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Cutlery Buying Guide

by Staff Writer

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Set of cutlery and steak knives in a storage block

However much kitchens may have changed over the years, quality cutlery remains a kitchen essential. With the right cutlery pieces and accessories, you can make your kitchen a mecca of great homemade meals. This cutlery buying guide will help you choose which knives and accessories your kitchen needs.

Cutlery Pieces:

  1. Boning knife: A boning knife is a thin, narrow blade used to remove meat from bones. Boning knives are thin for precision cutting and usually about 5 to 6 inches long. Stiff boning knives are good for boning beef and pork, while flexible boning knives are best for boning poultry and fish.

  2. Bread knife: Bread knives have a long, serrated edge designed to cut bread without flattening it or producing huge amounts of crumbs. Bread knives should be at least 7 inches long for clean slicing; longer knives are best for large homemade loaves of bread.

  3. Butcher knife: Butcher knives feature a long blade and are commonly used for heavy work. They were first used to butcher and dress animals, and modern versions of the butcher knife include the chef's knife and the cleaver.

  4. Carving fork: A common cutlery accessory, the carving fork is a long, two-pronged fork used to hold meat steady while it is being carved.

  5. Carving knife: The companion to the carving fork, the carving knife is a large knife, 8 to 15 inches long, used to slice cuts of meat from large chunks, such as spiral ham or the Thanksgiving turkey.

  6. Chef's knife/cook's knife: The chef's knife or cooking knife is a general-use kitchen tool. Chef's knives are usually about 8 inches long and are designed to perform many tasks well instead of excelling at one; use a chef's knife to mince, slice and chop vegetables, slice meat or disjoint large cuts of meat. The Santoku knife is a Japanese evolution of the chef's knife; it is primarily designed for cutting fish, vegetables and boneless or lightly boned meats.

  7. Cleaver: Cleavers are rectangular blades used for chopping meat and cutting through small bones. The cleaver is a heavy knife that does not need a particularly sharp cutting edge because it relies on its weight to cut efficiently. Cleavers are also used to crush garlic.

  8. Fillet knife: Fillet knives are closely related to very flexible boning knives. They are used to fillet and skin fish.

  9. Fruit knife: Also called a bird's beak knife, the fruit knife features a short, curved blade and is used to peel fruits and vegetables.

  10. Paring knife: The paring knife is a small all-purpose knife for peeling and working on small items, such as garnishes. A paring knife can also be used to peel fruits and vegetables.

  11. Utility knife: The utility knife has a midsized blade, 4 to 7 inches long, which may be plain or serrated. It is a cross between a chef's knife and a paring knife and can be used for a variety of tasks.

  12. Cutlery Accessories:

  13. Cheese cutter: This cutlery accessory resembles a vegetable peeler more than it does a knife. It is used to cut thin, uniform slices of cheese.

  14. Pizza cutter: A necessary tool for the pizza lover, a pizza cutter is a bladed wheel that makes slicing a pizza easy.

  15. Sharpener: Knife sharpeners are made of stone or diamond-impregnated steel. A special type of knife sharpener is required to properly sharpen serrated blades. For non-serrated knives, hand and electric versions work fine.

  16. Shears: Kitchen shears or kitchen scissors are helpful for opening packaged foods and can be used for many of the same things as knives. Be careful using them on meat if the kitchen shears cannot separate; the joint can harbor bacteria.

  17. Steak knives: Steak knives are similar to flatware knifes in size, but the blades have pointed tips and serrated edges to cut the meat. Most steak knife sets include six or eight knives, although there are sets with 12 steak knives.

  18. Storage block: Knife storage blocks provide a safe place to store and display one's knives on the counter. Wood is the most common knife storage block material, although plastic and metal are fashionable. Magnetized strips are popular knife storage options among chefs and those with available wall space.

  19. Vegetable peeler: One of the most basic kitchen essentials, vegetable peelers are specifically designed to remove thin skins.

  20. Zester: This cutlery accessory is designed to peel small strips of citrus zest (the colored part of the peel) to be used as a garnish or flavoring.

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