Psst. Here’s a cooking secret: You don’t need an expensive, pull-out-all-the-stops knife set (who actually uses every single one anyway?). If you want to unleash your inner Barefoot Contessa, all you have to do is stock up on a couple of reliable, functional, high-quality blades. We’ve rounded up the best kitchen knives you need to make your cooking a cut above. From the best chef’s knife to the one that slices bread (and cake) with ease, we’ve got you covered. Chop, chop.
Consider a chef’s knife your jack-of-all-trades for the most #basic (but necessary!) kitchen tasks, such as chopping onions, mincing herbs, or slicing open avocados so you can make avocado toast at home and afford to buy a house someday. If you’re daring, you can go for a 10-inch knife, but for most home cooks, an 8-incher will do—for novices especially, they’re easier to control. The Mediterranean holm oak handle of this Zwilling Pro knife isn’t just nice to look at, it’s also incredibly strong, and the stainless steel blade is crafted to last. Your best bet, though, is to try a chef’s knife in person, to determine what feels comfortable in your hand.($129.95; williams-sonoma.com)
If your chef’s knife is a multitasker, think of a small paring knife as its more detail-oriented best friend. Use it to cut the tops off strawberries or to slice limes for your next cocktail. You can even use it as a peeler for apples and oranges, as long as you’re careful. We like Kuhn Rikon’s nonstick paring knives, which not only come in a rainbow of hues but also come with a handy matching sheath, so you won’t have to worry about cutting yourself when you pull it out of the drawer.(Starting at $8.87; amazon.com)
Yep, it’s exactly what it says it is. The serrated edges of a bread knife are built to slice through the artisan loaves you’re totally going to buy for that avocado toast, but they’re also great for chopping chocolate and slicing cakes. (Try slicing a cake with a chef’s knife; we dare you.) Bread knives are all about function, so they don’t have to be pretty. Go with a trusted brand, like Wüsthof.($109.99; nordstrom.com)
If you plan on entertaining a la Ina—roasting chickens to serve alongside fresh-from-the-Hamptons-garden vegetables—a carving knife will come in handy. It’s built for slicing through meat, whether that means a Thanksgiving turkey or a smoked brisket. Look for a set that comes with a long-tined fork, like this Global duo. The fork makes it easier for you to hold the meat in place while you slice.($149.95; williams-sonoma.com)
If you’re going to spend your hard-earned money on knives, you want to keep them sharp, so don’t overlook the importance of a good honing steel, like this one from Wolf Gourmet. Plus, it may seem counterintuitive, but you’re less likely to cut yourself if you’re using a sharp knife, because it’s less likely to slip. Learn how to hone.($99.95; surlatable.com)