Choosing the right type of cooking knives.

By: markin bent

Choosing the right type of cooking knives can make all the difference in your cooking experience. Whether you are a pro or a beginner, it is important to have the right knife for the right task.

First of all, assess how much cooking that you do. If you are planning in spending a lot of time in the kitchen, if you entertain frequently, then you'll most likely want to invest in a more expensive set of knives that you know will last longer under heavy use.

If, however, you're cooking infrequently, then there are plenty of options out there that won't break the bank.

Once you've assessed just how much time you'd like to spend around sharp objects, the next step is to learn some basics about what constitutes a good, basic cooking knife and what constitutes something to clean your fingernails with.


The first thing you need to know about a knife is what material the blade and tang are made from. (What's a tang? We'll get to that in a moment).

Stainless Steel: If you've not purchased a quality knife before, this is probably what most of your knives are made out of. Stainless steel cooking knives require little maintanence, but cannot be sharpened when they lose their edge. For more details .If they're blunt, they're normally thrown away. Extremely expensive high-grade stainless steel is also used at times, and is even said to out-perform other materials. It is very pricey, however

Carbon Steel: Cooking knives made from basic carbon steel are tough to look after. They -must- be cleaned and dried after every use, because they oxidize, which means you'll soon have little rust-spots on them. They also turn black after a long period of time. There's nothing bad about this; some people just don't like how it looks.

High Carbon Steel: Most professional chef knives (an in fact almost any cooking knife worth its salt) will be made from High Carbon Steel. It does not oxidize, but still needs to be washed by hand. For more details harsh chemicals in dishwashers will pit almost all types of steel. High Carbon Steel can be sharpened again and again, holds an edge beautifully, and will last a lifetime.

Ceramic: A relatively new innovation, ceramic knives hold a sharper edge for a longer period of time than any other material. However, they generally cannot be sharpened (some manufacturers offer a 'mail in sharpen' service) and will chip easily if abused. Ceramic knives are a good choice if you're careful with your equipment, and don't mind a wait time to get them back up to scratch.

High Carbon Steel is generally the way to go if you want a decent knife. However, as you can see, there are other options, some of which are far less expensive.

Forged or Stamped?

While considering different types of materials, you should also take a look to see how the steel was shaped. Cooking knives can either be hot-forged, or stamped.

Forged knives are forged by hand, and beaten into shape (imagine a blacksmith making a sword), or drop forged (like a spanner or wrench) then sharpened. Forged knives are generally tougher than stamped blades. With the quality of steel and stamping techniques improving all the time, however, the difference between forged and stamped is decreasing.

Stamped knives are cut from a single sheet of steel, and then shaped and sharpened. At the moment, they are only slightly less durable than a fully forged knife. Stamped cooking knives cost far less to make.

Stamped or Forged blades can both be made from high carbon steel.

Handle and Tang:

A knife with a full tang means that the metal that makes up the blade runs from the point of the blade, right through to the far end of the handle. This makes the knife more balanced, and far more durable. You definitely want to get a knife with a full tang. Quality knives tend to have their handles attached to the tang with rivets

The shape and size of a cooking knife handle is very much about personal preference. Large people often like heavier knives, with larger handles. Smaller people may prefer the opposite.

The material of the handle also affects look and performance. Wooden handles look wonderful, and provide a decent grip (if they're not too smooth). However, you will need to take better care of them, as wood will often soak up oils, dampness, and may become discolored or harbor bacteria.

Plastic or composite handles on the other hand, don't have as warm an appearance, but can be more durable in the long term. Furthermore, they can be formed into almost any shape. Obviously, plastic is also non-porous and won't soak up moisture or dirt.

Both plastic and wood handles can have a full tang.


For your average person cooking at home, even someone who really loves to cook, you can begin your collection with just three knives: A chef's (or french) knife, a paring knife, and a serrated 'bread' knife. These three knives can do most of your preparation related tasks for you. Have a look at the links below to get a better idea of the various types of cooking knives available.

A basic chef's knife is a good start to any collection of cooking knives. It performs most tasks extremely well, especially preparation work like chopping or mincing, and has the ability to 'fill in' adequately for many specialized roles.

Your basic chef's knife is 6 to 10 inches long, has a large, wide blade, a straight spine (the back of the blade) and a slightly curved blade. Of course, it is also sharp, so be careful!

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