As a new chef, your first question might be which knives to buy for your set. Similarly, if you’re looking to add a knife set to your culinary collection, you might have the same question. No matter your case, we’re here to provide you with the best answer to your questions.
This article will give you a detailed guide on which knives are usually in a knife set. Furthermore, you’ll learn more about each knife’s function and how you can use them properly. If you want to learn more about knife sets, check our full review of the best knife block set under 200.
General Characteristics of a Good Knife
So, what do beginners need to know before splurging on their first knife set? Well, before getting into the types of knives themselves, a few general rules apply to all of them.
First of all, get good steel. As a beginner, you should always choose stainless steel. Don’t worry about the type of steel, and remember to stay away from knives made of unlabeled material.
Secondly, get a full-tang construction. Full-tang means that the blade and handle should be a single piece of steel. One-piece construction is essential for longevity and strength.
Lastly, consider the handle. Plastic is not too attractive, but it’s maintenance-free. Wood looks terrific but requires looking after. So, pick what suits you best.
With that out of the way, let’s delve deeper into the actual topic of conversation – which knives are usually in a knife set.
Various Knives in a Knife Set
- Chef Knife or Santoku
The chef knife, or its Japanese counterpart, the santoku, is a general-purpose knife. This set of knives can handle most types of cuts, including slicing, dicing, chopping, mincing – you name it. You can also use their long and wide blades to crush cloves of garlic, as you’ve no doubt seen in all those YouTube videos. A chef knife or a santoku is a must in every knife set, and if you for some reason choose to buy only one blade, it should be one of these.
- Bread Knife
This knife is long and has a serrated blade ideally suited to cutting bread. You can, however, use it for other purposes as well. Its serrated blade design lends itself well to cutting things that a smooth blade would smash. These include all kinds of pastry, cake, and some other softer foods like ripe tomatoes. The serrated blade design allows this type of knife to cut in the same manner as a saw, preserving the shape of whatever it is that you’re slicing.
If you often find yourself preparing meat, a cleaver should be a mainstay of your knife collection. It’s probably the only type of knife capable of cutting through raw cuts of meat, seeing as these cuts often come with the bone attached. The cleaver is a hefty, powerful tool that can chop clean through a steak in a single blow – something that you wouldn’t be able to do with any other knife on this list. A word of warning, though – be extra careful when using a cleaver; it can be as dangerous as it is practical.
- Boning and Fillet Knives
The boning knife is pretty self-explanatory – it’s the knife you use when trying to separate the meat from the bone. Its long and thin blade is convenient when preparing meat since its shape allows you to cut the meat very close to the bone without letting the juiciest parts go to waste.
The fillet knife is similar to the boning knife, except its primary purpose is to prepare fish. You can compare it to an exaggerated boning knife – where the boning knife is long and thin, the fillet knife is even longer and thinner. It’s also very flexible, and in the right hands, it can cut paper-thin slices of fish.
- Paring and Utility Knives
Like the boning and fillet knives, these two are also somewhat similar. These knives are usually the smallest ones typically found in a knife set. They are small in size because you will primarily use them for precision tasks. Say you want to garnish a salad or decorate a cake – that’s where these delicate tools come in. Do you want to embellish your favorite cocktail with a bit of sliced fruit? No problem with these two.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Do I really need all of these knives?
That depends on the types of foods you prefer to cook. For example, someone who doesn’t eat meat or fish would not need a cleaver, a boning knife, or a fillet knife. If you don’t plan on doing precision cuts, you can do without a paring knife. Also, try to avoid buying knives that serve similar functions – you don’t need both a chef knife and a santoku, so only choose the one you prefer.
- What should I consider when buying a knife set?
First and foremost, you must consider your personal needs. Don’t buy massive sets full of knives you’ll never use – try to find sets that match your preferred cooking activities. Always insist on durability: look for a full-tang construction and labeled stainless steel. Remember how the saying goes: “buy nice or buy twice.”
- Should I buy a complete set, or can I purchase different knives?
If you can’t find a set suitable for your needs, it’s always a good idea to buy the pieces separately. Mixing and matching will allow you the freedom of choice that you simply don’t get with ready-made sets. Also, buying only the knives you need means that you can spend more money on them. Reduced clutter in the kitchen is always a good thing, and quality beats quantity every time.
Now that you know which knives are usually in a knife set, you’re properly equipped to go shopping for some knives. Whether you go for a pre-made set of knives or you decide to make your own, take what you’ve learned here, and you will no doubt make the right decision. In the end, remember that it’s not the knives that make the meal; it’s the cook.
Gary Portman is the founder and main author of knivesadvice.com Using the knowledge he has gained through the years, he aims to help people choose the best knife based on their needs. You can find more info about Gary here.