If you are anything like my mom, then the knives in your kitchen need a complete makeover! Dull edges, bent tips, and broken wooden handles are not only useless but are also extremely dangerous to work with! Being a chef myself I’ve come a long way in understanding the differences in knives, what makes a knife great, and how to avoid bad knife purchases.
The first bit of advice I can offer up is to AVOID buying cutlery “sets” containing 11 or more knives. One reason being that these sets cost about as much as one good knife should, and another being that you will NEVER use about 80% of the knives in the set. I look at my cutlery in a quality over quantity manner. Think of it like buying a car. Would you rather have 1 great car that always works, or 5 cars that won’t even turn on? This being said, I do agree that a solid mix of a few different knives is very important. I do 99.9% of my cutting with either a chef’s knife or a serrated knife. Knowing this, I tend to invest my money in great chef’s knives and serrated knives. I also think it is a good idea to have a paring knife and a good boning/fillet knife on hand. So, according to my math, that is a total of 4 knives. This makes it a bit easier to go and give your cutlery a complete makeover.
A few items to look for when purchasing a new knife are the construction of the knife, the tang, and the handle. Construction can be made up of 2 different categories; forged and stamped. Forged knives tend to be heavier and better balanced, while stamped knives are lighter, less balanced, and cheaper. I’m guessing you now know what type of construction to look for J. The tang is the continuation of the metal blade that runs through the handle. A full tang (visible from all angles of the knife) gives the knife weight, balance, and durability. If the blade and handle are two separate parts, avoid the knife all-together. Handle selection is a bit more based on personal preference. I will say that wooden handles take a lot more maintenance than plastic handles (but work great when maintained properly). The best way to select the proper handle is to pick the knife up and see how it feels in your own hand. Comfort and durability can be felt immediately.
Some brands I would suggest you look into are Chicago Cutlery, Global, Shun, and Wusthof. You will definitely find a wide range of knives to choose from that will all meet the requirements listed above. Don’t be surprised if you end up dropping $ 100-150 on each knife. You are paying for what you get with knives, and a well-made knife is sure to last for generations.