A brilliant painter needs just the right brush, a great mechanic needs just the right tool, and a true chef needs just the right knife. Choose wisely and half your work is done.
Step 1: Chef's Knife For just about any basic kitchen task, choose a cook's "go-to" knife: the Chef's Knife. Its strong, hefty, and relatively wide blade is sturdy enough for heavy jobs, but sharp enough for delicate cuts too. Its size and weight are ideal for everything from mincing to chopping, and the blades rounded shape allows for a speedy rocking motion.
TIP: When buying a chef's knife, hold it in your hand and feel how it is weighted. Women may feel more comfortable with a smaller chef's knife that won't feel overwhelmingly large in their hands.
Step 2: Santoku For tasks that require a thin, sharp edge, choose a santoku knife. This knife originated in Japan, where its design was adapted from a Western chef's knife. The result: a shorter, thinner blade perfectly suited for cutting vegetables and even fish.
Step 3: Serrated knife To cut through the skins of juicy fruits like tomatoes and plums without damaging their delicate flesh, choose a serrated knife. Usually about 10 inches long, serrated knives are also perfectly suited to cut bread and cake.
TIP: If you want neat, tidy slices, it is best to use a firm but gentle sawing motion when cutting with a serrated knife.
Step 4: Paring knife For smaller jobs, choose a paring knife. This 3- to 4-inch shorty is another go-to knife that makes jobs like peeling, carving, or cleaning vegetables like shallots much easier. With its short blade, this knife allows you to maneuver around objects rather than simply slicing through them.
Step 5: Slicing knife If you love to cook meat, choose a slicing knife. Its long, narrow blade makes it ideal for carving picture-perfect slices. But herbivores find it useful too—it's also is well suited to cutting large vegetables or fruits.
FACT: According to TSA regulations, all knives "except for plastic or round bladed butter knives" are prohibited from being carried onto domestic and international flights—so if you're carting your cutlery to a cook-off, be sure to check it underneath.