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Professional chefs will tell you that great knives are the most essential and versatile tools in any kitchen. How many to own depends on your culinary preferences – for the most efficient collection, choose the knives that best suit the way you cook and the foods you love to prepare.
Every cook needs a good chef's knife, paring knife and serrated bread knife – plus a honing steel. After that, add the specialty pieces that make the most sense for your cooking style. The two premier cutlery-making countries are Germany and Japan. In general, German cutlery can feel more substantial, while Japanese cutlery may feel sleeker and more precise. Essentially, it comes down to personal preference.
The best way to choose your perfect knife? Take it for a "test drive" to see how it feels. Many top kitchenware shops – including Williams-Sonoma – have workstations where you can experiment with different brands, types and sizes of knives. First, simply hold the knife, paying special attention to its weight, balance and grip. Now put it to work chopping, slicing or mincing on a cutting board.
The right knife will feel like an extension of your hand – and you'll feel relaxed and comfortable using it. Whichever knives you choose, always be sure to select the best you can afford: top-quality cutlery is investment that pays off every time you use it.
MUST-HAVES FOR EVERY KITCHEN
Chef’s Knife: The workhorse of your cutlery collection – use it for everything from chopping and slicing to mincing, dicing and julienning. Most popular blade length: 6"-8", depending on the size of your hand.
Paring Knife:This indispensable knife is handy for precise cutting tasks, such as peeling, slicing, trimming and dicing smaller fruits and vegetables.
Bread Knife: A serrated bread knife cuts through crusty loaves without squashing or tearing the soft, tender interiors. It's also ideal for cutting tomatoes and citrus fruits.
Sharpening Steel: Essential for keeping your knives razor-sharp, a metal or ceramic steel smoothes and realigns the worn carbon steel on the blade's edge.
Manual or Electric Sharpener: A knife sharpener allows you to restore the blades to their original, factory-sharp edges.
Santoku: This multi-tasking Asian chef's knife is designed for fast, precise mincing, dicing and slicing (santoku means "three benefits" in Japanese).
Utility Knife: Think of a utility knife as an all-purpose tool, great for everything from chopping vegetables to slicing meat. Choose a straight-edged or serrated blade, depending on your cutting preferences.
Kitchen Shears: You'll find lots of uses for kitchen shears, from trimming pastry dough and snipping herbs to cutting twine and parchment paper.
Slicer/Carving Knife: A long, narrow blade makes it easy to slice meat, poultry or fish into neat, even portions. Some blades have oval serrations that prevent foods from sticking.
Boning Knife: Perfect for prepping raw meats and poultry, this knife has a slender, slightly curved blade that easily maneuvers around bones.
"My First Knife":This ultra-safe knife is designed especially for kids, with a serrated blade and comfortable, easy-to-grip handle proportioned for little hands.
Shop our complete selection of cutlery at Williams-sonoma.com: http://www.williams-sonoma.com/shop/cutlery/?cm_type=gnav
Several references to Henckels which I do not like. I know it is very popular but probably because of marketing and availability.
Note that German and French made knives have different curves, tangs, and "feel'.
Try each one at the store during a course with real foods, such as onions, to choose the design that is right for you.
The bread knife from IKEA is just as good as boutique knives. This is not true of their other knives.
Agree that Cook's Illustrated is a good source.
All knives are not created equal, even from the same outfit. Think twice before buying a full set of knives from the same maker. As the article says, if you can use a knife before buying, do so. If not, handle it in the store to at least learn whether it feels comfortable in your hand. I've found that Cook's Illustrated gives some great advice on building a personal knife collection featuring knives from different makers yet which do the individual jobs they are intended for. And, you may find that you need fewer knives than those multi-knife sets lead one to believe are necessary. Also, if you can use a steel, go for it. Me, I just can't get the hang of it. I use a good sharpener instead.