Great question! “What kitchen knife should I buy” or “What kitchen knife set should I buy” are the things we get asked the most at community cutlery, confusion over what is and isn’t needed is common, so you're not alone, and whilst there isn’t a completely one size fits all answer, there is a general approach to kitchen knife buying that is applicable to most of our customers.
The first thing to note is that you probably don’t need as many knives as you think you do, or more accurately as you have been led to believe that you do.
Kitchen knife sets are popular, easily the most popular way of buying knives, and with this popularity comes the notion that we must need all of these knives, it stands to reason, surely. Not the case!
It’s common for these sets to contain filleting knives, boning knives, several sizes of utility knife, which most of our customers generally won’t find a use for, or at least not a proper use for, they may get brought into the rotation when the favoured knife becomes too blunt, but rarely for their intended purpose.
So what we generally say to our customers is that, with all probability you really only need a chef knife and a paring knife and even if you do expect to need others, start here and then add on the ones you need, the next usually being a bread knife.
The chef knife is going to be the knife which is your best mate in the kitchen, it will be in your hand most of the time and it’s going to do 90% of the work, it will be the one you go to for dicing spuds, it will be the one you go to for slicing onions, for smashing garlic, for julienning carrots or even carving meat (if that's your bag baby). A chef knife could be anywhere from 15 - 35 cm in length, but however long they should be nice and deep at the heel, so you have plenty of clearance for your knuckles when chopping on the board.
Supporting your chef knife it’s going to be your paring knife, the one which will take care of small jobs, like finely slicing garlic and shallots, peeling ginger or fanning an avocado. A paring knife would generally be somewhere between 6-10 cm and have little to no knuckle clearance, for intricate use on the board or for your “in the hand” preparation work.
When it comes to buying these knives, we always recommend you focus most of your knife budget on the best quality Chef knife that you can afford (which does not necessarily have to be a fortune, see below for our top tips) and support it with a cheaper paring knife (chosen wisely your budget here can go a long way), which can pull its weight for as long as it’s able, but if it does get broken or lost it can be replaced relatively cheaply without too much heartache.
By buying this way, instead of buying in sets, you are really able to maximise your budget and completely cut out the chaff. You know that the knives you have will be the ones you use because they're the ones you need, no more knives sitting in the block untouched for years. It’s easier when it comes to maintenance too (don’t forget that every knife bought from Community Cutlery comes with its first sharpen free!).
If you can, get yourself to a knife shop to try out the knives you’re interested in, work out which sizes are right for you and see which handle styles feel best in your hand. If you can’t get to a shop locally, feel free to send us an email with the knives you’re interested in and we’ll make you a detailed video. We often do this for our customers and they always find it very useful.
A final thought on budget, whilst it’s entirely possible to spend hundreds of pounds on a knife and it (usually) stands to reason that the more you spend the better the knife you’ll get, it is by no means essential, at Community Cutlery we cater for all budgets and have chef knives starting from £22. Feel free to hit the chat button at the bottom right of the screen if you’d like to discuss what you've read, your knife buying options or anything else kitchen related!
Community Cutlery Recommends -
Chef Knife on a budget - Pallares Solsona chef 16 or 22cm
Chef Knife mid range - Nihonko Gyuto 21cm
Chef Knife high rollers- Sakai Kikumori Kurouchi Gyuto 210mm
Paring Knife on a budget - Au Sabot Paring knife
Paring Knife mid range - Robert Herder K1m
Paring Knife high rollers - Sakai Kikumori Nami Petty