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Unless you want your dinner guests wondering why their food was hacked up instead of sliced up, you’re going to need to know how to buy the right kitchen knives. Sure, you can keep buying the same $20 set every year, but unless you’re just using them to put slits in microwave dinners, a good set of knives is the best investment. Knives aren’t just about making you look like you know what’s going on in the kitchen. They also have to fall in line with your skill set by providing a tool for each cooking process.

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Look for blades that are built to last. If the blades are flimsy, that’s no good. Don’t be fooled by a giant blade that is thick, but doesn’t have a well-formed blade edge. Make sure the packaging explains that each blade is forged and not stamped to guarantee a stronger product. The bolster, which is where you grip the knife, should have no wobble to it whatsoever.

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Come up with a plan for keeping your knives in fine shape before buying any knives. A great knife can turn into a mediocre knife if left without any care. While a serious cook might take their knives to a professional sharpener, a basic sharpening block should do the trick in most cases. Make sure to sharpen both sides of the blade evenly to keep each cut consistent. To save money, purchase a manual sharpening block inside of an electric device.

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Consider your cooking preferences and find a go-to knife that can get the job done. While a fancy set might look the best, remember that you’ll probably spend the most time with the chef’s knife, which is almost a foot in length. For novice cooks, you may even want to consider buying a quality chef’s knife and then saving some money on a generic set. If you don’t have much practice with a chef’s knife, it’s smart to buy a cut glove to keep the process safe.

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Select knives that work together, as opposed to just making it look like you know your way around the kitchen. A vegetarian might not need a set with ten steak knives, just like how someone who only does basic chopping won’t need a variety of paring knives. If you can’t find a set that works for your needs, there’s nothing wrong with spending a little extra to build your own set that will keep things simple. Savings on items you won’t use is not really saving much at all.

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Pick out the right storage for your knives. If you have children or pets, you won’t want to keep your knives hanging, no matter how they do it in your favorite restaurant. A simple knife block is usually the way to go. However, it can be difficult to clean in the slits. If you don’t have room on the counter, a simple setup for one of your drawers will do just fine.