The Only 4 Knives You'll Ever Need

Welcome to Cooking 101, a fun, weekly series of cooking lessons and hands-on learning from America's Test Kitchen Cooking School. Who are we? Our knowledge and techniques are based on 20 years of test kitchen work creating foolproof recipes for Cook's Illustrated magazine and for our television shows. We believe that everybody, whether novice or advanced, can gain the skills and confidence to become a better cook.

Week 3: ESSENTIAL KNIVES
(read other Cooking 101 posts)

Knives are the most important tools in your kitchen and using them properly is essential. Here are three key points to remember.

Good Technique = Less Risk. If you use proper techniques, you are less likely injure yourself with the knife. Watch Bridget's step-by-step video on how to sharpen your knives, how to grip the knife, and how to position your non-cutting hand.

Good Technique = Faster Results. If you use proper techniques, you will be able to prepare food faster. This one is pretty simple. Would you rather take 2 minutes or 5 minutes to chop an onion? It may not seem like a big difference, but in a recipe with a lot of vegetable or protein prep all those extra minutes can really add up.

Good Technique = Better Results. If you use proper techniques, you will produce food that is evenly cut and therefore will cook at an even rate. Cooks with poor knife skills end up with unevenly diced carrots or minced garlic with large hunks. Poorly cut food will not cook properly. For instance, those large hunks of garlic will burn and impart a harsh flavor to your food.

While a kitchen knife set can contain a dozen or more knives, you really only need 4 knives for most cutting tasks. Ready to slice and dice? Here are the 4 knives every cook should own.

RELATED: Are you a knowledgable cook? Test your knife IQ with this free quiz.

CHEF'S KNIFE

Why You Need It: We use this knife for everything from chopping an onion to mincing herbs to butchering a chicken. This one knife, with its pointed tip and slightly curved blade, will handle 90 percent of your kitchen cutting work.

PARING KNIFE

Why You Need It: The small blade of a paring knife allows you more dexterity and precision than a chef's knife can provide. We reach for a paring knife for jobs that require a bit more accuracy and exactitude: coring apples, deveining shrimp, cutting citrus segments, peeling garlic, and more. Its small, pointed tip is also great for testing the tenderness of meat or vegetables.

SERRATED KNIFE

Why You Need It: Also known as a bread knife, this knife features pointed serrations that allow it to glide through crusty breads, bagels, tomato skins, and more to produce neat slices.

SLICING KNIFE

Why You Need It: This knife (also called a carving knife) is specially designed to cut neatly through meat's muscle fibers and connective tissues. No other knife can cut through cooked meat with such precision in a single stroke. Our holiday birds and roasts would be torn to shambles-hardly presentable-without this knife.

HOW DOES YOUR KITCHEN STACK UP? In our "Knife Skills" course (free for Yahoo! Shine readers through Sept 23, 2012), we teach you everything you need to know about knives--from choosing the right knife for the job to holding and sharpening knives. You will learn how to perform key techniques, such as chopping an onion and mincing garlic, with the goals of increasing your speed and improving your results.

See what we're up to at America's Test Kitchen Cooking School. Get access to our complete catalog of over 100 courses, receive personalized one-on-one instruction, and become a better cook today!

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