Recommended cooking knife set?

A friend is starting to cook and wants the minimum, most essential knives. She’s not going to bone chickens or anything like that, she just mainly wants some good produce knives for peeling & chopping. What would be the essential knives she needs? Any recommendations for a professional, high-quality/low-price set?

You really only need two knives for the vast bulk of cooking: an 8-10" chef’s knife or santoku and a paring knife. Those two knives are important if you’re gonna do any serious cookin’.

A scalloped bread knife is also handy, and I swear by having a cheap 5" utility knife for little tasks.

As for brands, I’ve heard that the Victorinox-made Forschner knives are some of the best values in cutlery. If they’re willing to spend a little more money, I’d also recommend looking into Kyocera knives – they’re ceramic knives. Super-sharp, low-maintenance, and they keep an edge MUCH longer than steel. They’re kinda pricey, but I personally think they’re an awesome fit for a serious home cook.

Tell your friend to hit a restaurant supply store and to buy something like this. typoink already mentioned one brand, but there are several others that are comparable. They make paring knives, too.

Probably best to avoid any kind of set, though.

I’d agree with getting a chef’s knife, paring knife, and maybe a bread knife. If your friend is after low cost I think the Forschners typoink mentioned are the best bet. If she’s looking for really cheap, consider Pure Komachi by Kai knives. They look like toys but they’re very sharp, easy to clean, and durable enough for the price. I bought a little KAI santoku for people to use when they help me in the kitchen and after a year of moderate duty it’s still sharper than it has any right to be for a $10 knife.

Going up a step in price some good popular brands are Wusthof, Henckels (not their International brand), Global, Shun, and MAC. There are a lot more great knife makers out there but I think those are the ones you’re most likely to find in a store. They are a bit more pricey but if you plan on spending any amount of time in the kitchen they’re worth every penny.

The Shun Wasabi Chef’s knife at $30 is, by far, the best knife you’re going to get at that price range. If you want to go a bit up in price range, the Hattori HD-7 is excellent at $150. If you want something you can find at a local store, the Shun Professional Chef’s Knife is pretty good for around $100.

She should spend some time handling each knife, if possible, to see how it fits in her hand. If the knife is too heavy, uncomfortable, off-balance, or something similar, it could be a hindrance or even potentially dangerous.

I love Global knives, but I had a problem with their GS-38 paring knife. It’s a very small knife, so the curves in the handle are actually pretty subtle in your grip. The knife blade is narrow too. The knife looks nearly symmetrical at a glance. I found I would put it down on the cutting board with blade facing away from me, then pick it up such that the knife’s edge would be facing up. This happened so many times that I realized one day I would be very unlucky and put a finger out to steady the blade for a cut… ow. I got rid of that knife and bought a different style for the paring knife, with a distinctively-shaped style so that I would not have that mistake happen.

I started with a Wustoff Classic starter set. I cannot find the exact set online but this is basically it. This set includes an 8-in Chef’s knife and a 3-in pairing knife. The set I purchased had a 6-in Chef’s knife and if I found that set to recommend here I would have suggested upgrading to the 8-in or 10-in Chef’s knife. At $99.95 that is an excellent price as the 8-in Chef’s knife by itself is typicall $99.00 to $135.00.

Anyway, that is a really nice base-set that will handle the majority of your friend’s needs and if theywanted to build upon it they can do so easily enough as Wustof Classics are readily available.

Edit: Okay, poor attention to details on my part. The linked set is a Wustof Gourmet line and not the Classic. Disregard previous comments…


Okay, I found the Wustoff Classic set I started with. As my previous post mentioned, it includes an 6-in Chef’s knife which is okay to start but as others have stated I recommend upgrading at some point to the 8-in or 10-in Chef’s knife.

My friend has looked at the links & wonders with all the different sizes on the chef’s knives, how you know what you should get in inches?

It’s really a personal preference. I have a 10" chef’s knife. It looks really big, my roommate teases me about my ‘Hanzo Steel’ when I’m using it. But it’s comfortable for me. Some people are more comfortable with a smaller knife though, so it’s best to try them out for yourself.

See if you can get your friend into a kitchen store like Sur La Table, Williams-Sonoma, or Bed Bath & Beyond. They should let her handle the knives and see what is comfortable to her. If she just can’t get to a store, an 8" chef’s knife is probably the most common and would work well for almost anybody.

Sur La Table offers a basic knife skills class which I took. In the class you get to use a variety of chef’s knives in sizes ranging from 6-in to 10-in from different manufacturers, Japanese vs. German, and even ceramics. I already had the 6-in when I took the class and got to try the other sizes and found what worked for me. As a bonus, during the class break they offer discounts on knife purchases which in many cases is fairly rare to get discount or sale prices on these types of knifes.


In terms of which knives to get I would suggest the following:
[ul]4-5" Paring Knive for general use[/ul]
[ul]8-10 Chef’s Knive for chopping, dicing, etc.[/ul]
[ul]8-10 serrated knive for cutting bread, which is important to me but may not be to you.[/ul]
[ul]8 inch thin bladed, flexible boning knife for such things as removing silverskin from meat[/ul]

I would completely, wholeheartedly agree with previous posters; however, in emphasizing that the most important factor is how the knife fits and feels in your hand. If you’re looking for knives to last then I would recommend getting knives that have blades that extend all the way through the handle.

