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How Many Knives Do You Need?

By George Steckel
Jun 22, 2021
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Having the right tools in your kitchen is extremely important, whether that’s a carbon steel pan for achieving the perfect sear, a stock pot that will distribute heat evenly, or a nonstick pan that will keep your food from sticking. You also need a perfectly curated set of knives to store in your kitchen. How you prepare and cut your food will impact how it cooks, looks, and tastes, so making sure you have the suitable knives to achieve these cuts should not be overlooked. One sharp knife can’t do it all! In order to have success in the kitchen, you’ll need many types of kitchen knives to make sure you make the right cuts. So, how many knives do you need for cooking? We recommend starting with five knives: a chef, santoku, nakiri, bread, and paring knife.

What knives are essential to a kitchen?

Each kitchen knife has a different application in the kitchen. The following knives are essential to have in a kitchen.

  • Chef Knife: A chef knife is usually someone’s first knife they own. Most commonly eight inches long, a chef knife features a unique blade shape, allowing you to rock the sharp knife along your cutting board. This makes it easier and faster to chop, mince, dice, or slice vegetables. Chef knives are incredibly durable as well, allowing you to break down a chicken or chop beets. Make sure you know how to hold a chef knife properly to get the most use out of it.
  • Santoku Knife: A santoku knife compliments a chef knife extremely well. Usually smaller in length, a santoku knife is a Japanese-style blade and commonly features scalloped edges reducing food sticking to the blade edge. A major difference between a santoku knife and a chef knife is the blade edge shape. A santoku knife’s blade is flatter than a chef knife, so it isn’t as great for mincing as a chef knife.
  • Nakiri Knife: A nakiri knife is also a Japanese-style blade, but it features a completely flat blade, making it perfect for slicing and dicing vegetables. Because of its flat blade, you wouldn’t utilize a rocking motion, but rather an up and down motion. These specialty knives are also great for making even long cuts, whether you’re slicing through an eggplant, cucumber, or squash. A good way to distinguish a nakiri knife from others is its squared-off fixed blade.
  • Bread Knife: It is essential to have a serrated knife in your kitchen knife set, and a bread knife is the most practical. Serrated knives are ideal for cutting through crusts or delicate fruit while protecting the inside. It is one of the best knives for cutting meat, slicing through loaves of bread, tomatoes, or even pineapple.
  • Paring Knife: Paring knives are one of the most useful tools in the kitchen. With ultimate maneuverability and control, a paring knife is perfect for tackling small tasks in the kitchen like peeling fruit, cutting small vegetables, and working with oddly shaped ingredients.
  • Other Knives: There are other knives that are helpful to have in your kitchen, in addition to the ones listed above. We love having specialty knives, boning knives, cleavers, fishing knives, and carving knives, too. Will they be used every day? Probably not, but when the time comes to fillet a fish or debone a chicken, it is essential to have the right knife blade on hand.

How often should you replace kitchen knives?

You should not need to replace kitchen knives often, if at all. It is crucial to know how to store knives and take proper care of them. This means using them for their right usage and noting when they need to be sharpened and honed. If you have high-quality knife, then it will not need to be replaced. 

You can sharpen your dull knife by using a whetstone or electric sharpener, but if you don’t feel comfortable using either, then you can send your knives to a professional or a local hardware store.

Honing your knives doesn’t actually sharpen them, it just keeps your sharp knives sharp. Before using your knives, it is good practice to run your knife along a honing steel, as this will keep your knife blade sharper for a longer period of time.

And lastly, make sure you’re using the right knife for the right job. If you have taken the time to curate your knife collection, then you should have a knife for specific jobs. A paring knife is not meant to break down a chicken and a chef knife isn’t best for slicing bread. In addition, using your knife for the right job will increase overall knife safety in the kitchen. 

What knives do most chefs use?

Most chefs use chef knives or specialty blades. Chefs are very particular about the knives they use. However, you can expect that all knives used by chefs are fully forged and full tang. These two characteristics are critical to long-lasting and durable knives as they are made from one singular rod of steel. The steel also runs completely through the handle for a more balanced cutting experience.

What are the best knives for home use?

Ultimately, the best knives for home use are fully forged and full-tang knives made in the knife capital of the world, Thiers, France. All of Made In’s knives crafted in France are fully forged and full tang. A chef knife is a great knife to start with, but you’ll soon need additional knives for more specific cuts and ingredients. A nakiri or santoku knife is an amazing compliment to a chef knife, and a bread knife or paring knife is perfect for specific ingredients. In the end, you need more than one knife for successful chopping, slicing, and dicing in the kitchen. With the right knife and the right ingredient, you can achieve anything you’d like in the kitchen, whether that’s a chiffonade cut, brunoise cut, or julienne.