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What Kitchen Knives Do I Need?

Are you an aspiring cook? Eager to learn meal prep at home? Taking on cooking as a hobby, or preparing meals for a growing family?

No matter your situation, if you’ve started spending more time in the kitchen, one of the first things that becomes blatantly apparent is that you NEED a good set of high-quality kitchen knives.

From simple meals to complex recipes, the right knives can make all the difference in the world, acting as a natural extension of your own hands, instilling confidence and performing flawlessly.

But one question that many aspiring cooks have is, “What Kitchen Knives Do I Need?”

With so many makes, models, sizes and styles of kitchen knives on the market, it’s easy to get lost in the sea of choices at your fingertips.

In this guide we’ll help you make sense out of all the ‘noise’, pointing you towards the knives that really matter, and the ones that you can go without.  You can learn more at Vertoku.

What Size Knives do I Need? – a quick overview

Before we explore the types of knives that are needed in your kitchen, it is helpful to separate them by size.

Why You Might Need a 3.5-4” Knife

This knife is small, agile, and mobile. Available in several styles, this nimble knife is often a great choice when dealing with delicate or small food items, and for peeling, slicing and chopping. The most common knife in this size range is the paring knife.

Why You Might Need a 7-8.5” Knife

The most common knives in this range include the versatile Chef’s knife (French Knife) and the Santoku Chef’s knife. Ideal for cooks of all skill levels, these knives can handle a majority of kitchen tasks and are great general all-purpose blades to have around.

Worth noting is the similarly versatile, albeit slightly shorter, utility knife. Sometimes referred to as a sandwich knife, the utility knife is a perfect option when a chef or santoku knife is a bit too large or unwieldy for the task at hand.

Why You Might Need an 8-9” Knife

Although chef’s knives can easily be found in these lengths, carving and slicing knives are a welcomed addition in this size. Ideal for those who regularly cook roasts or braised cuts of meat.

Why You Might Need a 10-12” Knife

Reserved for large carving and chef’s knives, as well as heavy butcher’s knives (cleavers), knives in this range are ideal for cooking dense, large cuts of meat (with or without bones), as well as handling melons and squash.

What Knives Do I Need?

Although the needs of any individual cook will vary from the next, there are certain kitchen essentials that you need to make cooking safe and enjoyable.

The right blade will complement your skillset, improve safety, and help you make each dish with the confidence of a top tier chef. Below we’ll take you on a deep dive into the wonderful world of kitchen knives, their uses, and even the skill levels or type of cooking most suitable for each style.

And remember, you don’t need to go ‘all out’ at once. By making smart choices you can affordably outfit your kitchen with the essentials, enabling you to get more done with less.  You will also want to check out our Complete Understanding of Knives.

8” and 9.5” Chef’s Knives - Why It’s a “Must Have” for Any Cook

Nothing is quite as versatile as the chef knife. Also known as a French Knife, this knife features a moderately broad blade, ranges between 6-10 inches in length, and ranks among the most often used of all the blades in the kitchen. From slicing and dicing, to chopping and mincing, this knife does it all.

In short, this workhorse is capable of handling just about any task you throw at it, and while it’s not always the ‘best’ possible knife for the job, it can get a lot done in a pinch.

Why You Need a Chef’s Knife: Notable Features and Uses

  • The great multi-tasker of the kitchen, versatile and capable
  • Allows you to get more done with less
  • Available in both straight edge or serrated
  • Ideal for handling for virtually any kitchen task in a pinch

5 and 7” Santoku Knives and Why You Need One in Your Kitchen

Similar to a chef’s knife, the Santoku embodies the true spirit of Japanese kitchen knives, offering a perfect blend of utility, form, function and aesthetics.

Santoku knives are most often found in sizes ranging from 5-7”, and by contrast, tend to be more compact and flatter than traditional ‘Western’ styles of chef knives.

Razor-sharp, lightweight and nimble, the Santoku is an ideal blade for shorter, precise, downward slicing. This makes the Santoku a good middle ground between the hefty size of a chef’s knife and the quaint paring knife.

Why You Need a Santoku Knife: Notable Features and Uses

  • Ideal for handling tougher or dense food items
  • Straight blade design assists with making clean cuts
  • Available in both straight edge or serrated
  • Perfect for slicing boned meat, sandwiches or bagels
  • Capable of chopping herbs and garden-variety vegetables

5” Utility Knife – What Makes this Knife so Versatile?

Living up to it’s namesake, the utility knife is a fantastic all-purpose knife ideal for a broad range of general tasks around the kitchen.

Why you Need a Utility Knife: Notable Features and Uses

  • A well-balanced ‘general purpose’ knife
  • Good for chopping smaller foods
  • Ideal for slicing meat, herbs, fruits and vegetables
  • Offers more precision than larger chef’s knifes
  • Sometimes called a ‘sandwich knife’
  • Moderate maneuverability and precision

8” Slicing Knife – a reliable classic

Easily identifiable by it’s long, thin blade, the slicing knife is a tool every cook needs in their kitchen. The thin, delicate blade is agile and precise, perfect for making thinner cuts and encourages a sawing motion (such as when carving meats).

Why you Need a Slicing Knife: Notable Features and Uses

  • Making thin, neat cuts or slices
  • Ideal for thin cuts of meat
  • Good for preparation of vegetables, fruit and salads
  • A flexible, long blade

8” Bread Knife – a specialist for anyone who loves baking

Bread is a uniquely challenging food item to tackle, with many kitchen knives falling short of completing the task at hand. Bread knives overcome this difficulty with one notable feature: a serrated blade resembling saw teeth.