I personally use Henckel’s Professional-S knives (made in Germany - as previously noted do not get the knives marked “International”) and have used them for ~15 years with some additions over the years.

Other suggestions:
[ul]Also consider a good way to sharpen the knives. A steel is useful but it is not intended to provide a good sharp edge! Get either a sharpening stone or a sharpening tool such as a Chef’s Choice[/ul]
[ul]Get something - a wooden block or a tray type holder for a drawer - to store the knives in.[/ul]
[ul]Never put wood handled knives in a dishwasher![/ul]
[ul]Most importantly, always keep your knives sharp. Dull knives cause injuries![/ul]

To extend this a bit, don’t put any good knife in the dishwasher. Just wipe it down, rinse it off with a bit of soap and water, dry it and put it up in a safe place. Dishwashers can be hell on a knife’s edge. Some knives can tolerate it but for the most part it’s a bad idea.

My coffee cup was empty, so I went to the kitchen to fill it. My ‘good knives’ (Henckels) are on the counter near the pot. I didn’t buy them as a set, but mostly individually. I started out with one of their inexpensive three-knife sets: An 8" chef’s knife, a 3" paring knife, and an 8" carving knife. I also got a set of four steak knives. The rest of them (8" chef’s knife, 6" chef’s knife, 6" santoku, 4" paring knife) are their Professional S series, except for the cleaver. The cleaver is the least-used, so I didn’t feel the need to spend the extra money for the Pro-S.

The one knife that gets used more than any other is the 6" chef’s knife. It’s just the right size for just about everything, The 8" Pro-S gets used for larger things like large vegetables, but mostly the 6" is the right tool for the job. (The cheaper 8" chef’s knife is almost never used, as I like the heavier blades of the Pro-S series; though it was my main knife when I had fewer choices. My 8" Victorinox chef’s knife gets used even less. It doesn’t seem to hold an edge as well as the Henckels.)

Either the 3" or 4" paring knife is useful for smaller jobs. I’ve come to depend on the carving knife for roasts, as it works better than a chef’s knife.

Other knives that get a lot of use are a couple of ones my dad bought in a set back in the '70s. They have weird blades; very slight taper, with an almost-squared-off end (as opposed to a point) and flat edges. Very Contemporary in the '70s; but with the flat edges, not as useful as a chef’s knife. Still, they are ideal for cutting blocks of cheese. Dad also got a couple Pickham Amazing Knifes. I kind of remember the commercials, and how they’re supposed to be useful for cutting anything from tomatoes to aluminum cans. I use them for cutting bread. They’re perfect for that, and not much else.

Having said all that, I’m going to join in with everyone else and suggest a 6" chef’s knife and a 3" or 4" paring knife as the minimum. I suggest the 6" instead of the 8" simply because it’s the one I use most, and I could use it even if an 8" knife would be better. Those two knives should be all she needs for peeling, slicing, and chopping. I buy Henckels because I like them. They also offer inexpensive three-knife sets. But there are other brands that will do the job just as well. They might be more expensive, or they might be less expensive. I found Henckels’s less-expensive three-knife set to be quite adequate for many years. It’s only since I moved into my house that I want more and better tools. So I’d say she should look for the chef’s knife and paring knife from whatever brand strikes her fancy. And a sharpener. She can always look at ‘better’ knives later, if she has a mind to.

Incidentally, I rarely use the steak knives. The table knives I got in a flatware set from Ikea are more than a match for my steaks.

Correction, it was the GSF-15. As you can see if you enlarge that picture, it appears very symmetrical at a quick glance, and the little bump on the handle at the base of the blade is not very distinctive to the touch at all.

Lots of good recommendations here. How it feels in your hand is very important: you only have to lose a piece of a finger once to learn that. I would only add that I’d stay away from the finely serrated-edged knives that supposedly “stay sharp forever!”. They don’t, and the only way to economically resharpen them is to grind off the serrations. Also, they are rarely forged steel, so it’s a waste of money. Knives should be of quality steel, have a full tang (all the way through the handle) and be securely fastened to the handle. If a dishwasher is in the picture, stay away from wooden handles, as they will eventually dry out, become loose and deteriorate. Dishwasher cleaning is okay if one has a knife holder designed for use in the machine.

I recommend a good knife block rather than drawer storage. Knives that get banged around lose their edges faster. A wooden block that allows you to store the knives sharp side up is ideal, IMO. A good sharpener is also key. Along with the knives, buy a steel and a good sharpening system such as the Spyderco Sharpmaker, which I use. It puts on a razor edge without a lot of effort. Stay away from electric sharpeners.

Damn! I should read the entire thread first. Waterman scooped me.

Good list, but since the OP’s friend is looking for basics I’d replace the boning knife with a long, thin, straight knife for slicing meat.

Also, having knives sharpened on a regular basis and using a sharpening steel in between will make a bigger difference than having a really expensive knife that is not sharp.

My friend found a Calphalon starter set at Bed, Bath & Beyond- how would that rate?

I’m bumping this to include that this Calphalon set includes a 6 in. chef’s knife, a 4 1/2 in. paring knife, and kitchen shears for $30.

Which set is it? Has your friend felt the knives in the hand? Personally, because when I chop things I try to chop more than one celery rib and more than once carrot, I tend to go for a larger chef’s knife. When I took a knife skills class I used a 10 inch knife and I then had to return home to my 8 inch knife. I miss the 10 incher, it just felt better in my hand.

for $30, it will be a good education in what does and does not feel right.