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Knives are the most important and most frequently used kitchen utensils. In choosing a new knife set, the main considerations are which knife set to purchase and which knife is used for what purpose. Buying a knife set is an important decision. The knives you choose should last a lifetime. After you purchase a good quality knife set, you should never have to replace them. A good rule is to buy the most expensive set of knives you can possibly afford, because they should last for the rest of your life.
Knives are normally more affordable if you purchase them in a set. Knife sets should include all the basic tools and will normally include a stand or container in which to store the knives. You will be able to purchase additional, more specific, knives in the future if you wish. Most knife manufacturers sell knives individually, allowing you to add to your collection at any time you wish. You may need to replace a lost knife, have a duplicate on hand if you have more than one cook in your kitchen, you may wish to have a specialty knife for smaller hands, or you want the top of the line knives but cannot afford a whole set at once. A knife set will make more sense unless one of these situations applies to you.
There are different types of knives. Fine edge knives are the classic style. Chefs and serious cooks normally choose fine edge knives due to the weight and feel. The blade is very sharp which allows for precision cutting. Fine edge knives will require some maintenance however, such as steeling. Knives that never need sharpening are a good choice for most people who cook for themselves and their families on a daily basis. Knives that never need sharpening will not make the same precision cuts as fine edge knives, but they retain their sharpness over time. These knives are excellent if you are seeking decent quality at reasonable prices.
The type of steel used in knife blades is one of the most important factors in choosing a knife set. The majority of knives are manufactured with a blend of high carbon stainless steel that will resist rust and corrosion. The tang is the part of the knife in which the metal is attached to the handle. The best knives will have a tang in which the metal extends to the end of the handle. Knife blades are normally tapered at the edges to allow for easier sharpening. Quality knives are balanced and feel good in the cook's hand. The knife should be easy to handle and feel solid. A good knife should feel like an extension of your hand and allow adequate space between where your fingers grip the knife and the surface on which you are cutting.
In purchasing a knife set, you will need to know the difference between stamped and forged. Forging is the process of taking a heated piece of metal and grinding it into the shape of a blade. Stamped blades are cut from a single sheet of metal and pressed into a blade. Forged knives are generally heavier than stamped knives, giving you better quality. There will be several types of knives included in each knife set. Identifying the particular knives each set contains will be very helpful in choosing the one that will best serve your needs.
Most knife sets will contain a chef knife, which has a triangular blade that ranges from 6 to 12 inches long. The paring knife will have a blade that is approximately 3 inches long and it about 3/4 of an inch wide. A serrated knife is used for slicing breads and vegetables that tend to bruise easily. Utility knives have an approximately 6 inch blade and are used for a number of purposes. Boning knives are for slicing meat off bones and the blades are normally quite narrow. A slicing knife has a long, thin blade and is used to slice meat such as ham, roast, and turkey. Butcher knives are usually heavier than the other knives in the set and have blades up to eight inches. A cleaver is used for heavy chopping and cutting through bone and will have a slightly curved or straight edge. Steak knives are used for cutting steaks in a table setting, but can also serve as utility or paring knives.