Knives: The Most Important Tools in Your Kitchen

With so many knives on the market, which ones belong in your collection?

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oday I’m sharing some of my favorite knives. Our winning paring knife is a small and powerful tool. With it in hand, I can core and slice tomatoes easily and segment lemons precisely. A santoku, a style of knife that originated in Japan, is my favorite alternative to my usual 8-inch chef’s knife. With a slightly shorter blade and a rounded front edge, it offers excellent precision and control—I use mine for chopping vegetables and mincing garlic. And no knife set is complete without a great pair of kitchen shears. Our top-rated model has supersharp, superior blades that can tackle a wide range of tasks. Whether you're shopping for knives or just want to make the most of the ones you already have, this week’s guide contains everything you need, from sharpeners to knife storage options. Whether you’re shredding, dicing, or slicing this summer, you’ll be ready. —Carolyn Grillo, Associate Editor, ATK Reviews

Superior blades gave our former favorite the edge yet again. With a razor-sharp 25-degree angle, the shears’ cutter blade sliced through every kind of food with equal ease. Deep, angular serrations on the anvil blade helped secure slippery foods. The blades’ length (the longest in the lineup) ensured smooth, continuous cutting; their overall narrowness made them easy to maneuver; and a medium level of tension between them provided just enough shearing force without taxing our hands. They’re ambidextrous, comfortable to hold, and can be taken apart for cleaning.

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This knife was “superadept”; its sharp, flexible blade nimbly hugged curves, so we could surgically remove peels or cores without plunging too deeply. It was the lightest knife we tested, with a slim handle that a few testers found insubstantial but most praised for its ability to disappear in your palm and become an extension of your hand: “There’s no disconnect between my brain and the blade.”

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With a razor-sharp, moderately long blade, this knife made every task seem effortless. Its tip was the narrowest in our lineup, so it made near-surgical incisions, turning tightly around strawberry stems and pineapple eyes so that more of the fruit surrounding them was left intact. And its blade was also narrow at the heel, making it particularly adept at peeling even the most knobbly pieces of ginger. Lightweight with a relatively grippy wood veneer handle, it was also comfortable to hold for long periods.

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Our favorite knife sliced every food with ease, thanks to a stiff, ultrasharp blade featuring 5 inches of scalloped and pointed serrations, which provided just enough bite to slice into food securely and give it a leg up over the second-place finisher. A narrow tip allowed us to do detail work, and a tall heel ensured that our knuckles never dragged against the cutting board when we cut. Just one teensy gripe: The handle could be a touch longer and wider—testers with larger hands said their hands cramped occasionally.  More on this test

Still the best—and a bargain—after 20 years, this knife’s “super-sharp” blade was “silent” and “smooth,” even as it cut through tough squash, and it retained its edge after weeks of testing. Its textured grip felt secure for a wide range of hand sizes, and thanks to its gently rounded edges and the soft, hand-polished top spine, we could comfortably choke up on the knife for “precise,” “effortless” cuts.

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Our favorite santoku wowed testers of all abilities, who raved that it felt “agile, sharp, and really good in hand.” “Solid but light,” it made “fine, level cuts” with “great precision and control.” This knife features an asymmetrical blade with a 70/30 bevel that the company hand-sharpens specifically for either right- or left-handers.

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Our top-rated sharpener had the winning combination of producing truly exceptional and consistent results quickly, neatly, and efficiently. The manual clearly outlined a few specific steps that must be followed each time, and it took about 2 minutes from start to finish to get a polished, razor-sharp edge. Narrow, spring-loaded slots made it easy and unambiguous to maintain a consistent angle as we moved the knife through the three slots. It rapidly removed a notch we cut in the blade and easily sharpened both our everyday chef’s knife and pricey carbon-steel chef’s knife. We subtracted half a point because the slots left very light cosmetic scratches along the sides of our knives.

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