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These are the three knives you need in your kitchen

You don't need every knife under the sun to be a great home chef, but there are a few must-haves.

Kitchen knives and spoons
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Whether you're an aspiring chef or a casual cook, have the right set of tools is the first step to culinary success. Having the right kitchen knives is a big part of that. 

The right knife can make quick work of even the most complicated meal prep. If you aren't sure which knife to use for what, have no fear. Here are the three must-have knives for your kitchen and how to use them. 

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Chef's knife

butternut squash and and chef knife. Ingredients
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A chef's knife is a kitchen classic and the first knife you should buy. The chef's knife is an all-purpose all star. The long blade and efficient rocking motion make it extremely practical. You can use it to chop, slice, mince, dice and julienne just about anything.

Chef's knives can range from 6 to 14 inches long. About an inch wide, its curve is most pronounced at the tip of the blade. For home use, get one that's between 8 and 10 inches.

While a chef's knife works well for the majority of kitchen tasks, it's not as effective for carving poultry or skinning fruits and vegetables.

Paring knife

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A paring knife works well for precision work. 

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A paring knife is a small but mighty knife made for precise work. Think about it as a mini version of the chef's knife. 

This knife is typically 2 to 4 inches in length and has a nice, smooth blade. 

Because the paring knife is so small, it's ideal for peeling, slicing and trimming smaller foods. It's also great for precision work like deveining shrimp or cutting out the hull of a strawberry. Don't underestimate the power of this pintsized knife. 

Bread knife

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Bread knives include a serrated blade to cut through tough crust. 

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As the name implies, a bread knife is intended to cut a loaf of bread, sawing through the thick hard crust without crushing the bread's soft interior. 

A bread knife has a long, narrow blade with a serrated edge. Those serrations allow it to saw through bread effortlessly.

Bread knives are great for slicing a baguette, but they also come in handy for slicing fruits and vegetables -- especially tomatoes. 

Cutlery sets

Cutlery sets often come with other hand tools like shears and include other basic blades like steak knives. If you can, find a set that includes a honing steel, a great tool for sharpening knives and keeping them in tip-top shape.  

What about the others? 

There are dozens of specialty knives made for individual tasks and geared toward enthusiastic home cooks and chefs. If you're looking to expand beyond the basics, here are a few more blades you'll find in common cutlery sets. 

Boning knife

Designed for prepping poultry and meats, this knife has a sharp, maneuverable blade that gives you precision control as you separate the flesh from bones and cartilage. The curved blade follows the contours of bone and flesh. 

Santoku knife

Somewhere between a chef's knife and a cleaver is the Japanese Santoku knife. It often has a textured blade with scallops to keep food from sticking to the side of the blade. Santoku knives are great for chopping most foods in your kitchen.

Utility knife

A utility knife is another all-purpose blade. Size-wise, it's somewhere between a chef's knife and a paring knife, usually 4 to 7 inches long. You can find utility knives in straight and serrated blade styles. A serrated style is a useful addition if you already own a chef's knife and paring knife. 

Cleaver

While cleavers might bring butchers and horror movies to mind, these big, bad knives are actually quite friendly in the kitchen. Characterized by a short, stocky blade, cleavers pick up where boning knives leave off, chopping through bone and tendon with ease. 

With these basic knives in your kitchen, you'll be able to tackle most any culinary technique. These are just a few of the standard knives you'll find in most off-the-shelf sets, but there are dozens of specialized varieties out there.

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