Should I Buy A High Quality Kitchen Knife?
If you cook at home often, or at all for that matter, you should definitely consider upgrading the kitchen tools you use. In addition to streamlining your efforts, a good quality kitchen knife will make cooking more enjoyable and actually save you money in the long run.
When looking for the ideal knife or kitchen knife set, you should consider a few factors like the level of sharpness and edge retention, the steel, the handle design, the knife style (Western or Japanese), how it was manufactured (stamped or forged), what are you going to use it for (chef’s knife, santoku knife, bread knife), the price; and your taste and preferences.
1. The Benefits Of Owning A Quality Kitchen Knife
You will need a knife almost every time you need to prepare food and that makes it an essential part of your life. Choosing your knife is more than just shopping for cutlery; it’s like choosing your primary weapon before battle (several battles a day, every day!).
In theory, these arguments might feel vague, but trust us: the very act of cooking becomes effortless and more enjoyable when you’re using a quality kitchen knife. Once you decide to invest in a good knife collection, there’s no way back.
- Do more, faster: preparing food will take less time.
- Precise, clean cuts.
- High quality knives are much safer.
- They are more comfortable to hold and use. This is a game changer when you cook a lot.
- A good knife will last a lot longer than a low quality knife. So in the long run it is a better investment.
- Opportunity to improve your cooking skills.
- Not a minor detail: your food will look a lot better!
2. What To Look For When Shopping For A Kitchen Knife
If this is the first time you’re buying a kitchen knife or a chef’s knife (or the first time you’re taking it seriously) consider these points:
1. Sharpness and edge retention
- Sharpness is probably the one non-negotiable quality of a knife, any knife. A dull knife is just useless. How well a knife can cut and retain an edge after several uses has a lot to do with the softness of the steel. Harder steel is sharper and will hold that sharpness for longer. But once it needs sharpening, it may be more difficult.
- Softer steel, on the other hand, might be less sharp from the beginning and may need to be sharpened more often; but this will be easy if you know how to use a sharpening stone.
- Take into account that all knives, whatever the brand or price range, will lose sharpness over time (maybe ceramic knives will retain their cutting edge for longer, but are also more difficult to re-sharpen).
2. Steel and carbon
- Some steels have more carbon than others. More carbon means hardness, which is measured on the Rockwell scale. You will find carbon steel blades; which means a harder, stronger knife; or stainless steel blades that have less carbon and more chromium.
- Generally speaking, stainless steel knives are not as sharp as carbon knives (which can be fixed with a proper sharpening routine) but are easier to maintain.
3. Handle, tang and bolster
- Pay attention to the handle, as this will influence the overall feel and comfort of your knife. The handle can be made of wood, plastic or metal. Heavy handles make you feel like you have more control; but they can also be tiring.
- If you read or hear the term “full tang”, it means the blade runs through the handle and the weight is better distributed through the knife, providing balance, comfort and safety. The bolster is the point where the blade meets the handle and sometimes can make a difference in the balance and feel. Some say angled bolsters work better for novices and straight bolsters work better for chefs.
- When you’re on a budget, you really should consider every aspect of your future knife to get the best value for your money. It’s more than possible to have the knife that you need within the margins of your price range.
- Having said that: A higher price doesn’t necessarily mean a higher quality; so focus on quality instead of price.
5. Style: Japanese knife or German knife
There are two main knife styles: Japanese or Western. Neither is better than the other; and your preference will depend on taste and feel.
- Western (often referred to as German) knives are usually heavier and thicker. They’re popular because of their multi-purpose spirit. They are made with softer steel alloys (which means you will need to sharpen more frequently).
- A Japanese knife is thinner and lighter. This is a very sharp knife (heavier steel) and is ideal for precise, clean cuts; although they are not as versatile as their German counterpart.
- Santoku knives are a popular kind of Japanese knife, as well as the nakiri knife. The santoku knife is similar to a chef’s knife, but the santoku features a 5-7″ thinner, harder blade and doesn’t have a bolster. In general, santoku knives are better for chopping. Nakiri knives have flat, rectangular blades, best suited for mincing and slicing vegetables.
6. Manufacturing: Stamped knife or forged knife
- Depending on how they’re made; knives can be either stamped or forged. While stamped knives are machine-made and the blade is cut out from a larger piece of steel, forged blades are created from one steel bar, which is heated and forged into shape.
