We understand that buying knives can be bewildering—the market offers a staggering number of styles, materials, and specialties to choose from. If you simply want to start building the best knife collection without wasting money or kitchen space, here are our picks for built-to-work knives that will satisfy virtually any task for a home cook.

Over the years, our test kitchen has evaluated thousands of products. Price often correlates with design, not performance. We’ve gone through copious rounds of testing and have identified the most important attributes in every piece of equipment, so when you go shopping you’ll know what to look for. And because our test kitchen accepts no support from product manufacturers, you can trust our ratings.

Types of Kitchen Knives

Essential Knives

Although there are hundreds of gadgets for sale that claim they can help you prep ingredients more quickly, we’ve found that very few of them actually work. So instead of wasting your money (and your counter space) on these products, just invest in three good knives: a chef’s knife, a paring knife, and a serrated knife (or bread knife).

Chef's Knife

This knife is indispensable for almost any kitchen task, from mincing vegetables to breaking down a whole bird, and everything in between.

→ Buy our favorite chef's knife: Victorinox 8" Swiss Army Fibrox Pro Chef’s Knife

→ Read our review of chef's knives

Paring Knife

From prepping garlic to peeling potatoes, from coring tomatoes to trimming meat, there are countless cook's tasks in which to use a paring knife.

→ Buy our favorite paring knife: Victorinox Swiss Army Fibrox Pro 3 1/4" Spear Point Paring Knife

→ Read our review of paring knives

Serrated Knife

A serrated knife is critical for slicing bread, cutting tomatoes, or splitting a cake into layers.

→ Buy our favorite serrated knife: Mercer Culinary Millennia 10" Wide Bread Knife

→ Read our review of serrated knives

Useful Knives

Once you're ready to build upon your essentials, these knife types are some of the most useful we've found for efficiently rounding out any cook's collection.

Slicing Knife

The tapered, fairly rigid, long blade on this knife is ideal for slicing large cuts of meat. We prefer the Granton edge (scalloped divots) for cutting even slices.

→ Buy our favorite slicing knife: Victorinox 12" Fibrox Pro Granton Edge Slicing/Carving Knife

→ Read our review of slicing knives

Flexible Boning Knife

When it comes to the intricate work of trimming silver skin from tenderloins or removing the breast from a whole bird, a flexible boning knife is best.

→ Buy our favorite flexible boning knife: Zwilling Pro 5.5” Flexible Boning Knife

→ Read our review of flexible boning knives

Serrated Paring Knife

A serrated version makes some paring-knife tasks even easier, especially when handling soft tomatoes or slicing through orange peel and pith.

→ Buy our favorite serrated paring knife: Wüsthof Classic 3.5-Inch Fully Serrated Paring Knife

→ Read our review of serrated paring knives

Vegetable Cleaver

Vegetable cleavers have thin blades that taper gently to a honed edge, for cleanly slicing vegetables and other, more delicate boneless foods.

→ Buy our favorite vegetable cleaver: MAC Japanese Series 6 1/2-Inch Japanese Vegetable Cleaver

→ Read our review of vegetable cleavers

Meat Cleaver

A cleaver comes in especially handy when chopping up meat and bones for a stock. It's also great when dealing with lobster or cleaving large squash.

→ Buy our favorite meat cleaver: Shun Classic Meat Cleaver

→ Read our review of meat cleavers

Santoku Knife

Sporting a thinner blade, santoku knives really shine in tasks requiring more delicate or precise knife work. The santoku's smaller size makes the knife easy to manage.

→ Buy our favorite santoku knife: Misono UX10 Santoku 7.0"

→ Read our review of santoku knives

Kitchen Shears

Even though not technically a knife, kitchen shears are still literally one of the sharpest tools in a cook's arsenal. They're perfect for breaking down chicken, trimming pie dough, or snipping herbs.

