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While we keep an assortment of knives in the Test Kitchen—though not quite the wide variety we all had in culinary school—we really only use a few different types. And they're the same ones we recommend you keep within arm's reach at home.
By far, this knife is the one we use most. It's the workhorse of the knife world because it's so versatile. We use it for chopping and slicing veggies, butchering chicken, removing skin from fish and countless other food-prep tasks. If you're in the market for new knives, our No. 1 recommendation is to try before you buy—no matter how much you want to spend, it's important to hold it in your hand.
The heel of a chef's knife (the part of the blade closest to the handle) should be large enough that when you hold the handle, your fingers won't be pinched against a cutting board. There should be some weight to it, making cutting through dense squash or bones easier, but it shouldn't be so heavy it makes your hand sore!
Chef's knives come in different lengths, but we recommend an 8-inch knife (knives are measured by the length of the blade), as it's an ideal size for most cooks and the most common size available. It provides the right balance of control and functionality.
This smaller knife has a small and thin blade (typically just a few inches long) and is perfect for more precise or finer knife work—think trimming small vegetables, peeling, making decorative cuts and even removing small bones.
This is another go-to for the Test Kitchen cooks. These thin blades have teeth like a saw and make quick work of both crusty and delicate breads without crushing or tearing. We use this knife when breaking down blocks or bars of chocolate, too. If you like, you can buy one with an offset handle, which elevates your hand and prevents it from hitting the cutting board.
Finally, a good pair of sharp kitchen shears is a must. We know, we know, it's not a knife, but these are our go-to tool for cutting through poultry bones and skin or finely snipping herbs. You'll never spatchcock a chicken without shears again.