buying guide cutlery

sharpen up your
knife know-how.

  • hone in on the right knife.
  • A knife's a knife, right? Nope. Knives are made for specific tasks. Differences in construction, durability, ergonomics and weight determine how a knife will work for you. A variety of materials for handles, grips and blades means you can choose what's best for your needs.

  • block or stock?
  • Block sets come with a full set of essential knives, plus a block to hold them. Some even come with spaces to fill in later. Choosing from open stock lets you buy only the knives you want right now.

  • forged to perfection.
  • If you want to invest in a higher-quality knife, choose forged. Handcrafted forged blades are thicker, harder and better balanced, making them stronger and easier to cut with. They are specially treated for greater density and flexibility so that they will bend slightly if you cut into something hard like a bone. The part of the blade that continues into the knife handle (the tang) is riveted in place. Rivets increase the knife's strength, balance and ease of use. Forged knives also have bolsters (see below) to give you more protection and comfort while cutting.

  • get the edge with stamped.
  • Stamped knives cost less, but they lose their edge faster than forged knives. Cut from a sheet of metal and then heat-treated for strength, they are often thinner and lower-density than forged knives.

  • the right knife for the job.

  • paring.

  • Dream of making radish flowers? Pick up a paring knife. Best for peeling, cutting and cleaning fruit and vegetables.

  • paring knives
  • utility.

  • Utility knives come with either a straight or serrated edge and are best for peeling and cleaning fruits and vegetables. Also use for preparing meat.

  • utility knives
  • santoku.

  • Release your inner chef. Use a lightweight santoku knife for anything, especially preparing meat, fish and vegetables. With a thinner blade angle than most knives, it's great for slicing and dicing.

  • santoku knives
  • bread.

  • With its serrated edge, a bread knife will slice through bread without tearing it.

  • bread knives
  • boning.

  • Made with a narrow, thin blade and sharp point, boning knives make removing meat from bones much easier.

  • boning knives
  • chef's/cook's.

  • The chef's knife does it all. A broad, heavy blade makes it work for chopping herbs, cutting vegetables and slicing and dicing meat and fish.

  • chef's/cook's knives
  • carving.

  • A must for meat lovers. Thinner than a chef's knife and shorter and wider than slicing knives, carving knives will cut thinner, more precise slices of meat.

  • carving knives
  • cleaver.

  • This heavy lifter can cut through poultry bones and meat in one stroke. Cleavers are best for cutting small bones, large pieces of meat and spare ribs.

  • cleavers
  • steak.

  • Make cutting meat at mealtimes easy. Steak knives can come in sets of 6 or 8, and sometimes as many as 12.

  • steak knives

anatomy of a knife.

Get the edge when shopping. Learn about how knives are constructed to help find the one that's right for you.

learn more about knife construction

get a handle on handles.

  • Handles may not be as flashy as blades, but their construction determines how knives feel in your hand. A well-balanced knife will have a handle equal in weight to the blade, making it easy and comfortable to use.

  • handle construction.

  • The handle determines much of how a knife will feel in your hand, and each type and material has its pros and cons. Riveted handles have, well, rivets. They're metal fasteners that hold the part of the blade that extends into the handle in place. Hollow handles don't have a tang. Stamped handles are stamped from a single sheet of metal. And Derlin handles are made from durable, moldable plastic.

  • handle materials.

  • plastic

  • Plastic handles are easy to care for and non-absorbent. They may feel slippery and are sometimes too light for good balance.

  • composite

  • Many chefs consider a mix of laminated wood composites and plastic resin the best choice. As easy care as plastic, and as attractive, weighty and easy-to-grip as hardwood, composite handles are more durable than either.

  • stainless steel

  • The most durable and sanitary option. They can feel heavy, though, and the balance of the knife may be affected by the weight. Some stainless steel handles have indentations and ridges to minimize their tendency to be slippery.

  • wood

  • Beautiful, but not always entirely practical, wood provides a good grip but requires extra cleaning and treatment. Wood handles can crack and warp over time with exposure to water.

knife blades.

  • How long will a knife last and how easy will it be to sharpen? That depends on the type of blade.

  • blades in action

  • Find out which knives are essential for any kitchen and how to improve your knife skills.

  • high-carbon stainless steel.

  • The choice for high-end knives. Stain- and rust-resistant high-carbon stainless steel blades are hard, strong, will hold an edge well, and are easily resharpened.

  • stainless steel.

  • A budget-friendly choice, stainless steel blades resist corrosion, stains and rust beautifully. These blades can be truly stainless if you care for them correctly—handwash immediately and don't leave them to soak.

  • ceramic.

  • These blades require little or no maintenance beyond cleaning. Lightweight and extremely hard, a ceramic blade can hold its edge for years. These blades can cut through plates, so always be sure to use with a cutting board.

  • carbon steel.

  • Inexpensive and easy to resharpen, carbon- steel blades may rust and stain more easily than other blades.

  • resin.

  • As sharp as other metal blades, resin blades have a non-stick coating to help keep knives cleaner while in use. They're also available in a variety of colors and designs that make this choice a little more fun than gray metal.