- Originally, these knives were forged by a craftsman; today, there’s high-end machinery to do the job to perfection. Forged knives are heavier and stronger. Another distinctive feature of a forged knife is the presence of a bolster, and in most cases, a full tang.
7. Use: Chef’s knife, serrated knife or paring knife?
- A chef’s knife is designed to be your primary kitchen knife and to have your back in every mission, be it chopping, slicing or dicing anything from pineapples to chicken bones.
- We recommend a high-quality 8" chef's knife as a great start for your kitchen set, although you can complement it with a santoku knife, featuring a thinner and harder blade. The santoku knife can cut paper thin slices of meat or vegetables.
- Besides a chef’s knife, there are other essential knives to build your ideal knife set, like a serrated knife (referred to as a “bread knife” or even a “tomato knife”) for cutting through foods with a hard exterior and a soft interior.
- And you will definitely want a paring knife, perfect for smaller and more delicate foods. If you’re a carnivore, you should upgrade your knife set with a boning knife, a utility knife, a steak knife, a fillet knife, a butcher knife, a slicing knife, or a carving knife; all of them are ideal for cutting meats like a pro. If you’re a vegetarian, don’t rule out a good cheese knife.
8. Personal preferences
- Even though there are some standard parameters for good quality knives; the truth is there are many personal factors at play: the type of food you like, the size of your hands, your aesthetic taste, what you find comfortable personally, even your personality. I read somewhere that a knife should feel like an extension of your hand, and that sums it up very well!
- After finding the perfect knife, consider upgrading your cutlery with a quality cutting board, a knife sharpener or sharpening stone, a honing steel and a knife block.
3. Three Kitchen Knife Types You Should Own
If you are just starting out your search for top quality kitchen knives the choices can be overwhelming. Do I need multiple chefs knives? Should it have a wood handle or stainless steel? Serrated or non serrated? What the hell is a nakiri knife anyway? The questions are endless.
To begin with we recommend three knife types that will offer more than enough coverage for your kitchen cutting needs.
Below are three recommendations for each of those knife types.
1. The Chef's Knife Recommendations
Combining a razor-sharp blade with exceptional versatility; this chef’s knife was designed to feel great in your hand. The super-steel with great edge retention will allow you to focus on your favorite dishes for a long time without having to re-sharpen.
- Japanese super steel: extremely sharp edge, for longer.
- 67-Layer Damascus blade. Beautiful design.
- Tapered bolster and full tang.
- Great balance and comfort.
- 8" is the ideal size for a chef’s knife.
- Pairs well with the Shogun Santoku Knife 7".
- This model can feel a bit too heavy for some people.
- This chef’s knife comes with rust / corrosion resistant cladding, but rust and chips tend to be an issue with high carbon-blades in general.
Almost everything from chopping herbs or mincing garlic to cutting meat or slicing a ham.
Not only a beautiful knife, but also light and efficient. Users usually praise the feeling of comfort when using this chef’s knife (it might have something to do with the narrower width). Sharp enough to cut your morning fruits or your evening steak; but also bread or even paper.
- Improved agility thanks to a narrower blade.
- The Japanese D-shaped handle ensures a secure grip.
- The blade has been hand sharpened through the complex Honzabuke process.
- Some people (me included) might find the kanji for ‘phantom’ engraved on the blade as a beautiful detail.
- Pairs well with the Phantom Santoku Knife 7".
- Compared to a chef's knife, this one is somewhat lightweight. It might not be the feel some chefs are looking for.
- As the handle design is a bit asymmetrical, it works better for right-handed people.
A variety of tasks from chopping herbs or mincing garlic to cutting meat or filleting fish.
Heavy duty or delicate work, you name it. This chef’s knife is simple and classic, the blade is sharp enough to cover your daily cutting-needs. Like the rest of the Gladiator Series, the blade has been forged from a single piece of high-carbon German steel.
- The handle is ambidextrous and impervious to heat, cold and moisture.
- Hand polished bolster and full tang for counterweight and comfort.
- Designed to be your workhorse no matter the challenge.
- Pairs well with the Phantom Gladiator Santoku Knife 7".
- The blade is probably too long for those occasional cuts that require the use of the tip. (but you won’t have a problem with general food prep).
- If you already own a chef’s knife and you’re looking to upgrade your game, maybe you should go with the Shogun or Phantom series.
Slicing, dicing, chopping and mincing everything!
2. The Paring Knife Recommendations
If you feel like all your cutlery looks the same; and you want a blade that looks and feels different without sacrificing performance; go for the Frost Fire Series. Razor-sharp edge and light-weight, it’s everything a paring knife is supposed to be; only more unique, beautiful and audacious.
