Replace Your Awful Knives and Properly Master the Blade

Your meals deserve so much more than the collection of blunt knives that live in your cutlery drawer.
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Composite by Vice AU staff

We're all guilty of buying kitchenware out of convenience rather than quality. Most of us have bought one of those big knife block sets when we first moved out of home because, dude, $50 for 10 knives is like $5 each, that's a bargain.

The thing is, those knife blocks are cheap because they're usually made from metal that'll blunt the moment you breathe on it the wrong way. The difference between using a crappy knife and top quality blade is like night and day. Suddenly chopping tomatoes feels like you're slicing through butter with a white-hot blade instead of sawing through a hunk of timber. Everything in your kitchen suddenly feels like that one scene from Kill Bill.

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And in most cases, you don't need all of those knives. For the most part, they're just there to clutter up your kitchen or are used for cutting the wrong thing because you can't be bothered washing up your dirty knives. And, look, we know a lot of high-end blades can easily set you back a few hundred dollars and we get that you might not be made of Knife Money. But for the same price you've dished out for that overly kitschy knife block that looks like a dude being stabbed, you could've bought a handful of essentials that'll last you years if you take care of them.

It's about time that you cleared out your kitchen's collection of mismatched cutlery and replaced that cheap knife block with something good.

Chef's knife

If you're going to buy one good quality knife, make it a Chef's knife. These are multipurpose blades, so you'll have something that you can slice through thick cuts of meat and cut through vegetables. That versatility makes them perfect for any situation, no matter what you like to cook.

The size of your Chef's knife depends on the type of cooking you usually do (more knife means a longer cutting area), but you'll want one that's between 20 to 25cm long.

Having two Chef's knives of differing sizes is also a good idea, as it gives you separate options you can use when preparing meals. You can have one for veggies and one for meat.

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This Swiss 8-inch Victorinox Fibrox Chef's Knife ($80.50) has a wide blade and a comfy non-slip handle, making it a great option for something you'll most likely be using a lot. 

If you prefer Japanese knives and don't mind paying a little bit extra, Global's 18cm Fluted Santoku knife ($109) is a solid all-purpose blade that'll have you chopping, dicing and mincing meals like Miyamoto Musashi.

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Photo by Victorinox

Paring knife

A paring knife is used for precision and light work, like peeling potatoes, slicing shallots and mincing garlic. When your prep requires a bit more finesse than your chunky Chef's knife can offer, that's when you use your paring knife. 

You really can't go past the Victorinox Paring Knife ($6.95). Not only are these handy little blades made from quality stainless steel, but they're also incredibly cheap, which is such a rarity when it comes to knives.

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If you want to hit two birds with one stone, this Furi set ($58) includes a Chef's knife and a paring knife

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Photo by Victorinox

Bread knife

"I don't eat a lot of bread, so why do I need a bread knife?" Good question! While a bread knife is best used for cutting through its namesake, these serrated blades are also fantastically handy when it comes to slicing through fatty meats, along with any fruits or vegetables that are firm on the outside and soft on the inside.

If you want a no-frills option, pick up the 10-inch Mercer bread knife ($30.84). If you'd prefer something a bit different or if you cook a lot of chunky meats, go with the 23cm Furi Pro bread knife ($49.95).

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Photo by Mercer

Make sure you’re taking care of your knives 

The key to keeping your new knives in good nick is to take proper care of them. Don't go chucking them into your cutlery drawer or dishwasher, unless you want to break the record for how quickly you can ruin it. Unless you simply love sharpening them on an almost weekly basis, in which case more power to you.

If you've already got a knife block on hand, you can repurpose that as a home for your new knives. If not, buying an empty block is the best way to keep your knives stored properly. Keeping your knives in the boxes they came in isn't a bad idea either, but it'll definitely clutter up your kitchen drawers.

Buy a proper sharpener

It's also incredibly important that you're actually keeping them sharpened and the best way to do this is to use a whetstone.

Ideally, you'll want a stone with a medium grit  (1,000 to 3,000) and one with a finishing grit (4,000 and above). Most whetstones are sold as double-sided blocks, so you won't struggle to find one with these two grit surfaces.

For the most part, using a whetstone is pretty simple. Just keep regularly wetting it for lubrication and make sure you're working the entire length of your blade on both sides for a consistent sharpening. Just make sure you're sharpening your knife at the correct angle – 20-degrees for Western knives, 15-degrees for Japanese – so you aren't shaving off way too much material.

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This Sharp Pebble whetstone set ($99.99) includes three blocks (400, 1,000 and 6,000 grit) with a non-slip base, so you'll be able to bring even the dullest of knives to a razor-thin point. 

It doesn’t come with an angle guide, but you can grab one of those for cheap here. You can check out our guide for using a whetstone here.

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Photo by Sharp Pebble

If you're not feeling confident about using a whetstone, a pull-through sharpener can help you get the job done. Similar to a whetstone, you need to make sure you're using one that's compatible with the type of knives you own. If you run a Western knife through a Japanese sharpener could lead to you shaving off way too much material.

Global's Minosharp Plus 3 ($58) includes three ceramic wheels – course, medium and super fine – and couldn't be easier to use. Run your knives back and forth seven or eight times and you'll be good to go. Just make sure you're only running Japanese blades through it.


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