Quick summary: You want sharp knives, and at minimum, in a few shapes and sizes. For the majority of the work whether it is veggie prep, or roast carving a 6" - 8" chef/gyuto/santoku style knife is the best choice, for more delicate carving or just faster prep a 4-1/2" utility/petty knife which is a mini version of the chef knife is a treat, and for fine work peeling, skinning and other delicate tasks the paring/shotoh knife is the goto choice.

Trying to decide what knives you need/want can be a very overwhelming process, especially with so many options on the market. Often times in the home kitchen people result to the knife that makes their work easiest which typically is just the knife that is the sharpest and not necessarily the one with the best geometry for the job. Keeping all of your knives razor sharp will eliminate this worry. 

The vast majority of the time spent with knife in hand is spent doing preparation work and depending what is being cooked it is often times prepping the veggies with a smaller amount of time prepping herbs and spices, and meat. Meaning that as nice as it is to have 7 different types of knives for each task and food, but having a few really well made, sharp and ergonomic knives is the better choice compared to having many dull and mediocre knives.

The three main cutting motions are paring, slicing and chopping.
Paring: Removing skins around the outside of a food.
Slicing: Back and forth motion using the entire length of the blade, example: carving a roast beef.
Chopping: Vertical motion up and down using one spot on the blade, example: chopping carrots

For the first motion the best knife is a paring knife which allows for full knife control in the palm of the hand, for slicing and chopping there are a few options, one can either go with a specific knife for each application as is common in the Japanese culture or for a generic knife which is able to be used for many functions. For the generic knife which can be used for slicing and chopping either a chef knife or a santoku is a great option, for the same versatility but more control in smaller spaces a smaller utility knife works wonder. 

For the more specific knife styles here is a quick summary:


Shotoh/Paring Knife: 

Small and agile with a thin short stout blade. Great for peeling fruits and vegetables, cutting herbs, and dicing small vegetables.


Ghutoh/Utility Knife:

 A smaller version of a chef knife, blade length between 4"-6". Has a curved blade and can be used for chopping but is better for slicing. Great for slicing small and medium fruits and vegetables and for carving meat.


Gyutoh/Chef Knife:

The all purpose work horse of the kitchen with a blade length between 6"-8". A long curving blade and a pointed tip



General use all purpose knife. In Japanese it means three virtues for Fish, Meat, and Vegetables or slicing, dicing, and mincing. Our personal favourite for most tasks in the kitchen.

Sujihiki/Carving Knife: a long slender blade generally longer than 8" meant to fully slice through the fish or meat in one slice.
Nakiri/Vegetable Knife:  A flat bottom knife meant specifically for chopping, this knife allows for very fine and consistent chopping which makes for very appealing vegetables.