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Five Essential Knives for Every Kitchen

Male hands chopped red onion with a chef's knife on wooden table close up Play Video

Contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t take much to be a good cook. But what separates the good from the great is the quality of the tools that are used, and it all starts with knives.

At our teaching research kitchens at NC State, there’s a simple philosophy: you only need a few knives to cook great meals. NC State Extension Nutrition Specialist Carolyn Dunn explains the basic set of knives and tools you should have in your own kitchen to improve your cooking skills.

  • Chef knife—this is one of the most important knives you should have in your kitchen. French and Asian knives are the most popular in terms of quality, and it should be around 8 inches long.
  • Serrated knife—perfect for cutting bread, vegetables or fruit.
  • Paring knife—the smallest of the set, it allows for more precision and dexterity when cutting.
  • Kitchen shears—the culinary, sharper relative of the scissors will come in handy in more ways than you can imagine. From cutting chicken to opening packages, this is a must-have tool in your set.
  • Speed peeler—although fruits and vegetables can be peeled with a paring knife, this tool will make the job ten times easier and safer.

This basic set will provide you with everything you need to improve your cooking skills! Although you should stay within your budget, it is important to be mindful of quality as well. And don’t forget to sharpen them once in a while to keep them in the best shape they can be!

This Homegrown In the Kitchen feature was filmed in the Dinah E. Gore Teaching and Research Kitchens at NC State University. This innovative, state-of-the-art kitchen complex was designed to enhance and extend our work in teaching, research and Extension.