks also help prevent any accidental injurys that may occur.

Keep Your Knives Clean!
Depending on the type of the handle your knives have, you may not want to put them in the dishwasher. Even if your handles are dishwasher safe, the knives can knock against other items, which can cause nicks in the blade. Washing by hand is highly recommended.

Never a Dull Moment...or Knife!
Keeping your knives sharp and clean is very important. A dull knife will usually cause more injuries than a sharp one and simply will not be effective. All straight-edged knives do need sharpening, but knives with serrated edges do not. At a minimum, you should give your knives a thorough sharpening annually. Always make sure to protect the blades when storing your knives.

Sharpen Properly
It does matter what type of knife sharpener you use, because the wrong one can actually do more harm than good. Sharpening steel works very well on almost all knives. An already sharp knife only requires a few light pressured strokes on the sharpening steel to maintain the sharp edge. If you do not wish to use the steel frequently, additional strokes will be necessary to re-establish a keen cutting edge. Other cooks may prefer to use a sharpening stone. A sharpening stone has two sides: one rough and one fine, and it's used the same way as sharpening steel.