Alongside the correct cutting board to chop on, there is nothing more essential than the proper kitchen knife. How many do you need, which ones, and how do you make sure that they’ll stand up after wear and tear?

The three essential kitchen knives that we will walk you through choosing are a chef’s knife, a paring knife, and a bread knife. Properly sharpened and chosen, these knives will see you through most every task.

What’s your favorite knife in the kitchen? What do you look for in a kitchen knife? Did we leave out a knife that you think of as essential?

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Our top three knife choices:

Chef’s Knife

A chef’s knife is your go-to for most tasks in the kitchen, from chopping fresh herbs to deboning a chicken. Look for a knife that is around 20 to 25 cm/8 to 10 inches. This length will give you more versatility, chopping everything from melons to onions with this single tool.

The blade should be full tang, simply meaning that the blade extends all the way into the handle, equalling sturdiness. A half tang blade will be cheaper because you’re getting a blade that extends only half way into the handle of the knife, but you also have the possibility of the knife breaking off from the handle.

If it’s not listed, ask for the angle at which the blade was sharpened. With chef’s knives, there are two styles of design: Western; sharpened to about 20 to 22 degrees, and Asian, which are sharpened to a thinner 15 to 12 degrees. The thinner the blade, the sharper the knife.

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The material of the blade is another important element to consider in terms of the strength of the knife. A high carbon, stainless steel blade is a good choice, as the higher the composition of the steel alloy, the stronger your knife will be. Finally look for a knife that is easy to grasp and manoeuvre. Some manufacturers have designed handles with “ergonomic grips” or indentations and some handles are smooth. The best way to figure out which style of handle is most comfortable for you is to hold the knife for yourself.

Paring Knife

This knife is for your smaller, more delicate work; peeling tougher skin of small fruits and vegetables, scoring the flesh of meat, or making small cuts. Because of this, you’ll be looking for a small, light knife of 8 to 10 cm/3 to 4 inches. Many tasks performed with a paring knife don’t necessarily require a chopping board, for example hulling strawberries, instead they are done in your hands. Therefore, flexibility and lightness, rather than sharpness and strength, are key with this knife.

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Serrated Bread Knife

While this is called a serrated bread knife, this tool is also excellent for cutting tomatoes, slippery melons, or other delicate items with its serrated edge. This knife should ideally be 25 to 30 cm/10 to 12 inches so that it doesn’t get lost in the middle of a large loaf of bread.

Remember that a knife is a sharp tool that is meant to do serious work in the kitchen. Chosen properly it can make your work smooth and easy, but left to dull or improperly chosen it can cause accidents. Always keep your knife sharpened. High quality knives should be hand washed, dried, and never put in a dishwasher.

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