Kitchen cutlery

If you intend to become a good chef or simply want to impress positively you friends in the kitchen, you will certainly have to have a nice set of quality kitchen cutlery. And no matter whether your are a professional chef of an ambitious amateur, high quality kitchen knives not only make cooking easier but will also be reliable assistants in the kitchen for years.

Of course, you can do the same work with low-quality knives as well, but it is obvious that working with poor knives you will make you work at least unreasonably complicate and at worst you put yourself at risk of being injured.

With this brief article we do not intend to advertise any specific brands of kitchen cutlery, we just want to give you essential criteria for selection and use of such knives.

So, what main knives should you have in your kitchen cutlery set?


The first and most necessary knife is a sufficiently large universal knife, which is also called “Chef’s knife”.

This knife is equally well suitable for thin slicing of a tomato or if necessary for cutting ribs or frozen chicken in small parts. Thus specific design requirements for such a knife: blade of around 20 cm long and 3-5 mm thick, i.e. it is quite big and heavy to comfortably chop and the bevels should be thin and high-ground, better those ground from the spine, so that the knife cuts easy and doesn’t get stuck in cut products.

Knives of European type have most comfortable blade of triangular form with a slight curve and almost straight spine (which comes in handy when you have to sweep cut products off the cutting board). Eastern-style Chef’s knives have blades in the form of a tapered trapezoid, but the blade’s curve and a straight part of the spine are present as a rule.

When choosing a knife it is worthwhile to check the form and material of the handle. Different people have hands of different sizes, this is why a “standard” ergonomically formed handle will not fit everyone’s hand. Especially bear in mind that when holding a knife correctly, the index finger and the thumb are placed on the blade, and other fingers hold the handle lightly. Thus the simpler the handle form is the more universal it is.

However, there is one rule that should be remembered – the blade and the handle should be jointed so that when holding the knife in the hand and with the blade’s edge put on a cutting board, the fingers holding the handle do not touch the surface of the cutting board.

This layout of the handle will allow to use the whole length of the blade.

For a practical use and hygiene it is good if the handle material is resistant to impacts and humidity and is easy to wash. Modern plastics meet these requirements perfectly. Injection moulded plastic handles are well jointed with the blade and they also have the advantage that liquids and particles of food will not get inside the handle, which is almost inevitable if the handle is made of separate scales riveted together. Well, if you prefer a wooden handle, the wood should be well impregnated and fit tightly.

The final aspect when choosing a large kitchen knife is a correct balance of the knife, i.e. the balance between the blade and the handle, when the knife is put across on a finger or is lightly held by two fingers on the sides of the handle. This point of balance should be at the very top of the handle near where the blade starts.


If your are on a tight budget, for practical purposes you’d be better off having one quality Chef’s knife rather a whole set of low-quality knives.

But if you can allow buying several good knives, the next one in your kitchen cutlery set should be a Paring knife.

This knife essentially have the same requirements as those of a Chef’s knife, however since its main purpose is a precise cutting when a large knife is not comfortable to use (for instance, when cutting a chicken) a Paring knife should have a smaller (around 11 cm) and a narrower blade.


The third knife that should be present in a minimum kitchen cutlery set, is a Bread knife. This knife features a long serrated blade.

Fresh bakery products with a soft spongy crumb and a crisp crust are difficult to cut even with a well-sharpened plain knife, which breaks the crust when pressed and squashes the crumb. On the other hand, a serrated blade cuts well without pressing, allowing to cut thinly even the softest cake. But it is not the only area of using this knife as you can successfully apply it for other soft products that are squashed when cut with plain blades. It should be noted that the Bread knife’s blade is serrated wavy-like, which is different from a Steak knife’s blade with small sharp serrations that are sometimes used in knives for cutting steaks or in table knives.


With these three main knives you will be able to cut or slice easily and comfortably any products. Whereas further additions to your kitchen cutlery set with more specialized knives will be limited only by your personal requirements and financial capabilities.


If you have already bought quality knives, it is relevant to know how to keep their maintenance?



As a rule, manufacturers of decent knives sharpen their knives well, but sooner or later any knife would become dull. This inevitable process just gets significantly quicker if knives are neglected and not taken care of. Maintenance of knives is not difficult and they will stay sharp longer if several simple rules are observed. No matter how good knives are, first of all the care should be taken of where and how they are stored.

The main rule is not to let blades of the knives contact with other kitchen devices or hard surfaces. This is why if your kitchen is too small or due to any other reasons there is no possibility to have a magnetic knife holder attached to the wall or to place a knife stand, designate to knives a room in a kitchen drawer with supports for blades thus protecting cutting edges of your knives.


For the sake of your own (and your hands’) safety do not put knives in a sink together with dishes or other kitchen utensils. After using a knife wash it separately with warm water, dry with a towel or a napkin and store it in its place in a drawer, stand or holder.

Do not wash knives in a dishwasher because blades can be mechanically damaged, besides, the dishwasher’s chemicals at a hot temperature destroy faster the micron cutting edge of the blade thus resulting it to dull faster.


The second rule is not to use hard surface cutting boards (e.g. made of artificial stone or glass), and definitely avoid cutting on ceramic or metal plates or trays. Quality knives have thin cutting edges that get strongly dulled even by hard plastic cutting boards, this is why if you want knives to remain sharp long – better use only wooden cutting boards.

The blade suffers the least when a cutting board is made of pieces of wood with fibres pointed vertically. Good cutting boards are made of hevea (rubber tree) and bamboo wood, which are quite resistant to humidity, this is when washed often such boards crack less. Laminated wood cutting boards are inexpensive and good enough.

For the purposes of hygiene there should be at least two cutting boards: one for raw meat and fish and the other for thermally processed products and vegetables. If you have the possibility, buy a separate cutting board for each group of food products. It is not a matter of luxury, it is just useful for hygiene purposes.


Thus correctly stored and used knives will remain sharp longer, however, sooner or later the time comes when we see that the knife cuts not so well as it used to.

In order to restore sharpness of a knife a specialized steel or a ceramic stick (in Russian – „мусат“) is used.


Sometimes it is called a sharpener but it is not correct since the steel is a specific tool, which flattens out the cutting edge thus restoring its sharpness rather then sharpening it. It is done easy: take a knife in one hand, a steel in the other and holding the knife at 15-25 degrees slightly sweep the steel away along the blade on one side of the blade (from the handle to the nose of the blade), then do the same on the other side of the blade. Depending on thickness of the blade, 5-10 sweeps are required to restore sharpness. If kitchen knives are of softer steel, better use metal stick, for knives of harder steel you’d be better off using a ceramic or diamond coated sticks. The most important thing is not to overdo.

If such restoring of the cutting edge is done regularly and constantly, you will not have to sharpen seriously a quality knife for 2-3 years. If the sharpening steel doesn’t help then you have two options: either to take your knives to a professional specialist for sharpening or to learn sharpening yourself. Only bear in mind that you should never use for sharpening of quality knives any mechanical devices or other sharpeners than quality sharpening stones if you do not want to damage your valuable knife.

However, this is a different topic.


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For those who understands on Russian - of interesting series articles about kitchen knives: http://knifelife.ru/articles_Nog_na_kuhne.htm

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