I blame Rachael Ray for the Santoku knife trend that has been sweeping the nation for past few years. Suddenly everyone had to have "Rachael's knife" and then they proceeded to use that knife for every chopping chore even if another knife would have served a better purpose. (Jacques Pepin is probably mortified.) There is nothing wrong with Santoku (Japanese-style) knives. I own two of them myself, but I here's the difference: I only use it for cutting vegetables and fruit, and it could never be a replacement for a really good chef's knife.
I've been collecting knives since I had a kitchen of my own to cook in and am kind of a nerd about having having a specific knife for a specific purposes. I have cleavers for hacking up bone-in pieces of meat, a boning of knife for removing poultry from the bone, paring knives of all shapes and sizes, a Japanese knife only for slicing fish for sashimi, and a long skinny blunted knife I bought in Italy for slicing prosciutto (or ham). I have a drawer full of knives to suit any kitchen need, but the three I turn to most often are these:
A chef's knife. Meet my baby. This Global 8-in. chef's knife is the workhorse in my kitchen. I love the textured handle which makes for a good grip. I love that it feels properly weighted in my hand. I love its samurai-sword-like sharpness. It is my go-to knife for all kinds of jobs from cutting up meat to slicing veggies. Invest in a really great chef's knife and you won't be sorry. (And "really great" doesn't have to mean expensive, I just prefer Global knives. It's a Japanese brand and I suppose I have a thing for Japanese knives.:
A ceramic Santoku knife. I prefer ceramic because it stays razor sharp and is very light. This style of knife is great for slicing and chopping fruits and vegetables. You can also use it for meat, but I prefer a chef's knife with a longer blade for that. My favorite Santoku is made by Kyocera (yes, another Japanese brand.):
A really good paring knife. I love these from Williams-Sonoma. I use them for peeling fruits and vegetables like apple skin and the tough woody ends of broccoli or asparagus. (I'm actually faster with a paring knife than with a peeler.) These are great for small cutting jobs like cubing avocado or hulling strawberries. You almost don't need peelers and hullers if you have a paring knife.:
Anyone else a Knife nerd like me? Let's talk!