A good set of knives is a necessary investment for the ambitious home cook, and will give years of service if well cared for and regularly sharpened.
While price is not always an indicator of quality, the best blades rarely come cheap. But opting for inferior versions is a false economy, with such knives likely to squash or tear food rather than cutting cleanly through it.
The knives listed here, by contrast, would enhance any kitchen.
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Best chef’s knife: Zwilling Pro Santoku
Arguably the most important tool in the home cook’s arsenal, the chef’s knife is used for all sorts of chopping and slicing, whether you’re working with fine herbs, tough root vegetables or tender cooked meat. Most cooks use this type of knife more than any other, so it’s worth investing in a good one.
The Zwilling Pro Santoku represents a fusion of Eastern and Western knife-making traditions. Produced by a German company, it has a comfortable European-style handle with a Japanese-inspired blade that you can roll back and forth, finely dicing chillies, garlic and other aromatics or herbs.
The 18cm blade is razor sharp, but less brittle than authentically Japanese knives. And the scalloped sides are not just for show: they also help to prevent freshly sliced food from sticking to the metal.
Zwilling Pro Santoku, £68
Best parer: Florentine Kitchen F4 Paring Knife
Parers come in a range of shapes and sizes, but the most useful resemble scaled-down chef’s knives. This model from Florentine Kitchen (pictured above with the company’s chef’s knife) is both aesthetically pleasing and highly effective, with a super-sharp 10cm blade that is light and easily wielded. Deftness is key with a parer, which is used for peeling and other fine detail.
The F4 is highly customisable, with a choice of carbon or stainless steel blades and an almost limitless variety of handle designs, from classic scaled wood to “stacked” bands of Micarta thermoplastic and black leather. You can even design your own handle stack and add engraving to the blade for the ultimate in personalisation.
Florentine Kitchen F4 Paring Knife, from £100
Best carving knife: Blenheim Stainless-clad Slicer
Blenheim Forge, based in the south London district of Peckham, has a cult following for its hand-crafted range of timber-and-steel knives. The design is ostentatiously classic: indeed, the stout wooden handles and glimmering blades wouldn’t look out of place on the Game of Thrones set. Nor are they cheap, but they are a masterpiece of form and function.
If you’re going to invest in just one, make it the 22.5cm carving knife, with an oak handle and a blade of Blue Super Steel clad in a stainless veneer. It will earn its keep in the dining room as well as the kitchen.
Best bread knife: Miyabi 6000MCT bread knife
There are two schools of thoughts about bread knives. Since the serrations can’t easily be sharpened, they are sometimes treated as disposable items to be replaced as soon as the edge begins to dull.
But a blunt bread knife will destroy your carefully baked loaves by failing to cut clean, even slices. Which leads to the second approach, which is to buy the best bread knife you possibly can, on the basis that a well made blade will last much longer than a poor one.
Pro Cook’s Elite Ice X50 (£44) is an excellent mid-range bread knife, but the best of the best is the Miyabi 6000MCT, an expensive but beautiful knife with an exceptionally durable blade made from micro-carbide Cryodur steel. It slices effortlessly through the crustiest sourdough and the ripest tomatoes.
The Miyabi looks the part, too, with a dark wooden handle and a hammered finish to the highly polished blade.
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