Knives, Boards and Graters

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This post is the first in my Kitchen Equipment series where I will take you through all the essential tools that you need to set up your kitchen. In most cases, these are the exact tools that I use in my kitchen every day. The reality is there are a lot of silly kitchen gadgets out there, and honestly many are a waste of time. Here, I’ve narrowed it down to the absolute essentials.

This list covers all the sharp tools – basically anything that cuts, slices, grates or scrapes. Whether you’re starting from scratch, or looking to expand your collection, this list covers everything you’ll need in the way of knives, boards and graters.


Knives are the cornerstone of kitchen preparation work. Having a good set of knives at your disposal makes the job of preparing food so much easier. Although a cheap knife saves you money in the short term, it can make your life in the kitchen a chore. It’s definitely worth spending a little extra on a good knife and you’ll be rewarded in the long run.

There’s a couple of general rules when it comes to kitchen knives. Always keep your knives in good condition by sharpening them regularly. It may seem counterintuitive but a blunt knife is more dangerous than a sharp one as you’re more likely to slip and cut yourself.

Secondly, although most knives are marketed as dishwasher safe, never clean kitchen knives this way. It will blunt them more quickly and can cause permanent damage to surfaces like handles. Take just a little extra care and you’ll have a reliable kitchen workhorse by your side for life.

Chef's knife

Chef’s Knife

If you only buy one knife, the chef’s knife is the most important. It can be used for almost all chopping and slicing tasks. I have this Global G-2 Chef’s Knife in my collection and use it all the time when preparing meat. It’s easy to keep clean and the blade requires almost no effort to keep sharp.

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Bread knife

Bread Knife

After a chef’s knife, the next most important is a serrated knife. Serrated knives are great for slicing bread or even soft fruits like tomatoes. A good bread knife is a kitchen staple and the Global G-9 Bread Knife is a great mid-range option.

Bread slicing tip: If you have trouble slicing bread evenly, a great trick is to turn the loaf upside down and start slicing through the bottom. The rougher crust will give you more control and you’ll have a straighter cut.

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Paring knife

Paring Knife

A paring or utility knife is the smaller cousin of the chef’s knife. It’s useful for more intricate tasks like peeling or trimming. I’ll often use my paring knife when slicing lemons or limes for use in drinks.

Keeping with the Global knife theme the GSF-19 Paring Knife is a good addition to the set once you’ve covered off the chef’s and bread knives.

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Vegetable knife

Vegetable Knife

Rounding out the set of essential kitchen knives is the vegetable knife. This is the least important, as the chef’s knife is more than capable of most vegetable chopping tasks, however the wider blade gives more control when dicing larger vegetables like pumpkins or potatoes. The Global G-5 Vegetable Knife is therefore my recommendation to complete the set.

Vegetable slicing tip: When chopping vegetables it’s important to have a sturdy surface. Chop the vegetable in half, then place the flat side against the chopping surface. This gives a stable work environment and you’ll be less likely to slip and cut yourself.

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Sharpening steel

Sharpening Steel

I mentioned at the top of this section that it’s important to maintain kitchen knives to keep them in good condition. One of the easiest ways to do this is to regularly use a sharpening steel. By running the knife along the steel, it re-aligns the blade and ensures a fine cutting edge.

Knife sharpening tip: Get into the habit of running your knife over the steel a few times before each use. This will keep the blade in excellent condition and avoid getting into the situation of having to spend time sharpening a blunt knife.

The J.A. Henckels Sharpening Steel is what I use and is an easy way to keep your knives sharp without having to worry about silly sharpening gadgets that can often cause permanent damage to the knife edge.

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Kitchen shears

Kitchen Shears

A good pair of kitchen shears are a must have. It’s easy to overlook scissors when there’s so many knives in the kitchen but I use these J.A. Henckels Kitchen Shears all the time. They are useful for cutting up noodles, trimming herbs, cracking nuts, and much more. Once you get a pair you’ll never go back!

Kitchen shears tip: Keep your shears in top condition by only using them for food-related tasks. Using these scissors for general stationery tasks will only blunt them and shorten their useful life.