- Unique design and look.
- 7-layer high-carbon, high-chromium steel.
- Sharp, light and smooth. It cuts through fruits like they’re butter.
- Tension-free grip thanks to its ergonomic handle.
- If you’re a bit conservative, then the “frosted” look may be too much.
- The short blade is not suitable for certain cuts.
Peeling and cutting small fruits and vegetables.
People often assume paring knives are supposed to be simple and boring, as opposed to the highly praised chef’s knife. Prove them wrong. This is the next-level paring knife, crafted for maximum performance.
- Sharp enough to cut through everything; light enough to do it for hours.
- The steel is designed with Dalstrong Nova Prime blade pattern, less drag and more efficiency.
- G10 & Carbon Fibre Hybrid handle.
- Low maintenance, ideal for everyday use.
- A bit expensive for the price most home cooks are willing to pay for their (average) paring knives.
- If you prefer a more conventional design, we recommend the Gladiator Series.
Cutting, chopping and slicing fruits and vegetables.
A serrated knife is a lot more than just a “bread knife”, it is an indispensable addition to your cutlery. The small “teeth” are perfect for hard exteriors in foods like bread, lemons or tomatoes. And this one comes with the dependability and affordability of the Gladiator Series.
- Narrow, serrated blade edge for maximum precision.
- Easy to hold and use.
- High-carbon, hand sharpened blade.
- Feeling creative? Score patterns on food with this blade.
- Serrated blades are trickier to sharpen.
- Not recommended for more precise cuts (in this case you need a utility knife).
Tough-skinned fruit and vegetables with soft interiors, small crusty loaves, and dried or tough meats.
3. The Slicing & Carving Knife Recommendations
If you cook and eat a lot of meat; a carving knife is a necessary item in your cutlery (and maybe even a steak knife). They are great for slicing large meats. And if you’ve already decided you want to go all the way with a carving knife, why not start at the top with the Shadow Black Series?
- The blade is totally black with a non-reflective titanium-nitride coating.
- The whole knife offers carefully designed geometric lines.
- The tall blade height makes food preparation easier.
- Slices through any meat with minimal effort.
- The black design might be too aggressive if that is not your style.
- Before buying this knife, study your eating habits. If you’re looking for a bread knife, or a knife for small fruits and vegetables, this is not it.
Carving roasts, ham, prepping large fruits and vegetables, and slicing bread loaves and layer cakes.
This carving knife has been designed to withstand the daily demands of a very busy kitchen. You will slice meats of any size with a single stroke, without tearing or shredding anything. The price and performance make it a great choice for your first carving knife.
- Your knuckles are taken care of with the ergonomic handle, even for long hours of slicing.
- Great value for money.
- The blade is hand sharpened and hand polished.
- In case size matters to you: you can get longer carving knives depending on your needs and preferences.
- If what you need is a knife to cut raw meat; then what you’re looking for is a boning knife.
Carving roasts from brisket and prime rib to roast ham, turkey, or a side of salmon; as well as prepping large fruits and vegetables, and slicing bread loaves and layer cakes.
Dreaming of Spain after that vacation you had years ago? Bring a little Mediterranean charm to your kitchen or restaurant with this Spanish Style Slicer.
The blade is extra long and extra narrow for those smooth, thin, delicious slices of prosciutto (or brisket, or salmon…).
- Turn an average sandwich into an art show by pulling out this knife for your favorite charcuterie.
- Long-lasting, scalpel-like sharpness.
- Military grade G10 handle.
- If you’re not used to this length, maneuverability might not come as easy at first.
- If you’re looking for more multi-purpose knives, consider how specialized this knife is.
- The price might be a little high for some budgets.
Meats and cured hams, briskets, roasts, salmon, turkey and more.
4. Frequently Asked Questions
What is a kitchen knife and what is it used for?
A kitchen knife refers to any knife designed for food. Sometimes people use the term kitchen knife when they’re talking about a chef’s knife (long, broad and multi-purpose).
How much does a kitchen knife cost?
You can find kitchen knives in any price range. But beware: Price does not determine quality.
Can your cutting board make your knife dull?
The type of cutting board you use can affect the sharp edge of your knife. Use a wood or plastic cutting board to keep your knife sharp.
Are kitchen knives illegal?
In many places, it is forbidden to carry knives in public places. Check your local legislation to verify the current law regarding knives.