How Many Kitchen Knives Do You Really Need?


I saw an interesting article today that talked about kitchen knives.  The Only 3 Knives You Need.  According to that article, most home chefs only need 3 knives — An 8 inch chef’s knife, a 3-4 inch pairing knife, and a 10″ serrated bread knife.

I did a quick search to see what others recommended and many agreed with this 3 knife assessment.  Like this one: Essential Kitchen Knives: The Only 3 You Really Need, and this one with the same title as this post: How many kitchen knives do you really need?

Another added a boning knife: The 4 Knives Every Home Cook Should Own.

Most websites I visited recommended those three or four knives.  Others went up from there, like this one that added two more to the list, a Santoku and a carving set.  6 Knives Every Kitchen Needs.

How many knives do YOU need?

You might notice that each of these articles suggests you need a different number of knives, and that my friends, is the truth of the matter.  The number of knives you need depends on YOU.  It depends on what YOU cook and how often YOU cook those items.

Nobody can really tell you how many knives you need without knowing you, knowing what you cook, knowing how often you cook, and knowing how often you cook each type of food items that might require a knife.

How many knives do I need?

Take me for example, I don’t like to cook and therefore usually cook simple meals.  My wife is the same way, although she does more cooking than I do.  We often do crock-pot meals, and those only require one knife to cut vegetables and meat.  Sometimes they don’t require a knife at all if we buy pre-chopped onions and peppers, and use chicken tenderloins or boneless chicken breasts.

Before decluttering, we used to have a big wooden block full of knives.  It was a gift from my parents and was a really nice set.  At some point they also gifted us two Santoku knives, a 5 inch and a 7 inch (Pictured at the top of the post). We found that most of the time we were using the Santoku knives, and rarely used any of the knives in the big block.  We sold the knife set at a garage sale and kept the two Santoku knives.

So in our case, we only need two kitchen knives, and the Santoku’s fit the bill.  And if we didn’t already have those, we would likely just have one chef’s knife.  We could really go down to one knife, but decided to stick with the two.  If we need to cut something else, we also have our steak knives, of which we have one serrated and two smooth bladed.  I used a smooth bladed one yesterday to cut up a start fruit gifted to us by our new neighbors.

In most cases, steak knives aren’t counted in the total because they are considered part of your flatware rather than your cookware.  Ours often take the place of a pairing knife.  They may not be perfect for that, but they usually work good enough.

When we cook turkey once a year at Thanksgiving we use our 7 inch Santoku to carve it, and it works out just fine.  We don’t need a carving knife for a once a year occasion.  We also don’t need a bread knife since most of our bread comes pre-sliced.  If we ever do have bread that isn’t sliced, we make do with one of the other knives, or just break it into chunks with our hands.

What’s Your Magic Number for Kitchen Knives?

If you already have a lot of knives and are decluttering your collection, think about which knives you use most often.  Remove any knife that hasn’t been used in the last six months.  Also, consider which knives can reasonably take the place of other knives.  For example, a serrated steak knife makes an ok bread knife if only used occasionally.

If you are just starting out, I suggest starting with a chef’s knife or Santoku.  Use that knife for most everything and keep a mental tally of how often that knife doesn’t cut it (yay for puns).

It helps to hear from others.  How many and what type of knives do you use most often?  What types of meals do you prepare that take advantage of those knives?  Share in the comments section below.


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