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How to Buy the Best Kitchen Knives

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A few sharp, good quality knives are the most essential tools in any kitchen.

The TV Chefs all have their own brands, and the cooking school instructors rave over the $300 Shun Elite and Kyocera, and other really expensive blades that are made from space age ceramics or hand forged from secret alloys and fitted ebony handles.

But the dirty secret is that restaurants use much cheaper knives that they sharpen frequently or even throw away when they wear out. For our wedding in 1974, my wife and I were given a beautiful set of Henckels, high quality German knives, and they’re still going strong with professional sharpening every year.

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Today, Günther Wilhem knives are my all-time favorites. They are durable, sharp, and absolutely beautiful.

The best knives are made of special alloys that remain hard and keep their edge, yet are soft enough that they can be sharpened, a process that grinds away small parts of the steel. The best knives are forged, a process of pounding and grinding. The tang, the tail part that goes into the handle, goes all the way to the end of the handle, and is riveted into the handle, which should have a comfortable grip.

The handle should be tight against the tang so no water or food can get into it. The best knives are well balanced and easy to handle. Forged knives have an integral bolster (shield) between the blade and the tang. Alas, high quality knives should not go through the dishwasher. The caustic soap dulls the blade.

Does this mean you need to spend hundreds of dollars on an entire set of forged knives? No. Just a few good quality knives are all you really need. Before you buy, learn everything you need to know about knives here. You can also read the nitty gritty on the pros and cons of different metal alloys and knife manufacturing methods in our article on The Science of Knives here

Once you have an idea of the right knife for you, here are some fine options. Remember: no matter what knife you buy, the most important thing is that it feels good in your hand. Balanced, not too heavy, not too light, and not so long or so short that cutting seems like a chore. Visit a cookware store and pick up a few knives to get a sense of how different ones feel in your hands.

Gunter Wilhelm Premier ProCut 8 Inch Chef Knife


Meathead, Founder And BBQ Hall of Famer

This is a superb chef knife with a wicked sharp 15 degree cutting edge that is also drop dead gorgeous.

Gunter Wilhelm Premier ProCut 3.5 Inch Paring Knife


Meathead, Founder And BBQ Hall of Famer

A short stiff blade with a sharp point makes the paring knife the tool of choice for fine work like slicing radishes, peeling apples, coring peppers. The Gunter Wilhelm Premier ProCut 3.5 inch inch Premier ProCut Paring Knife is a superb blade with a wicked sharp 15 degree cutting edge that is also drop dead gorgeous.

Gunter Wilhelm Premier ProCut 10 Inch Serrated Offset Bread Knife


Meathead, Founder And BBQ Hall of Famer

The Gunter Wilhelm Premier ProCut 10 inch Serrated Bread Knife is a superb blade with a wicked sharp cutting edge that is also drop dead gorgeous.

The Rapala Fillet Knife Is Cheap, Sharp And Versatile


Meathead, Founder And BBQ Hall of Famer

This cheapo knife has a thin flexible blade with a dangerously sharp edge and a wicked sharp tip. It's good for just about everything except cutting through bone. And it costs less than $15.

Mercer Culinary Granton Edge Slicer Makes Slicing Brisket a Breeze


Clint Cantwell, President And BBQ Personality

Create perfect slices of brisket, tenderloin, or roast with the Mercer Culinary M23011 Millennia 11-Inch Granton Edge Slicer, an inexpensive workhorse used by countless professional kitchens. Its 11-inch length makes slicing large cuts of meat a breeze while the scalloped edge ensures the meat won't stick to the blade.

The Messermeister Meridian Elite Knife Kit Travels Well


Meathead, Founder And BBQ Hall of Famer

My travel knife kit is a Messermeister Meridian Elite Knife Set. These are quality forged knives, and if you're looking for a basic knife roll, it makes a great choice.

Alaskan Ulu Rocker Knife


Meathead, Founder And BBQ Hall of Famer

This tool, designed for skinning hides, comes in very handy in the kitchen, especially for mincing herbs.

Professional Brazilian Steakhouse Knife Set


Meathead, Founder And BBQ Hall of Famer

Machine washable professional Brazilian steak knife set hand selected by Meathead.

Products For Storing Your Knives Safely And Damage Free


Meathead, Founder And BBQ Hall of Famer

You need a place to store your knives. A block or magnetic strip would be just the thing.

Cleaver: An Ideal Knife To Have On Hand For Cutting Through Bone


Meathead, Founder And BBQ Hall of Famer

When cutting through bones, a cleaver is a great tool to have in the kitchen.

Vegetable Peelers: An Inexpensive But Necessary Tool For The Kitchen


Meathead, Founder And BBQ Hall of Famer

The vegetable peeler is an indispensable tool in the kitchen. Here's what to look for when buying one.

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Published On: 5/23/2019 Last Modified: 2/13/2024


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