The Knives You Should Have in Your Kitchen

Hello and welcome! The other day a reader reached out with questions about knives, and it reminded me that I haven’t yet done a post focused on this essential piece of kitchen equipment. So today, we are taking a look at cutlery. Read on to learn about The Knives You Should Have in Your Kitchen.

Chef’s Knife

If you only have one knife, it should be a chef’s knife. Chef’s knives are either 8 or 10 inches long. They are perfect for chopping, dicing, and slicing. I spent many years with only a chef’s knife in my kitchen and I managed just fine. As long as it’s a quality knife, and is always kept clean and sharp, it’s possible for it to be the only knife in regular use. A sharp chef’s knife should be able to slice a tomato with ease, as well as making easy work of harder things like beets, potatoes and squash.

The Victorinox Fibrox Pro 8-inch Chef’s Knife is a highly rated knife, for a reasonable price. It holds a sharp edge through all the toughest cutting tasks. Its handle is comfortable, with a non-slip grip, and it is both hygienic and dishwasher safe.

I have a set of Japanese knives from Enso. I use the 8-inch chef’s knife for nearly all of my cutting tasks. Enso knives are on the pricey side. But if you’re in the market to invest in knives, I highly recommend Enso. They hold a sharp edge for what seems like ages. While they are heavier than a plastic-handled chef’s knife, they are well-balanced and a bit lighter than other high-priced knives I have had in the past.

Utility and Petty Knives

The other knife in regular use in my kitchen is my Enso petty knife. Petty knives and utility knives are both mid-sized prep knives. The petty knife, basically being the Japanese version of the utility knife.

Petty and utility knives are most commonly found with a 5 or 6-inch blade. The shape of the blade mimics the chef’s knife. And this where the difference between the petty knife and the utility knife comes in: the petty knife is triangular in shape, with a straight edge; whereas the utility knife is longer, more narrow and has a slight curve to its edge. Basically, if a chef’s knife and a paring knife had a baby, it would be a utility or petty knife.

Petty and utility knives are perfect for precision cutting – I love this knife for slicing small tomatoes, chicken meat off of the bone, quartering mushrooms, and mincing shallots. When you need the precision of a paring knife and the larger blade coverage of a chef’s knife, reach for a utility or petty knife.

Serrated Knife

You can get by without a serrated knife in your collection, but having one does make slicing a crusty loaf of bread a hell of a lot easier. I also like it for slicing sandwiches in half so I don’t squish out all the sandwich fixin’s with the downward pressure of cutting it with a chef’s knife. The sawing action of a serrated knife keeps the insides of stuffed things where they belong, inside. If you’re a baker, you know that serrated knives are best for slicing cake. Below is an Enso Serrated Knife similar to the one I have.

When it comes to serrated knives, the number of serrations makes a big difference in the knives’ ability to cleanly cut through bread, sandwiches or tomatoes without shredding the thing you’re cutting. Look for fewer serrations, or points. Speaking of the points, a lot of serrated knifes have rounded tips, look for pointed tips. Also important are the depth of the gullies in between the blade points, you want deep gullies. The Mercer Serrated Knife is a quality serrated knife at a good price.

Meat Slicing Knives

We do a lot of outdoor cooking like smoking and barbecuing so we find it handy to have a set of meat-slicing knives that are durable, lightweight and dishwasher safe (laying flat in the top rack, of course). Our favorite brand for this type of knife is Dexter-Russel. We have been using these knifes to carve roasts and slice steaks from the bone for a couple years and have never yet had to sharpen them. We use a honing rod to hone the blade from time to time, but otherwise, they hold their sharpness incredibly well. Dexter 12-inch Roast Slicer and the Dexter-Russel Boning Knife are the two we use the most.

Paring Knife

I saved the paring knife for last because you can get away without one, especially if you have a utility or petty knife. I think the only thing I really use mine for is coring tomatoes. But, they’re handy for peeling an apple or cutting citrus segments. My Enso knife set came with one, but otherwise I am not sure I would think to buy one because my petty knife really does a great job on precision cuts. That said, you can find an affordable one in the Victorinox Swiss Army Cutlery Straight Paring Knife.

