First, consider how you will be using your knife set. If you do not entertain much and cook occasionally, then a basic set would probably be best for you. Basic sets typically include a chef's knife, paring knife, serrated bread knife, carving knife, and a storage block.
Larger cutlery sets are ideal for those who enjoy hosting and entertaining. These sets include some specialized knives that are well-suited for specific tasks. Santoku, fillet, and cleaving knives are some of the knives you would typically find in a larger cutlery set.
Next, consider how much you can budget on cutlery. Remember, a quality cutlery set is a great investment and can provide you with a lifetime of enjoyment. Once you've determined your budget, get the best quality set your budget allows.
To determine the quality of a set, first look at the construction of a knife. What is is made of? How was it manufactured? High quality cutlery is usually made with stain resistant, high carbon steel. High carbon steel is superior over stainless steel, because it offers a sharper cutting edge and retains its sharpness longer.
Lower grades of cutlery are often made with stainless steel. The main advantage of stainless steel is its lower cost. These blades are not as strong as high carbon steel, and therefore it is harder to sharpen them. They also do not maintain their edge well because sharpening destroys the steel instead of creating a fine cutting edge.
Another aspect to consider is the manufacturing process of knives. Kitchen cutlery is made by the processes of either forging or stamping. Forged knives are created by heating one solid piece of steel and hammering it into shape. Stamped knives are cut out from a piece of steel and then fitted into their handle. Stamped knives are not considered one solid piece of equipment. Here's a closer look at some details of forged and stamped knives.Forged
- Produces a thicker, heavier knife
- Sharpest, longest lasting blade
- Easier to sharpen compared to stamped
- Includes a bolster - which provides balance
- Lower cost
- Made with steel comparable to forged
- More flexible than forged
- Lighter than forged knives
While forged knives typically have higher levels of craftsmanship, high quality sets can be found in both forged and stamped versions. The basic question of which one is superior is a matter of preference. You may find that you would like your cutlery to be lightweight and not cause fatigue after a long prepping session. In that case, I would recommend looking at stamped knives. But, if you would like a cutlery set which is perfectly balanced that easily cuts through tough food, then you may want to select a forged knife set.
Lastly, let's take a look at knife tang. The section of steel inside the handle is called the tang, and if it extends all the way to the end of the handle, it's known as "full" tang. If the steel only extends partially into the handle, then it is known as "partial" or "half" tang. Full tang knives have superior strength and balance, which makes them easier to use. If you are looking to buy a quality set of cutlery that will last, I highly recommend full tang.
When purchasing a quality cutlery set, you should also consider the warranty offered. Your best bet is to look for brands which offer Lifetime warranties. There are many quality brands of cutlery, but if the brand does not stand behind their products with a good warranty, you should consider alternatives.