The Best Knives for Cooking According to a ‘Chopped’ Winner

You can outfit your kitchen with an Instant Pot, air fryer, and blender, but there’s something about owning a knife set that really makes you feel like a chef. What’s more, having cutting options at your disposal, other than butter and steak knives, means mastering whatever new recipe you’re working on will be that much more likely. “Using the ‘right’ knives when cooking allows you to be faster in the kitchen and make your life easier when it comes to cooking,” says chef and culinary consultant Adriana Urbina (a three-time winner of the Food Network’s Chopped—NBD or anything).

But even if you’ve just casually looked into buying a knife set, you know that they can get expensive and are definitely an investment. That’s why it’s important to understand exactly which knives in particular are most important to have and how to take care of them. Urbina is here to help on both fronts, offering up her expert tips, as well as sharing a few styles in particular she thinks every home chef should have. When it comes to the best knives for cooking, there are three in particular she recommends. Keep reading to see what they are and to shop some knife sets that check all the boxes on her kitchen knives must-have list.


Cuisinart Triple Rivet 15-Piece Rotating Knife Block Set



ZWILLING J.A. Henckels Pro 16-Piece Black Block Knife Set


Wüsthof Classic Ikon 7-Piece Knife Block Set

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3 knives everyone should own

1. 3 1/2-inch paring knife

This is first knife Urbina says you want to make sure the set you’re eying includes.  “It’s best for slicing and mincing items that are too small for an 8- to 10-inch blade, such as garlic, hulling strawberries, or peeling fruits and vegetables,” she says. Using the paring knife is less difficult to control and makes it easier to avoid injury, like accidentally cutting yourself.

2. 7.1-inch chef’s knife

“A classic chef’s knife is the most important knife in your collection,” Urbina says. It can be used for everything from dicing veggies, to cutting meat, and chopping herbs—you’ll likely find yourself using it every single day. Urbina explains that professional chefs often use an 8- or 10-inch chef’s knife, but for home-use, she recommends a smaller one that’s 7.1 inches (180mm).  “It’s easier to handle and maintain,” she says. Again, this is helpful for avoiding injury.

3. Serrated bread knife

The final knife Urbina says you absolutely want to make sure the knife set you’re thinking of purchasing has is a serrated bread knife. “Despite its name, this type of knife can actually be used for so much more than just slicing crusty loaves of bread, and it will give a break to you chef’s knife,” she says. “You can slice tomatoes, citrus, cakes, and much more!”

Knife care tips

If you shelled out for your knives, you want to make sure they truly last. For this, Urbina says there are a few tips to keep in mind. First, she recommends sharpening them once a month or every other month (depending on how often you use them). This will keep them from getting dull.

She also says it’s important to wash them immediately after use by hand—quality kitchen knives are not dishwasher safe. “Wash them one by one with dish soap and hot water and pat them dry with clean towels,” she says. “Usually knives that have wooden handles for example are very delicate, and you need to make sure to dry them very well after you wash them.”

How you store them is important too. Urbina recommends keeping them in a block, on a magnetic strip, or in separate containers or boxes. In other words, not in a utensil drawer.

Sure, they’re a little high maintenance, but keeping these simple rules in place will make your knives last longer. And armed with the best knives for cooking, your skills in the kitchen will be an (ahem) cut above the rest.

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