1. High-quality knives increase the cook's efficiency, skill, and safety. Fine knives can be a major investment, but they'll last a lifetime and purchasing a set can be cheaper than buying the knives individually.
2. There are knives for every task, but not everyone needs a specialized grapefruit knife or chestnut knife. Make sure your knife set includes these essentials: chefs knife, paring knife, and bread knife. Next on the list: boning knife, utility knife, and kitchen shears.
3. The versatile chefs knife can accomplish any kitchen task, as can the slightly smaller utility knife. The long, slender boning knife makes quick work of meats, while the smaller paring knife offers more control over fruits and vegetables. Your serrated knife cuts delicate foods, like bread and tomatoes, without crushing them.
4. To protect your knives - and to protect you from your knives - look for a set that includes a storage system like a kitchen knife block. Make sure it includes extra free slots so you can expand your collection later.
5. Knife blocks may be made from wood, stainless steel, glass, or plastic. Alternatively, some sets come in a case or box made from aluminum or wood. At the very least, your knives should be stored in sheaths in a dedicated drawer away from other utensils.
6. Some kitchen knife sets include a honing steel, which is necessary for keeping your knives sharp and therefore safe. When the sharpening steel comes with the set, you can be sure that the firmness of the steel conforms to the firmness of the blades of the knives in the set.
7. Unless you're living in a purely vegetarian household, you'll need a good set of steak knives. Depending on the manufacturer, the blade may or may not be serrated. Serrated knives cannot be sharpened, meaning they require less maintenance than straight edge blades, but they will have to be replaced over time.
8. To tackle that turkey or roast, look for a carving knife paired with a matching carving fork in an elegant boxed set. Or, get an electric knife to do the work for you: the two very sharp, thin blades move independently in a back and forth motion to slice through foods.
9. To extend the life of your kitchen knife set, always wash knives by hand. Dishwashing detergent and jostling against other utensils can dull the blade. Washing knives immediately after use will prevent discoloration.
10. A good kitchen knife set makes a wonderful housewarming present or wedding gift.