I love to cook, and I use an 8″ chef’s knife constantly in my kitchen. Its the knife most cooks use for almost everything. Overall, the best knife is often the one that feels comfortable in your hand. Good knives usually have a good quality carbon steel blade and are designed for comfort. All you really need to round it out is a nice sharp paring knife, a serrated bread knife, and a steel for sharpening. I keep my steel near my butcher’s block so its handy to run the knife blade along it at a 15 degree angle on each side a couple times before each use. Good knives should be hand washed and stored in their case or in a knife block, not loose in a drawer, which can damage the edge. If you’re going to invest in a knife that will last for decades you want to take good care of it.
My favorite chef’s knife is a Wusthof Classic 8-Inch Cook’s Knife. I maintain it daily with a steel, and take it in for professional sharpening every year or so. It suits my slightly small hand perfectly.
Since I bought my knife I’ve continued to read reviews on knives (I’m a bit of a review junkie) and the one I see rave reviews on time and time again is a Global G-2 – 8 inch, 20cm Chef’s Knife. I’ve seen it beat several well known knives (even mine) in comparison tests, and if I decide to try a new one it will be this one.
Mac and Shun are two more popular chef’s knives noted in many reviews for their quality.
I use a Wusthof 10-Inch Sharpening Steel for sharpening all my knives. I would recommend buying one in whatever brand your chef’s knife is, since that’s the most used, but they seem to be interchangeable.
Being a Wusthof user, I’m pleased to see the Wusthof Classic 3-1/2-Inch Paring Knife at the top of most paring knife reviews, noted for sharpness and comfort.
Another surprisingly sharp and handy paring knife I use, and I keep one in the trailer too, is a Kuhn Rikon 4-Inch Nonstick Colori Paring Knife, Set of 3. For inexpensive knives they are surprisingly efficient, and the safety sheath is nice for when you like to keep your knives in your silverware drawer. If you don’t care about color coding your knives, the extras would make great stocking stuffers!
I don’t bake bread often, so I have never felt a need to invest a lot of money in a bread knife. For the price, I think the reviews speak well for the Victorinox Cutlery 8-Inch Wavy Edge Bread Knife, Black Fibrox Handle. Victorinox fared well in the paring knife reviews as well, although they’re best known as the creator of the original Swiss Army Knife.
Another bread knife to consider, because of its length, is a Fat Daddio’s Cake Slicer / Bread Knife. At 14″ it would be versatile for such things as large slab cakes or really large loaves of bread.