Kitchen knives buying guide
A good knife is essential in any kitchen - working with a good knife and the right knife makes food preparation easier and faster but also more enjoyable. Knives are probably the most used kitchen utensil you'll use, so investing in a good knife means that it will last you for years.
It's important to get the right knife for the job at hand. Some are used for all sorts of everyday cooking, frequently appearing in knife blocks and sets, while others are more specialist and provide the best results for specific jobs.
- Bread knife
The rigid serrated or scalloped edge on a bread knife means that when you cut soft bread, the knife doesn't push into the loaf and flatten it, giving you a perfect slice every time.
- Boning knife
Specifically designed for removing the bones in meat, poultry and fish, boning knives are available in two varieties: a stiff boning knife is ideal for boning meats such as beef and pork; and a more flexible knife, also known as a fillet knife, which is more suited to working with poultry and fish.
- Carving knife
Used for carving meats, carving knives have thinner blades than most other types of knife, so you can carve fine slices of meat. Carving knives either come with a rounded end good for carving roast beef and hams, or a pointed edge for use with poultry, making it easier to find the best part of the joint to cut.
- Paring knife
A small knife with plenty of uses, a paring knife can be used to peel fruit and vegetables, trim herbs, or chop small food such as garlic.
Longer than a paring knife, but shorter and thinner than a chef's knife, the utility knife is a general purpose piece of cutlery. The utility knife does many of the jobs of more specialised knives all in one.
- Chef's knife
The curved blade of the chef's knife allows you to rock the knife while cutting, giving your food a more precise cut in a shorter amount of time. Chef's knives feature a very keen blade for slicing almost any food you.
Ideal for preparing meat before cooking, a cleaver relies on its weight and your own swing rather than a particularly sharp blade for cutting.
- Cheese knife
Varieties of cheese knives take into account the range of cheeses you are likely to cut. A soft cheese knife features a blade with serrated edges and holes, stopping the cheese from sticking to it. A hard cheese knife has a tougher, stubby blade in order to cut into cheeses such as parmesan.
- Fillet knife
A fillet knife is another name for the boning knife you'd use for poultry and fish. See boning knife above for more information.
- Slicing knife
A longer, narrower variant of a traditional carving knife, a slicing knife may have either a serrated or a plain edge. It is designed to cut thinner slices of meat than a carving knife, with minimal effort.
- Steak knife
The serrated edge of a steak knife allows you to cut through meats such as steak, with ease, requiring no tearing of the meat and less exertion.
- Asian / Santoku knife
These are traditional Japanese style knives with an especially sharp, broad blade. These knives are great for chopping and dicing vegetables.
Blades and tang
- Blades: There are three basic types of blade to look for:
- Edge ground: a straight-sided blade with an edge that is ground directly into it.
- Hollow ground: the blade has a concave, beveled edge on either side, allowing a finer cut.
- Taper ground: the blade decreases in size from handle to tip, and from the spine to the edge of the blade. This provides more stability and can withstand more use.
- Tang: The tang is the part of the blade that goes into the handle. Full tang provides greater balance, making the knife easier to rock when chopping.
Looking after your knife
- Use wooden or plastic chopping boards to avoid blunting the blade.
- Sharpen the blade regularly by either using sharpening steel or a crossed steel Chantry sharpener.
- Remove stain spots with a soft cloth and stainless steel polish.
- Don't leave knives to stand in a dishwasher, either at the start or end of a cycle. Remove and hand dry when cycle is completed.
- Don't use steel wool or scouring powder.
Sharpening your knife
To recondition the edge, hold the knife at a 15° angle against the sharpening steel. Draw from handle to blade tip. Repeat on other side of the blade. For serrated blades, draw the flat side of the blade along the steel to re-sharpen.