→ Buy our favorite kitchen shears: Shun Multi-Purpose Shears

→ Read our review of kitchen shears

Premium Alternatives to Traditional Chef's Knives

We are diehard fans of our longtime favorite chef's knife, but for intricate prepwork or for cooks looking for something extra special, these knives are a rewarding investment.

Carbon-Steel Knife

If you are willing to pay a premium and care for carbon steel, its razor-sharp blade, sloping ergonomic handle, and good looks make a good carbon-steel knife both visually stunning and a pleasure to use.

→ Buy our favorite carbon-steel knife: Bob Kramer 8" Carbon Steel Chef’s Knife by Zwilling J.A. Henckels

→ Read our review of carbon-steel knives

Hybrid-Style Chef's Knife

Called gyutou in Japan, this hybrid tool fuses Japanese knifemaking with Western knife design. The result is feather-light, lethally sharp, and wonderfully precise.

→ Buy our favorite hybrid-style chef's knife: Masamoto VG-10 Gyutou, 8.2"

→ Read our review of hybrid-style chef's knives

Specialty Knives

These knives are designed to do one specific task very, very well. They're a worthwhile purchase for their functional and aesthetic purposes.

Steak Knives

When dining on steak, you want something at the table that can make easy work of cutting precise pieces of meat. Look for a comfortable set with attractive handles and sharper blades.

→ Buy our favorite steak knives: Victorinox Swiss Army 6-Piece Rosewood Steak Set, Spear Point, Straight Edge

→ Read our review of steak knives

Oyster Knife

There are many styles of oyster knives, but for an all-purpose tool you want a design that's compact enough to handle small oysters yet sturdy enough to tackle large ones.

→ Buy our favorite oyster knife: R. Murphy New Haven Oyster Knife with Stainless Steel Blade

→ Read our review of oyster knives

Grapefruit Knife

This knife is designed to section the pulp by hugging the walls and membranes of the fruit as you cut, separating the sections from the peel without picking up pith.

→ Buy our favorite grapefruit knife: Messermeister Pro-Touch 4-Inch Grapefruit Knife

→ Read our review of grapefruit knives

Electric Knives

These motorized knives might seem like relics of the past, but they're useful for delicate items, such as breads and other baked goods, that you want to cut without squishing and especially good for cutting skin-on poultry without ripping or pulling the skin.

→ Buy our favorite electric knife: Black + Decker ComfortGrip 9” Electric Knife

→ Read our review of electric knives

Kid-Friendly Chef's Knife

For younger chefs, knives with safeguards in mind are the right tool to have on hand. Some, like our favorite, promote good habits with design features like a finger loop on the handle for proper hand position and a plastic guard to protect fingers on the other hand. For older kids with experience in the kitchen, we recommend a smaller version of our favorite full-size chef's knife from Victorinox.

→ Buy our favorite chef's knife for younger children: Opinel Le Petit Chef + Finger Guard

→ Buy our favorite chef's knife for older children: Victorinox Swiss Army Fibrox Pro 6” Chef's Knife

→ Read our review of kid-friendly chef's knives

Knives You Shouldn't Buy

We gave these types of knives a fair chance to prove themselves in our testings. However, it was clear they aren't worth the time or money. We explain why you shouldn't buy them, and what tools or methods work much better for your intended purpose.

Salad Knives

Do you need special gadgets to prepare salad? We say no. A plastic knife wasn't significantly better to prevent browning than a metal knife, and a pair of poorly designed salad scissors made prepwork even more of a hassle.

→ To prolong the life of lettuce by a day or two, stick to tearing by hand.

→ Read our review of lettuce knives

→ Read our salad scissors

Knife Block Sets

Knife block sets may seem like a convenient or cost-saving purchase, but we found that many of the knives included in retail bundles are nonessential and suffer from shortchanged blade length. We highly recommend that you purchase individual knives and create your own superior custom knife set.

→ Make your own ultimate knife set: Test Kitchen à La Carte Knife Set

→ Make your own budget-friendly knife set: Best Buy à La Carte Knife Set

→ Read our review of knife block sets