So you’ve got your Miele or Gaggenau kitchen all set up.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

So you’ve got your Miele or Gaggenau kitchen all set up. Now that it’s time to put some elbow grease into the start of your culinary experiments, start with this must-have tool.

There are at least 14 kinds of knives a kitchen can be stocked with, which is 10 more than what is necessary for the average person. Most seasoned cooks really only need a chef’s knife, paring knife, serrated utility knife and boning knife, but if you want one to do almost everything, make it a quality chef’s knife.

A chef’s knife is typically between 6 and 14 inches in length and 1.5 inches wide, with a slightly curved blade. This size and shape makes it easy to cut meat, dice vegetables, slice herbs, chop nuts and even disjoint some cuts. As long as you’re not intending to cleave bones or slice bread, a chef’s knife can take care of it.

The French and Germans popularised this style but Japanese knife makers caught on after the Meiji era began, and came up with the gyuto knife. Unlike the more traditional santoku chef knives, which are larger, shorter and have blunt or rounded tips, the gyuto follows its Western counterparts by having sharper points that facilitate piercing.

Regardless of provenance, knives are usually forged or stamped. The former requires a craftsman to heat and pound steel into shape (by hand or machine), while the latter is made by cutting out the blade’s shape from a metal sheet, then honing and heating it for durability. While forged knives are more expensive and have a pleasant weight to them, beginners might prefer the ease of use that comes with lightweight stamped knives.

Personal preference factors heavily in choosing a knife, but the main points to consider are material, size and grip. Carbon steel knives are sharper but can be fussy to maintain because of a tendency to rust. Stainless steel knives don’t discolour, but can be harder to sharpen. Eight inches is the happy middle for beginners, but it’s important to find a knife that feels good in your hand, especially if you want to retain all of it after a chiffonading frenzy.