Dear Lynne,
I need a starter set of good knives for my blossoming 17-year-old chef. She dreams of having her very own.

Your help figuring this out would be welcome because I am seeing single knives for $15 and ones for $300. I don't want to give her poor-quality knives, but we can't afford these high-end knives. Are there any quality knives that are inexpensive? 

-Hal in Austin 

Dear Hal,

Without a doubt there are good knives for modest money. New knife technology has taken knives no serious cook would touch years ago into the pro's class.

As a starter set for her I suggest the two knives every chef begins with -- a 3 1/2- to 4-inch paring or utility knife, and a 7 to 8-inch chef's knife. With the paring knife she can slice, peel, bone and fillet. With the chef's knife she'll mince, chop, dice and even carve like a pro. Later you can add others.

One of the brands I've test-driven for a long time, and one that gets high marks from professionals for its price-quality ratio, is the Forschner by Victorinox's Fibrox line. Their chef's knives are in the $30 range and paring knives are as low as $7. If she's anything like me, she'll still be using these knives years from now. Even with those three-figure knives ready and waiting in my knife block (my profession was the excuse for the splurges), these two usually end up by the sink waiting to be washed. 

Along with them, get her the perfect knife sharpener for beginners, the AccuSharp knife and tool sharpener. It uses sharpening pieces that are preset at the correct angle so you can't ruin your blades, and costs about $15. 

Find everything on Amazon and other sites.  

One last thing: Caution her to never, ever put a knife in the dishwasher -- it ruins the blade's tempering. Hand wash and dry it as you go. 

Here's a recipe she can practice on to try out her knife skills. It's a good Sunday night supper too. The list of ingredients might give you pause, but trust me, the salad comes together easily. Cook the eggs ahead of time and store them in the refrigerator. And do the same with the dressing. 


Lynne Rossetto Kasper

Lynne Rossetto Kasper has won numerous awards as host of The Splendid Table, including two James Beard Foundation Awards (1998, 2008) for Best National Radio Show on Food, five Clarion Awards (2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2014) from Women in Communication, and a Gracie Allen Award in 2000 for Best Syndicated Talk Show.