A good knife can make preparing dinner an absolute joy. Here are three knives that are the core.

knives in drawer block with steel and napkin.

When I worked at Williams Sonoma, I sold a lot of knives. I loved learning and educating guests about the differences between the styles and brands of knives we carried and how to care for them.

This post is not really about that but more about what are the three knives every cook’s knife collection should contain. While having a great set of really expensive knives is wonderful, it is by no means necessary especially if you’re just starting out.

LIke I say with most ingredients, when it comes to knives, you certainly can buy the best you can afford. However, there are several other things to keep in mind so that expensive knife doesn’t just end up sitting in a drawer.

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Top Knife Tips

five knives on board with small bowls and honing steel

The feel – First and foremost, choose a knife that feels good in your hand. This is probably the most important thing. Don’t buy a knife online or anywhere without at least going somewhere and holding it.

One of my favorite brands is Global because they aren’t as heavy as a typical wood or poly handled knife and they are really comfortable to hold. It’s funny because I recommend them all the time and don’t own one. The next knife I buy will be definitely be a Global.

Make sure the bolster (which is the part between the blade and the handle) feels good in your grip. Oh – and if you’re a lefty like me, there are certain knives that just plain don’t work for us (Shun Classics, for example).

The size – just because you see your favorite celeb chef wield a really big chef’s knife doesn’t mean that is what’s right for you. A longer knife can be helpful and believe it or not, less fatiguing when doing a lot of chopping (like a 8″ chef’s knife vs. a smaller 6″).

The balance –  A knife should feel balanced in your hand, especially a chef’s knife. You don’t want the handle heavier than the blade if you’re doing lots of heavy chopping. The knife should do all the work

The blade – A better knife has a full-tang blade meaning the blade runs all the way through the handle to the end or the butt. Yep, that’s what it’s called. And the tang should be held into the handle with rivet or screws.

The handle – The handle can be made out of many materials like wood, poly, plastic, rubber and more. Just make sure that you know how to care for it and understand that items like wood might be harder to keep sanitary. Which leads me to…

The cleaning – Never never ever put your knives in the dishwasher. At the risk of sounding like a mom (which is kind of ingrained), I’m going to say it again. Dishwashers. Ruin. Knives. Period. The end. Wash them by hand, dry them and put them away in a drawer or block made to hold them.

The care – Honing and sharpening are key for keeping your knives in shape. Keep your knives honed between uses (that’s the long stick that comes with most knife sets) and get them sharpened periodically. It’s how they’ll stay working hard for you and help minimize injury.

Three knives I recommend for every cook

  • chef’s knife – I like an 8″ chef’s knife. It is my workhorse and the one I use for almost everything. Chopping, dicing, mincing  – it does it all. A smaller 6″ chef’s knife is perfectly great as well and again depends on your comfort.
  • paring knife – typically a 3- 3 1/2″ in length, a paring knife is great for small items and more delicate tasks.
  • utility knife – a utility knife is serrated, usually 5-6″ long, and is good for things like slicing tomatoes.

The “nice to have” knives:

knives on board with bowls and napkin.
from top to bottom: slicing knife, Santoku, bread, utility
  • bread knife – serrated and long. And it probably depends on how much bakery bread you buy (middle in the image above).
  • slicing knife – great for slicing and carving meats (top knife above)

What are your favorite knives to use on a daily basis? Let me know in the comments below.

knives in block with honing steel and gray napkin

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  1. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE my Cutco cheese knife! Has openings on the blade which keep the slices from sticking together as you cut from a block of cheese. Loved your knife tips and love the blog!!