Kitchen Shears

Knives aside, one of the most-used tools in my kitchen are the multi-purpose kitchen shears. I have two pairs. The most comfortable of my two pairs are the Shun Multi Purpose Shears. These shears are so durable and they’re easy to clean. The two sides come apart and reattach easily, without ever coming apart as I am cutting. The grip is comfortable and roomy. A good pair of kitchen shears makes easy work of taking apart a whole chicken, cutting through lobster tails, even trimming herbs and slicing bananas.

I hope you found this guide to The Knives You Should Have in Your Kitchen helpful. You really don’t need a huge knife set with a bunch of different kinds of knives. Stick to the basics and you can have super-functional, quality prep equipment without spending hundreds (or thousands!) of dollars. Just remember: Chef’s Knife, Petty or Utility Knife, Serrated Knife and Kitchen Shears. Is there any piece of kitchen equipment you’d like to know more about? Send me an email from my Say Hello page to let me know! Take care and be well, everyone! xo Kelly

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  • Mari
    September 29, 2021 at 10:04 am

    This guide was very helpful and informative. I am happy to have one of the knives you recommended, and I have a chef’s knife but it’s more like the tricycle of knives. I only paid forty dollars for it so I could learn on it before I get a really good knife. That will be my ten speed knife. I have the Mercer serrated knife and I like it very much. After reading what you had to say about paring knives, I decided to stop buying them obsessively and invest in a good petty knife instead. For the money I’ve spent on paring knives over the years, I could have had a really good knife that would have lasted for years. Speaking of things for the kitchen, what do you think are the least useful things to buy? What do you think are overhyped and not very practical? If you had to choose the most useful pot or pan that you couldn’t live without, what would it be? Happy Wednesday everybody. This week is galloping by suddenly, and I hope it’s a good one. Friday is almost here. ?

    • Kelly Djalali
      September 29, 2021 at 10:53 am

      Hi Mari, I love my Petty Knife– so useful! I think generally, the least useful things to buy are the one-hit-wonders; the contraptions that only do one thing. There are exceptions though, such as can openers and garlic presses. I will say that the pineapple corer/slicer is a pretty cool contraption that only does one thing, but it does it really well! Ultimately, any gadget that doesn’t work well is impractical. Even if its a can opener. If it constantly jams, it’s not useful. You know? I honestly don’t pay much attention to gadgets, I focus more of my attention and money to things that are simple and long-lasting.
      I couldn’t live without my cast iron pan and Dutch oven, and now my braiser. I am not a big fan of pans or pots that can’t go from stovetop to oven, so I suppose, to me, those are impractical (and often overhyped). Though, I do have an Always Pan, because I just had to try it (read: overhyped). It does come in handy sometimes. Thank you for these questions, you always bring up good topics! Have a great rest of your week, Mari, xo Kelly

  • Suzanne Smith
    September 29, 2021 at 1:55 pm

    Thanks for the recommendations! I’ll refer back to this.

  • Kenzie
    September 29, 2021 at 10:03 pm

    A couple of things I was told about knives was that the tang (shaft) should go right up to the end of the handle for better balance and that the top (or back edge)of the blade should be a reasonable width for strength. I don’t have any sets of knives per se but a selection of ones I use on a regular basis. I have a couple of carbon steel knives which must be at least 80 years old and the blades are now very curved due to continuous sharpening over the years.

    • Kelly Djalali
      September 30, 2021 at 8:37 am

      Hi Kenzie, How cool to have 80 year old carbon steel knives! And you’re right – the balance of a chef’s knife is so important for comfortable, easy slicing, dicing and cutting. Thanks so much for stopping by and leaving a comment! xo Kelly

  • melmi
    September 30, 2021 at 11:05 am

    David Lebovitz (cookbook author/professional chef and blogger) once wrote about his 5″ serrated utility knife by OXO. He said he is never without this knife so I purchased one and love it! Tomato slicing is a breeze!

    • Kelly Djalali
      September 30, 2021 at 11:57 am

      Hello Melmi, Thanks for mentioning this knife, I haven’t seen one, but I love utility knives and a serrated version sounds super-handy. Plus I am a big fan of OXO products, so I will definitely check out this knife. Thanks so much for the tip! ? xo Kelly