There are a million knives out there. I have about 9 hanging on my magnetic knife rack at the moment, including three paring knives, four different chef’s knives, and a speciality cheese knife. I’ll be honest — I do not use all these knives, nor do I need them, and neither do you. You only really need three knives in your kitchen: a chef’s knife, a serrated knife, and a paring knife.
A chef’s knife is the largest knife in the drawer. It’s the one you’ll use for chopping a squash, slicing up onions and peppers, and quartering potatoes. I love my Victorinox 8″ Chef’s Knife, as it is big enough to handle a melon but small enough that I don’t feel like I’ll cut off my arm with it. It has a comfortable grip, a sharp blade that stays sharp, and comes with an inexpensive sticker price. It’s also the top rated chef’s knife from Cook’s Illustrated.
Serrated Bread Knife
If you bake bread at home, this is doubly important to have. Chef’s knives can tear through soft bread; a serrated knife gently carves through even the softest crumb. If you aren’t a bread baker, a serrated blade will come in handy for cutting other soft items, like tomatoes or pineapple or cake. Also, slicing a whole watermelon or hard squash with a sharp serrated knife can sometimes be easier than trying to chop through it with a chef’s knife.
This is by far the knife I use most in the kitchen. Small and sharp, it is easy to maneuver and slice exactly what you want, how you want it. I have three different paring knives at home which, admittedly, is overkill — one good paring knife will do. I purchased a Cutco paring knife years ago which, as they claim, has never gotten dull, but I also use a Victorinox 3.25″ paring knife which is lighter and easier to maneuver.
Slimming down your knife drawer will leave you with less sharp objects to wash and store, and that’s always a good thing. But as you start relying on fewer knives, you need to make sure they stay sharp. Many local kitchen stores offer knife sharpening as a service (Williams Sonoma and Sur la Table do, so we’ve heard). There are also roving knife sharpeners who will come to your house and sharpen your knives, though perhaps there are less of these than there used to be. Or you can buy a knife sharpener and learn how to do it yourself.