You've got your cast iron skillet and a Bundt pan? Great! Now outfit your kitchen with the right knives.

By Patricia S York
May 20, 2020
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Have you ever heard that using a dull-bladed knife is more dangerous than using a sharp one? That is true and using the wrong type of knife for the job is also a bad idea. Buying the proper knives for your kitchen does not mean you have to buy an entire boxed set at one time; all your kitchen knives don’t even have to be the same brand. Whether slicing a tomato or peach for a summertime main dish salad, mincing garlic, or boning fish, there is a perfect knife for the job. There are four types of knives you need for a well-stocked kitchen, plus one extra tool to keep those knives in tip-top shape.

Chef’s Knife

An 8- to 10-inch chef's knife is the most important and useful knife in your collection. You may be a bit uncomfortable with such a large knife, but this longer edge makes the knife more efficient and versatile. A longer blade can actually be safer than a smaller one because you have more blade to work with. You will use a chef's knife for the majority of your kitchen tasks, such as slicing and dicing fruits, vegetables, and meat. You don’t want to use a chef’s knife for butchering or carving poultry, and you don’t want to use it as a vegetable peeler.  The broadness of a chef's knife blade makes it unwieldy for tasks better suited to a smaller knife.

Paring Knife

A paring knife picks up where a chef's knife leaves off. The average paring knife blade is about 3 1/2 inches long, which makes it ideal to use on foods that requires exact attention. Use a paring knife to slice or mince items such as garlic and onions, hull strawberries, or peel fruits and vegetables. Don’t use a paring knife to cut through hard vegetables, such as carrots, celery root, or parsnips. These smaller knives don't carry enough weight to easily slice through the foods, and you will find yourself increasing the pressure or tightening your grip as you cut, which may cause the knife to slip. Forcing a cut is a sign that you are using the wrong blade for the job.

Serrated Knife

There are a number of uses for a serrated knife besides just slicing bread. With an average blade length of 6 inches, a serrated knife is great for using on foods with waxy or slippery surfaces, such as watermelons, tomatoes, citrus, and peppers. A serrated knife also makes easy work when cutting cake layers. The jagged edge can grip and penetrate the slippery exteriors, whereas the flat blade of a chef's knife would slip and slide across the surface, which could result in a painful accident. Using a sawing motion with the knife allows the teeth along the blade to grip and cut through ingredients, which is why a serrated knife should not be used to chop or slice smaller items such as fresh herbs, berries, garlic, or onions.

Boning Knife

If you plan to cut or bone fish, meat, or poultry, you will want a boning knife. While most knives are designed to cut straight lines, a boning knife gives you the leeway to cut around bones, but not through them. A good boning knife will have the flexibility to separate meat from bone as well as slice through joints and cartilage.

Honing Steel

A honing steel is not a knife, but it is still an important tool for your knife collection and is designed to keep your knives at their peak sharpness for as long as possible. Running your knife along the honing steel realigns the teeth on the blade, giving you a sharper edge and a cleaner cut. Hone your knives every time you use them and have them professionally sharpened once a year. A honing steel can be used with any straight-sided blade, such as a chef's knife or paring knife, but it should not be used on serrated knives since the teeth won't glide along the steel.