One mark of a skilled home chef is knowing which knife to reach for to tackle each task in the kitchen. If you’re looking to become a better cook, it’s important to learn more about the ins and outs of the many different kitchen knives and accessories. Check out our guide to cut, chop, slice and peel your way through all kinds of delicious recipes.

Types of Knives

Not sure which knife you need? This list includes some of the essential knives used by many professional and home chefs.

Knife Sets

Knife sets come in a wide range of sizes, the largest of which include a dozen knives or more. If you choose a knife set, make sure it contains at least three staples every kitchen should have: a chef’s knife, a paring knife and a serrated knife (more on these options below). Knife sets can often be a great way to save money, but you may get knives that are superior in quality and performance by purchasing individual knives to suit your unique cooking needs.

Chef's Knives

A chef’s knife is a must-have for every kitchen. It is simple, yet versatile, and can be used for all kinds of slicing, dicing and chopping tasks. The large, wide blade helps to transfer food from cutting boards into bowls, pots or pans.

Paring Knives

With a blade that usually measures just 3-4 inches long, paring knives are some of the smallest knives used in cooking. The pointed tip and small blade allow for better precision when cutting and peeling fruits and veggies.

Bread Knives

This knife has a serrated blade that makes it possible to cut through a bread loaf’s crust without crushing the soft, fluffy interior. The big “teeth” on bread knives can also be used for delicately cutting cakes or meats.

Santoku Knives

A Santoku knife looks like a shorter, thinner version of a chef’s knife. This compact size makes it easier to maneuver for mincing, finely dicing or slicing ingredients very thinly. It usually features dimples along the blade to prevent foods from sticking to it between cuts.

Carving Knives

Carving knives are used almost exclusively for carving and slicing proteins, such as turkeys and hams. They feature long, narrow blades with a pointed tip, which helps create thin, uniform slices.


Cleavers are one of the largest knife options. They feature very wide blades made for cutting through bones, large cuts of meat and other ingredients that are especially tough, like pumpkins.

Boning Knives

Boning knives feature narrow, flexible blades to allow for easier cutting around joints and bones. This type of knife is often used for breaking down poultry, butterflying cuts of meat and filleting fish.

Knife Construction

Understanding how knives are made will help you find the best fit for your kitchen. Learn more about these knife construction basics to assist in selecting the right knives for you.

Forged vs. Stamped Knives

Kitchen knives are typically made using one of two methods: forging or stamping. Forged knives are made from a single piece of steel that is heat-treated and pounded into its final shape. These knives are heavier and feature thicker blades, making them great for heavy-duty chopping and cutting. They are more durable than stamped knives and often are considerably more expensive.

Stamped knives are cut from a sheet of metal before being tempered and hardened. While they are less durable, they can be made thinner and more flexible compared to forged knives, which can be advantageous for some detailed cutting tasks. Stamped knives are also more affordable.

Types of Knife Metals

Knives are typically made of steel. However, there are a few different varieties available, each of which has unique characteristics:

Stainless steel: Stainless steel is the most popular choice for most kitchen knives. It includes chromium to help prevent corrosion. These knives are slightly more difficult to sharpen, but the blades tend to last longer.
Carbon steel: Carbon steel is more susceptible to corrosion and requires more maintenance, but it can be sharpened to a very fine edge for excellent cutting ability.
Tool steel: Tool steel is another type of knife metal with excellent toughness and incredible edge retention. It has some corrosion resistance, but not as much as stainless steel.

How to Store Knives

Wood blocks as a popular storage option for knives, but they can actually dull the blades and the deep crevices are prone to bacteria and mildew growth. A better solution is to store your knives in a drawer. Be sure to use a drawer insert to keep each knife separate; friction with other utensils can cause damage to your knives.

If you’re lacking spare drawer space, there are a few other knife storage options:

Magnetic wall strip: Place knives onto the magnetic strip slowly and softly to avoid damaging the blades.
Blade protectors: Place sleeves over the blades to protect individual knives during storage.
Knife bag: This is a compact storage solution that holds many knives safely, although you have to roll it out every time you need to retrieve a knife.

Knife Maintenance Tips

Make sure you take good care of your knives over time so they’ll last longer and perform better in the kitchen. Some key knife maintenance tips include:

Cleaning: Don’t let knives sit in a wet sink after use. Wash all knives by hand using a soft cloth or sponge. Dry them completely before storing.
Sharpening: Sharpen your knives regularly with honing steel or a whetstone. Some grocery stores offer this service at the deli counter, or you can send your knives out to a professional to be sharpened. You can also have your knives sharpened at your local Sur La Table store.

Use this guide to make sure you find the right knives for your kitchen and care for them properly.