Pare down your knife collection to the essentials with this handy guide.
Set of four knives
Credit: James Baigrie

They chop, they slice, they dice―and they also collect in your drawers, taking up valuable kitchen real estate. Since you don't need a dozen different knives (experts say you need only the four essentials shown here), Real Simple set out to help you clear the cutters.

The Only Knives You Need

Paring knife (shown, far left): For making small cuts, such as taking the ends off carrots.

Slicing knife (shown, second from left): Ideal for roasts, cheeses, and raw meat.

Eight-inch chef's knife (shown, third from left): Designed for chopping, it's also thick enough not to buckle when cutting through a melon.

Bread knife (shown, far right): The serrated edge is perfect for slicing tomatoes too.

Knives You Don't Need

Ken Foster, owner of Foster's Gourmet Cookware, in Philadelphia, suggests purging the following:

  • Anything with a wobbly handle, loose parts, or protruding rivets (the round metal pieces that secure the blade to the handle). If the rivets aren't flush, they could irritate your hand or trap food, creating a breeding ground for bacteria.
  • All implements with broken tips or chips in the blade. These can't be repaired, even with sharpening.
  • Knives with wooden handles that have started to crack or degrade (to prevent this, never put them in the dishwasher).
  • Blades with a separate piece of metal (called a collar) attached at the point where the blade meets the handle. These knives are not well made and tend to come apart easily.

Sharpen Your Knife Skills