A chef’s knife is the first culinary knife that experts recommend any cook have. “The knife you’re going to use 90% of the time is a chef’s knife with an 8 to 10-inch blade,” says chef Jamie Oliver on his website.

“If you’re only going to have one knife in your kitchen, it should be a chef’s knife,” says chef Adam Glick in a video posted on the Messermeister site.

Blade Length

Blades range between 6 to 14 inches. Select a blade size that works with your hand size and feels comfortable. An 8 to 10-inch blade is the handiest and most versatile for most people. “If it’s too small, you’re more likely to cut or stab yourself,” chef Glick tells Knives Illustrated.

Large Surface Area

A chef’s knife is safer than many other kitchen knives because the large surface area protects the knuckles, Glick says. It’s just easier to keep your digits out of the way. Another safety feature of the chef’s knife: It dulls very slowly, and sharp knives are safest in the kitchen.

The chef’s knife is the foundation of any kitchen cutlery set because it’s essentially a multitool. The middle of the blade manages most chopping jobs. The sharp tip helps you do more delicate work, like mincing garlic. And for heavier jobs, like breaking apart a squash, you can rely on the heavier part toward the blade’s heel. If you lay the blade flat against shallots or garlic and press hard, you create breaks in the skin for easy peeling and mincing. Finally, the spine is great for pushing the bits you’ve chopped, diced, or minced out of your immediate work area.

How-To Become a Chef Knife Ace

Here are some online tutorials to get you going.