A couple of weeks ago (seems like eons but I’m having fun blogging and you seem to enjoy my posts) I promised to start on A Cook’s Tools. Consider this a first installment. I have to reconstruct the rest from a class I taught a couple of years ago (new computer) and when life calms down around here I’ll do so. I’m blogging at nearly 2 a.m., the only time I seem to have to myself these days!
If you can have only two knives in your life right now, get a good chef’s knife and a paring knife. Go to a store with knowledgeable people and plan to spend around $150 for both. Take care of them and keep them sharp and they’re a lifetime investment.
Ask to hold the chef’s knife. Both must be forged steel (not stamped) and the chef should be heavier and thicker on top and towards the handle. Both must have a full tang (blade goes all the way to the hilt). How does it feel in your hand? You need at least an 8″ blade (I have 10″ but some like 12″) on the chef. I like the 4″ parer as oppsed to the 3″ but that’s personal preference. Feel the balance of the chef’s knife – you should be able to place your forefinger and thumb at the convergence of the blade and hilt and feel comfortable. Check out the main websites and consumer review sites for selection criteria and how their knives are made.
You’re looking at high-end knives here, that should be in a glass case (opened by staff) and labeled as to use. My first two great knives, I’ve had for over 20 years and are Henckels 4-star. I have small hands and like the rounded grip they provide. But what matters is what fits you.
Keep all your knives sharp. A sharp knife saves you time as you won’t be sawing your food. Learn how to sharpen them yourself with a good stone and steel, and learn safe knife skills. Any cooking class in your neighborhood can teach you this. Often a specialty store like Sur La Table or your butcher will sharpen your knives for $1 per blade inch. This is particularly useful for a chef’s knife as I only make mine duller when I try. If you do have an accident, and I’ve had a few, a sharp knife will make a clean cut and heal faster. Do go to the emergency room if it doesn’t stop bleeding, please.
Other knives I have on my magnetic rack, over the stove:
7″ Granton edge Santoku knife (can also be used as a chef) from Henckels
6″ knife I needed in the UK because corp apartment had junk knives
Bread knife from Henckels
Boning knife, $12 from butcher 20 years ago
Fish boning knife (more flexible blade for filleting fish) from Henckels
Set of three knives for $10, serrated for tomatoes, straight and bird’s beak, plastic handles
Cleaver, especially good for hacking off chicken necks and feet
7″ black ceramic Santoku from Kyocera (no bones and no whacking garlic cloves)
If you have ceramic knives (non-magnetic) and have to keep them in a drawer, purchase knife guards. Also, if you travel with your knives for any reason (in checked luggage) knife guards will protect your knives, and place them in a specially designated knife roll or case.
Now, you know if you’re going out to buy those “laser knives” that “never need sharpening” leave this blog now. Right now. Talk about sawing food. For a minimal investment you can have real knives that will do your cooking skills proud. Sawing a steak off the grill with a puny knife after you’ve spent the day in the kitchen marinating it and making all the side dishes, is beneath you.
Note: If you want really good sushi knives research them online. Know that they’re only sharpened on one side so it REALLY makes a difference if you’re right or left-handed. If lefty, you may have to special order your knife.
Keep your initial selection simple, keep all your knives sharp (Granton edge needs different angles) and use your knuckles as a guide to keep from injury.