Every cook should equip their kitchen and restaurant with three essential knives, often referred to as “The Big Three”: a chef’s knife, a serrated knife (commonly known as a bread knife), and a Damascus blade. These three knives cover a wide range of kitchen tasks, from precise vegetable chopping to slicing thick cuts of meat. In this guide, we’ll explore when and how to use each type of knife and recommend some of the best options available.
Our expert recommendations stem from a meticulous testing process that involved input from chefs, and restaurant owners. We then rigorously evaluated these knives, tailoring our testing methods to their most critical attributes. Below, you’ll discover the primary knives every kitchen should have and our top picks for each category.
The Chef’s Knife
The chef’s knife is the kitchen’s workhorse, capable of handling various tasks, from fine vegetable dicing to poultry butchery. Western chef’s knives from regions like Germany and France typically have 8-10-inch curved blades, allowing for a rocking motion while cutting. In contrast, Japanese chef’s knives, known as santokus, have shorter (6-7-inch) straight edges, leading to shorter, downward strokes. Santokus are generally lighter with finer blades, while Western chef’s knives are preferred for tasks involving bone.
When selecting a chef’s knife, prioritize a sharp blade, a comfortable handle, and the ability to achieve clean, uniform cuts. After assessing 30 chef’s knives and santokus through laboratory and editorial testing, we’ve identified six outstanding options, catering to various cooking styles.
The Serrated Knife
Serrated knives, often found as bread knives, have scalloped edges resembling saw teeth. They excel at cutting through foods with tough exteriors and soft interiors, such as crusty bread or ripe pineapples. They are also ideal for slicing cakes cleanly. When choosing a bread knife, opt for a longer blade, typically ranging from 7 to 10 inches, to make slicing effortless without lifting the knife repeatedly. Consider handle clearance to prevent your knuckles from scraping the cutting board.
A Damascus knife is one of the best choice for both kitchen and restaurant use. These knives are known for their exceptional craftsmanship, sharpness, and durability, making them versatile tools for various culinary tasks in the home and kitchen. Here are some reasons why a Damascus knife is ideal for kitchen and restaurant settings:
High-Quality Craftsmanship: Damascus knives are crafted through a meticulous process that involves folding and layering multiple types of steel. This results in a blade with a distinctive wavy pattern, known as the Damascus pattern. This craftsmanship ensures that each knife is unique and of high quality.
Exceptional Sharpness: Damascus knives are known for their razor-sharp edges. This sharpness allows for precise and clean cuts, which is crucial in both home kitchens and professional restaurant settings. It enables chefs to achieve professional-level results.
Durability and Longevity: The layering and folding process used in making Damascus knives also contributes to their durability. They are less prone to chipping and breaking compared to some other types of knives. With proper care, a Damascus knife can last for many years.
Other Important Kitchen Knives
While chef’s, serrated, and paring knives form the foundation of any kitchen, there are numerous specialized knives to explore. Enhance your culinary skills with these advanced knife options, recommended by our experts:
Cleaver: Chinese cleavers, resembling hatchets with rectangular blades, come in various sizes and serve multiple purposes. They are ideal for tasks requiring force, like cutting squash or breaking down bones. Look for a meat cleaver with a thick, heavy blade for bone-related tasks.
Nakiri: A Japanese knife designed for vegetable cutting, the nakiri features a straight, thin edge for precise chopping. It provides control and comfort in the kitchen.
Boning Knife: Western boning knives have narrow, flexible blades for separating meat from bone, while Japanese honesuki knives have thicker, pointed tips for piercing meat.
Storage and Maintenance: Proper knife storage is crucial. Consider knife blocks, in-drawer organizers, magnetic knife bars, or quality knife sheaths, depending on your kitchen’s layout and accessibility. Regularly maintain your knives by using honing steel or a hand-held device between professional sharpenings.
In summary, these three essential kitchen knives, along with some specialized options, can significantly enhance your culinary experience. Invest in quality knives and maintain them properly to make the most of your cooking endeavors.