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What should we look out for when buying new kitchen knives?

Always buy the best quality knives that you can afford. A good set of knives will not only last a lifetime, but will pay for themselves many times over in saved labor. Choose knives that feel comfortable in the hand, are heavy and well balanced. Carefully place the junction of the blade and handle on the side of your open hand. The handle should fall back gently into your palm.

Knives that have a tang (the part of the blade that extends into the handle of the knife) running along the whole length of the handle give the best overall balance and the longest life - blades that are not riveted in place this way invariably come loose. The heads of the rivets should be flush with the surface of the handle for easy cleaning.

The best handles tend to be those that are made of wood impregnated with plastic to seal it. Plain wooden handles are nonslip, tough and attractive; the less expensive plastic handles are easier to keep clean but do not provide the same grip.

You can never have too many knives in the kitchen, and there is one for every job you undertake. Build up your selection gradually and, when you can afford it, add specialist knives such as boning and fish filleting knives to your collection. The following are the essential knives that should be bought first:

* A large cook's knife with a blade at least 20 cm long.
* A fruit knife with a serrated edge and stainless-steel blade.
* A paring knife with a 8-10 cm stainless-steel blade.
* A bread knife with a rigid 20-25 cm serrated blade.
* A carving knife with a rigid blade at least 20 cm long.
* A palette knife with a flat, round-ended blade.

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