Thursday, November 27, 2008

Do You Need a Chef's Knife?

When I first moved out, I got a knife set that was very basic. They looked fine in my apartment, sitting on my counter in the block they came in. There were many sizes and types, all which I used interchangeably (based on what was in my dishwasher). A few years later, after taking a cooking class where the chef went on about choosing a good chef's knife, I thought, I will ask for a good knife for Christmas and see if it makes a difference. Now I have three decent knives, and I only use the ones in the block when none of those three are available.

Having a good knife makes kitchen work go much more smoothly. No longer do I worry when cutting the skin of a tomato that I will just squish the insides all over. Neither do I worry as much about cutting myself. That might seem a bit contradictory, but if you have a sharp knife, it is more likely to cut your food than slip and cut you instead. Finally, there are items that are just too difficult to cut with a dull knife that a good sharp knife will have no problem with. I can cut through frozen meat and a seriously firm squash with no problems.

I started with a Victorinox that was bought for me by a friend. It is a nice large chef's knife, but it is still quite light, which makes it easy enough for me to work with. Life was good with my chef's knife for a while, but then I went and read Kitchen Confidential by chef Anthony Bourdain, where he claims that the only knife you need is a Global chef's knife. Well, he went on in such detail that one had to find it's way into our kitchen. I admit, I do love it. Would I give up my other knife? No way! I use my knives so much that I often dirty up more than one making a meal (and don't want to stop part way through to do dishes).

Recently, it seemed that almost everyone I know was looking at santoku knives. Apparently they were necessary! Off I went to the store to get myself one. I tried a number and chose a J.A. Henckel version, again, because it had a good weight in my hand. Yes, like the other two, I didn't know how I had been living so long without owning this knife.

What brands and types of knives will work for you will depend on what feels good to you, but I would certainly recommend that anyone who likes to cook regularly will benefit from a reasonably good knife. I have had someone stay at our house that has then said they hated cutting things when they returned to their place after using our knives. They can be a bit of a pain, because you have to hand wash them (and I don't hand wash anything else), and they need to be sharpened regularly, but they are totally worth it.

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