Everyone has that go-to friend. The one you reach out to when you need very specific advice. I’m the person my friends reach out to whenever they have cooking related questions and this includes how to stock their kitchen with tools and appliances. Despite what people may think, I’m not one to have a million gadgets in my kitchen and therefore, won’t encourage you to waste your money on anything that isn’t super useful.
One of the most common questions I get asked by my friends is:
“What knife should I buy?” or more specifically “What knife set should I buy?”
I take these questions very seriously because purchasing kitchen equipment and especially knives can be daunting for someone with little experience. When it comes to stocking a kitchen with tools and appliances, there’s a few things you should know about my approach:
1. I firmly believe that a cooks best tools are their two hands.
2. I don’t like uni-tasker gadgets.
3. I don’t believe that more expensive always equals a better product.
4. When there’s a tool that I love, I love it fiercely and will praise it to the hills.
Knife shopping in specific can be extremely stressful. You walk into a store and are immediately inundated with big, complicated sets that carry even bigger price tags. It can make people feel really overwhelmed and many times they just purchase or “add” the most expensive set to their registry because that’s what they assume they <should> be doing. But fear not good people of the internet, I got ya back! I’ve complied some info that I hope you will find helpful on your knife seeking journey.
Real Talk: Any knife brand that I’ve mentioned below I have used myself. This is not an AD. I am giving my personal opinion from my personal experience. It’s important for you to know that I was not paid by anyone to write this post or given any free product or compensation. This post was created to share my real home-cook knowledge with other home-cooks out there.
Let’s get at it!
I’ve been around a lot of knives in my life thanks to my 7 years on staff at national consumer magazine with an amazing test kitchen, and my time as the Culinary Expert for Williams Sonoma. Working at WS gave me a lot of hands on experience with different high end knife brands. While I don’t believe you have to spend hundreds and hundreds of dollars on knives, I do believe that this is an area that you should “invest” in if you are someone who enjoys cooking. If you buy the right kind of knives, they will last you a lifetime.
My Knife Buying Tips:
-Knives are an investment and they should be. If purchased and cared for correctly you will have them forever. This is not the place to skimp.
-Arm yourself with some basic knowledge before you head out into a store and feel pressured into a $700.00 knife block set “newlywed special” that you don’t need.
-Don’t buy online before seeing them in person. Go to a store where you can actually handle the knives. We all have different sized hands and what’s comfortable in my hand may not be comfortable in yours.
-You don’t have to buy a set. Sets are not designed with your personal needs in mind. I know the fancy knife block is something everyone pictures on their countertop, but I think it’s much smarter for you to assemble a set that works for you and your individual needs as a cook. if you aren’t de-boning a chicken anytime soon, Guess what? You don’t need that type of knife. Sure there are a basic grouping of knives that I feel everyone can use in their kitchen but you don’t have to have a million expensive knives to be a great cook.
-There are different knife brand levels. Ex: Not all Zwilling JA Henckles knives are created equal. There are different grades of them, some, very very cheap in quality. Know what grade knife you are buying.
How Do I Choose A Brand?
There are many different brands of knives made in many different countries but in my opinion, you should stick with stores that carry quality brands. Places like Williams Sonoma carry a good group of high quality knives. You can pretty much bet that whatever they have in their store is a good brand and their staff is usually well trained and very helpful. I know this first hand as I’ve been trained by them. You can also find some decent options at stores like Macy’s and even Bed Bath and Beyond. Once you get to these stores, you’ll realize that there are quite a few knife companies out there. It can be confusing as to whether you want to go with a European knife vs. a Japanese knife. I will always say that testing the knife in your hand is the best determination on what works best for you. Each manufacturer is different and it helps to know a little about how each one is made and what it’s made from in order to make an educated decision.
Blades/Metal Composition: European knives like Wüsthof and F. Dick are made from high-carbon stainless steel and need to be sharpened fairly often, whereas a Japanese knife such as Global is made from a new alloy of stainless steel called molybdenum/vanadium, which is harder than other stainless steels. According to Global, this metal doesn’t stain or corrode, and the blade is extremely sharp because it is evenly tapered lengthwise and crosswise rather than only at the edge, as European knives are.
You also want to take a look at the knife to see if the blade runs all the way through the handle. The part of the metal that runs into the handle is called “the tang”. Full Tang knives are made out of one piece of metal that extends all the way back to the handle. I prefer full-tang knives as they are heavy, but unless you are doing heavy duty chopping this may not be a huge deciding factor for you. I am heavy handed with everything in my life so having heavy duty knives is a super important for me.
as I’ve mentioned above, of the reasons I feel that it is so important to see the knives you are considering in person is so you can feel the weight and how the handle fits in your hand. Each knife has a very different feel. Handles can be made of wood, metal, plastic or rubber. I don’t like the rubber handles at all. The feel is just not for me but some people love them. I prefer the one piece metal style of the Global or the handles on my Wustof to rubber any day.
When you start to look at knives you’ll notice that some of them have black handles with rivets. This is a good thing. If you are going for a knife that has two pieces (the handle and the blade), The Wüsthof-Trident Grand Prix’s is molded high-impact polypropylene. That type of handle is becoming very popular, it looks sleek and feels really nice in your hand. The material is nonabsorbent, durable and easy to keep clean. The lightly textured surface feels good in the hand, and rounded edges allow for a more comfortable grip.
The Global handle is flatter and can be turned easily to shift the blade from one cutting angle to another. Even with the bigger Global knives, the blade performs so well and is easily maneuverable.
-A 7 inch Santuko knife (pic above), this is the knife I use very single day. If I had to own one knife in my life, this would be it. Period.
-A Chef’s knife – has a long sharp blade for slicing meats, dicing, chopping. I don’t use this as often as my Santuko knife but it is helpful when you need a super heavy knife to cut through very large tough veggies like butternut or spaghetti squash.
A utility knife around 6″ long – for slicing meat and vegetables, plus various chopping needs, with a non-serrated blade edge.
-A bread knife – long serrated blade for slicing bread.
-A sharpening steel or stone. This is helpful to have on hand because a sharp knife is a safe knife. I repeat. A sharp knife is safer than a dull one!! I know one may think a sharp knife is dangerous but a sharp knife will cut through things easier preventing you from having to use a sawing motion which can lead to the knife slipping and cutting your hand.
I totally understand the sex appeal of the knife block on the counter top but you don’t have to buy a pre-assembled set to get one. Many places sell the blocks on their own. If you don’t like stuff on your countertop, they also sell really awesome magnetic strips like this to place on your wall. Some people think it looks a little dangerous but I say it’s badass. I have both storage options and actually like the ease of the magnetic strip the best.
I’m Broke But I want a Good Knife:
Truth be told, I have quite a few knives in my collection and literally, 95% of the time I reach for my Global 7-inch Hollow Ground Santuko knife (see image below). I use it for everything. This knife is an extension of my hand and my most favorite item in the kitchen. If you are on a super tight budget I would honestly say just get this knife. You can always add to your collection when you get more cash and you will not be disappointed.
I own both Wustof and Global and my favorite brand hands down is Global. It is the perfect knife FOR ME. I love the way it handles and the lightness of it. I love that it’s one piece and therefor without rivets. The overall design of the Global knives is so artistic and well thought out that I find myself still to this day staring at them (yes! loserville!).