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If you know me, then you know I love to cook. I also love a good kitchen gadget – I have a whole story highlight on my Instagram which is just me sharing my favourite kitchen gadget of the day. Finally, FINALLY, in reward for my passion a company got in touch to send me a new exciting kitchen gadget I’ve never tried before.
It’s given me the perfect excuse to write about knives, the one gadget everyone from a top chef to a uni student needs in their kitchen. Knives can be expensive and it’s very easy to waste money on bad knives. You can also ruin good knives through poor care or technique.
I have knives but they’re so blunt
Blunt knives are an absolute scourge. If your knives are sharp you’ll be able to slice more thinly, have fewer cutting accidents and you’ll cry less when you cut onions.
Firstly, are you sharpening them? Most likely, you aren’t, and even if you are you probably aren’t doing it enough. I get it, my boyfriend used to be a butcher and watching him sharpen knives is pretty intimidating. Like, tbh I’d rather not be light-sabering a deadly blade around if I can avoid it.
AnySharp sent me their 5* rated knife sharpener to try out, and it is so easy to use. Like, absolutely foolproof. It sticks to your working surface using a suction cup, then you run your knife towards you through the little teeth 2-3 times. Then, voila! Your knife is sharp.
The hardest part is remembering to put it down on the counter with the logo facing away from you before you push the lever down to activate the suction.
I tried the AnySharp out on one of my “worst” knives. It’s not a fancy brand, it’s not well made at all, the top of the knife is quite thick and usually I avoid using it. I wanted to give it a real test and it passed with flying colours. It cut through an onion like butter.
If you already own knives, save your money and just keep them sharp!
Please please please stop chopping things on glass worktop savers, they’re ruining your knives. A wooden or soft plastic chopping board is great. If they start to get scratches in them that’s a good thing, your chopping board should be softer than your knives!
If you don’t want ugly scratched chopping boards out on the side I lovelovelove my Joseph Joseph Index set. But otherwise literally the white plastic one that’s £1.75 at IKEA is fab.
What knives do I need?
If you’re thinking of buying new knives, I’d like to give you a mini guide of how to choose them.
Most people decide all their knives are bad, then go on Amazon and buy some absolute monstrosity knife set for £40. You are wasting your money and mother nature’s precious resources buying multiple knives in one go.
Most chef-y types will say you only need 3 knives, but I’m going to say 4 is the magic number.
I know I own a lot more, but as I said… my boyfriend used to be a butcher, hence why we have a six inch boner and a giant cleaver. I’ve never touched those things and I do 90% of the cooking.
Must have knives
1. Paring knife
The one pictured isn’t a proper paring knife shape, but this is for cutting up small fruit, some people use it to peel potatoes. It’s a knife with a blade about the length of your little finger.
2. Medium sized knife
This is the knife kitchen minimalists will say you don’t need. However, most things I chop up are smaller than my fist. I don’t want to cut them up with a huge knife! This is a small chef’s knife, I love it for onions, meat, herbs, whatever. It’s a great shape for doing the rocking action.
3. Serrated bread knife
Not much more to say about this. You need one. Mine was literally from a car boot, there’s no point spending good money on one.
4. Large chef’s knife or santoku
I know it’s a bit controversial in the amateur cook community that my big knife is a santoku, not a chef’s knife with a pointy end like the one labelled number 2. However, a santoku is a Japanese invention that’s a hybrid of a traditional square-ended nakiri knife that’s great for vegetables and a western chef’s knife more suited to meat. I mainly use a big knife for large, hard veg like squash or swede, and I prefer a santoku for it. If you’re a veggie I’d say definitely go santoku!
Magnetic knife strip
Because as soon as I tweeted this post someone asked, my magnetic knife strip is by a brand called Tallo. The magnets are strong and you can get it in loads of different wood colours to match your kitchen, mine is the 45cm walnut option. You can pick one up from Amazon or the Hairpin Leg Company (which is where I got mine).
Magnetic strips, in general, are easier to clean than a knife block, and they won’t blunt your knives. However, you do need to screw them into your wall, so it might not be an option for renters.
How to choose a good knife
Having a sharpener like AnySharp will make even a bad knife easy to use, but there are definitely telltale signs that tell you to avoid certain knives.
If you buy one of the knife blocks above I promise you in two years you’ll be buying new knives and creating loads of waste. They all have five stars on Amazon because they’re cheap, and people review things after using them one time. In addition, knife blocks harbour a million germs and don’t give you the freedom of replacing one knife at a time because your new knife won’t fit.
Knives with a colourful blade. I’ve had this one maybe 18 months and look at the state of it. My original knives I took to uni were pink, and the paint just flakes off, it’s a bad idea. The same goes for rose gold knives and similar. They’re going to be made of steel and just coated with colour, it’ll just come off when you use or sharpen it.
Thick knives. The best knives are thin and strong, you can get away with a thicker knife if you’re just using the tip, but using the body of the knife to slice a butternut squash in two isn’t easy if the knife is chunky.
Knives with a metal, rubber coated handle. It also just comes straight off and looks hideous.
Knives without a full tang. The tang is the handle part of the actual knife, in the picture here you can see the knife on the left has a metal spine going down the handle, this is the tang. I’ve had handles fly off knives and you find out the tang is thin and only a few centimetres long, it’s not safe and it’s a stupid, cheap way to make a knife.
Basically, don’t get lured in by “pretty” knives.
The number one rule of buying a good quality item is to get it from a brand that only sells one thing. They don’t mess around when this is their whole business.
IKEA or Argos aren’t going to have the attention to detail of a century-old knife brand. Worst of all, Amazon reviews are riddled with fakes, messing with the algorithm to make it look like some brand you’ve never heard of makes the best knives.
Here are some great heritage knife brands that (pretty much) only make knives, and start from around £5 each:
They can be quite expensive, but they often have sub-brands that are cheaper. In my picture of all my knives, my paring knife is from the cheap-ish Zwilling Twin Point range but my Santoku is from Zwilling Pro. Watch out for sales and site-wide discounts too. If you spend £100 on four good knives, you’ll still have them in 25 years. Spend £40 on a “bargain” set online and you’ll be replacing them constantly.
If you can, go to a real cookshop to look at knives. You’ll be able to feel the difference between a good and bad knife!