Large serrations enable this knife to efficiently cut through even the toughest or most dense loaves of bread without risk of smashing the item. The downside? Without the proper accessories, they can be notoriously hard to sharpen.

Why you Need a Bread Knife: Notable Features and Uses

  • Large serrations resembling the teeth of a saw blade
  • Capable of slicing and sawing through any type of bread or crust
  • Cuts through slices of bread without the risk of smashing the food item

6” Boning Knife – for the meat-lover

This knife is an essential addition for all the meat lovers out there. Featuring a perfectly curved blade, this knife is designed to cut meat from the bone and glide through joints, tendons and sinew.

Why you Need a Boning Knife: Notable Features and Uses

  • Features a special curved blade
  • Engineered to effortlessly cut meat away from bone
  • Perfect for both meat and fish
  • Flexibility allows for thin, precise cuts

Paring Knife – Delicate and precise

Small and delicate, this little knife packs a big punch. Don’t let it’s petite size fool you, for the right tasks, a paring knife is a highly capable and valued addition to any cook’s tool chest.

Used for delicate, intricate and small cutting tasks, the paring knife is also ideal for mincing, dicing and peeling. Simple, precise and sharp, the paring knife makes small cutting tasks a breeze.

Why you Need a Paring Knife: Notable Features and Uses

  • Multi-purpose
  • Small and nimble
  • Ideal when attention to detail is needed
  • Perfect for peeling and cutting small fruit and vegetables,

Deveining prawns, deseeding fruits, cutting herbs and more.

Cleaver – the ‘butcher’s knife’

Also commonly known as a ‘meat cleaver’ or ‘butcher’s knife’, this knife features a thick blade, hefty handle, and sharply beveled blade-edge. Cleavers are heavy and well-designed to handle splitting large cuts of meat. If you’re a fan of buying your meat from the butcher, dealing with unprocessed cuts of meat, or participate in hunting and dressing your own cuts, a cleaver will be a welcomed addition to your kitchen cupboards.

Why you Need a Cleaver: Notable Features and Uses

  • Uniquely designed to handle large cuts of meat
  • Perfect for splitting meat from bone
  • Useful for splitting large or unwieldy vegetable or fruit

The Knives you Need: Based on the Type of Cooking you Do

Now that you have a basic understanding of what types of knives you need to have in your kitchen, let’s take a closer look at what knives you need based on your skill level or style of cooking.

Although skipping the meat cleaver is a ‘no-brainer’ for a vegetarian household, other options may be less clear cut (pun intended).

The Knives You Need for “Everyday” Cooking

Most of us are weekend warriors in the kitchen at best, and fly-by-our-seat amateur cooks on weeknights, whipping up fast, easy and convenient dishes to feed the family.

For everyday cooking, versatility is paramount. You need a set of knives that can handle the day-to-day tasks of meal prep, whilst still providing ample support for the occasional special dish and seasonal food items.

Heres What you Need in Your Kitchen:

  • A high-quality chef’s knife
  • A good paring knife
  • An all-purpose utility knife; and
  • A carving knife

The Aspiring Chef

Do you have a desire to improve your cooking skills? Do you get excited about new recipes you see on social media, or get inspired by your favorite cooking shows on TV? Perhaps you just have a love for food and creating delectable and enjoyable culinary experiences for friends and family.

As an aspiring chef, you need a high-quality knife set that will help you learn, and that you won’t quickly outgrow as your skills become more advanced, and your dishes more complex.

You might not have the talent of a top chef just yet, but that doesn’t mean you should sacrifice on the tools you need to excel.

Heres What you Need in Your Kitchen:

  • Chef’s knife
  • Utility knife
  • Carving knife
  • Paring knife
  • Bread knife

A Professional Chef in Training / School / Apprenticeship

For the chef-in-training, the demands placed on your tools of the trade, as well as the complexity of dishes and preparation far exceed those of a ‘family cook’. You’ll need a broad range of knives catering to a diverse range of cooking techniques, dishes and styles.

At a Minimum, You’ll Want to Have the Following at Your Disposal:

  • Chef’s knife
  • Santoku
  • Utility knife
  • Carving knife
  • Paring knife
  • Boning knife

The Professional Chef

Making the move from apprentice to professional is a major milestone for anyone. You have worked tirelessly, with passion and dedication to get to this point. You deserve a knife set fitting of your talent, and one that is versatile enough to tackle any kitchen task with ease and confidence.

The Knives You Need:

  • Chef’s knife
  • Santoku
  • Utility knife
  • Carving knife
  • Paring knife
  • Boning knife
  • Slicing knife
  • Cleaver
  • Chopping knife

What Knives Do I Need? – Closing thoughts

Choosing the right knives can be a challenge, especially for those new to cooking. Although some kitchen knives are created for a singular purpose, many are versatile. This can cause confusion among aspiring chefs and budding cooks alike.

Available in a broad range of shapes, styles and sizes, the wonderful world of kitchen knives is one that can be adaunting one. But it doesn’t have to be. With a little preparation and forethought, you can easily map out which knives you need now, and those which you can hold off on acquiring until such time as you up your skillset or try out new dishes.

In this guide we covered the basics of the most popular kitchen knives, breaking down their uses by cooking style, skills, and the blade’s capability.

There’s nothing left to do but find the perfect knives for your personal preferences and style. At Vertoku we have put our heart and soul into developing world-class knives that perform as good as they look, offering top-tier quality that is affordable and attainable for even the most novice of chefs.

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