Find a Restaurant

  • Search

Five Knives You Must Have

Published May 12th, 2014

“How many knives are enough?!?”

That’s the question my wife always asks me when I bring home another new knife!  I have not counted all the knives I personally own at the moment, but I could give it a pretty good guess that it is around 75.  Yes, you’re right, I’m obsessed!  And yet, I know some chefs that have double that amount!


So how many do you really, really need?  That all depends on the kind of work that you are doing.  Do I really need 75?  Of course not…I happen to have multiple, multiple sets of the same thing!  Some were gifts – after all, what else do you give a chef at Christmas?!   I was actually even given, as a gift, the former kit that students at Le Cordon Bleu Portland used to purchase, an entire set of knives that I’ve never used, just for being a part of their culinary advisory board.

I have a butcher cleaver, but I really don’t do much work that needs it.  I’ve got dozens of utility knives, tomato knives, quail-boning knives, ham slicers, etc. that rarely see the light of day.

If I were starting out all over again, I would plan on probably five or six basic knives, the best quality that I could afford, ones that fit great into my hand (which might mean they don’t all come from the same manufacturer!  Don’t get caught into that trap – find the best knife that feels best to you for each task!).  A chef’s knife, either traditional French style or a santoku are a must, they are the workhorses in the kitchen.  Personally, I like an 8” chef’s knife, and most santoku knives are 7” or so.  This is the knife that I’ll do all my chopping and mincing with.

A serrated knife is indispensible for breads.  Even though I don’t use it very much, a paring knife is necessary for small prep work.  A long slicing knife is my choice for cutting steaks out of primal cuts like New York’s or Prime Rib, and I use it to cut fish as well (which saves me from buying a scimitar, which is typically used to skin and cut fish – though I probably have one around somewhere in my collection!).  Last but not least, a boning knife is necessary for breaking down chickens or any other meats that have bones.

So what’s the answer?!  One knife can manage most tasks, but show me a chef that only has one knife!  Based on my explanation, five knives are sufficient for nearly all tasks.  So know, knowing that, what will I do with my other seventy?!

-Scott Neuman-





Filed under: Must Haves