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Kitchen knife set

Kitchen Knives Set

I’ve saved the best until last. While buying knives individually is a great way to build up a collection, it is far more cost effective buying a whole set. I have a full set of German knives by J.A. Henckels and they are amazing. I use them every single day and they never let me down.

Knife block tip: Keep your knife block in excellent condition by only stowing clean, dry knives. If you place a wet knife in a slot, it can lead to mould and discolouration that is extremely difficult to clean.

The knife set also comes with its own knife block for easy storage and includes a sharpening steel and kitchen shears. It is the complete set with everything you could ever need. I highly recommend these.

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Cutting boards

Wooden cutting board

Wooden Cutting Board

A sturdy cutting surface is important when using sharp kitchen knives. I use a large wooden board for most of my cutting needs. A large board like the Boos Block provides plenty of space to work and allows you to prepare multiple items at once without needing to transfer them to other bowls. The extra surface area helps prevent the board from moving around and improves safety. They also look great and come in a variety of timbers, making them a fun part of your kitchen decor.

Wooden board tip: Wooden boards naturally dry out over time. Keep the board looking its best by regularly treating it with a natural board oil.

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Plastic cutting board

Plastic Cutting Board

I keep a few plastic cutting boards in the cupboard for preparing certain foods. While a wooden board is great for chopping fresh produce, I prefer to prepare meat and other wet items on a plastic board. This prevents these juices from soaking into the wood and allows for easy cleanup as the plastic boards can be placed directly into the dishwasher. It’s especially useful when preparing items where hygiene is important, like chicken.

Cutting board tip: An easy way to stop a cutting board from slipping around on the countertop is to place a tea towel underneath.

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Graters and scrapers

Vegetable peeler

Vegetable Peeler

A basic vegetable peeler is a must have kitchen essential. Although it is mainly used for peeling fruit and vegetables, it can also be used for shaving cheese or thinly slicing carrots or cucumbers. I like to keep a couple in the kitchen so that I can just throw them in the dishwasher after each use which keeps them extra clean.

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I cannot emphasise how much difference a good zester will make to your cooking experience. Covering everything from zesting citrus fruit through to finely grating Parmesan, I absolutely love my Microplane Zester. While there’s a lot of imitations out there these days, the Microplane branded ones are still the best. Even after a decade of use it is as sharp and reliable as the day I bought it and I put through the dishwasher regularly. I can’t recommend it enough; it is a must have!

Now I know what you’re probably thinking, a box grater usually has a side for zesting too. And yes, they do – but have you ever used it? Everything gets stuck on the surface and you spend the next ten minutes trying to get it off. Save yourself the trouble and use a Microplane. You’ll wonder how you ever survived without one.

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Following on from the zester, I also have a coarse Microplane that I use almost every time I’m in the kitchen. There are a lot of different product lines in the Microplane brand now but I like this basic one the best. It has a rubber foot that adds grip while grating and the metal arm at the end sits perfectly over the rim of a bowl allowing extra stability.

Of all the graters, this is probably the one you should buy first. I use it in preference to my box grater as it grates to a perfect medium consistency. It’s finer than the box grater, but still more coarse than the zester.

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Box grater

Box Grater

Although the zester is great for fine grating, there are times when a rougher cut is required and for that you need a good box grater. I mainly use mine for grating vegetables and cheeses using the coarsest blade but it can also be used to create fun garnishes.

You can save a lot of money by grating your own ingredients and it’s much fresher than relying on pre-grated products form the supermarket. Just a few times grating your own cheese and the grater will have paid for itself.

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I’ve left the mandoline until last because it’s not one that I use too frequently, but it’s also not one that I live without. It’s definitely a kitchen gadget that deserves a lot of respect because it can easily cause an injury, but it is extremely useful for the task it is good at – namely, thinly slicing.

I use my mandoline whenever I’m making potato dauphinoise or zucchini noodles. The consistency of the thin slices is very difficult to replicate with a knife and so I’ll always use the mandoline for this task. Just be careful and always follow the safety directions!

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I hope you’ve found this list useful. This is the only the start of my Kitchen Equipment series. To be one of the first to find out when the series expands, be sure to sign up to my newsletter. You’ll also receive my latest recipes direct to your inbox each week.

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