Often overlooked knives are at the root of good cooking.
Good sharp knives are the at foundation of good cooking and equipping your kitchen with them will help you become a better cook. Sharp consistent knives promote better knife skills, promote more even chopping and cutting meaning fewer small burned pieces or larger undercooked checks of ingredients. Now doubt all of us recall Cutco knives from high school or the late night stuff of infomercials pushed by the likes of Billy Mays – we are not here to talk about those types of knives. Real chefs knives are rarely sold by late night pitchmen or door-to-door salesmen.
Knives do however range in cost and construction type. We’ll follow up with some recommendations for the begging cook in another post but lets first talk about how the knives are made. There are 2 primary methods of construction – Stamped or Forged. Stamped are cut from a sheet of metal and sharpened. Stamped knives are general cheaper, flimsier, and will not stay sharp for as long. They are though not without merit. Certainly if you are on a budget or looking for a lighter weight tool stamped is the way to go. Just make sure you buy a good electric sharpener with the knife to keep that edge up. Forged knives are lifelong tools, they are heavier, sturdier and more effectively built. That also means they cost more and weigh more – both consideration for the user. My preference is for the later as over time that cost to purchase becomes pretty irrelevant, I’ve owned my forged Henkles chef’s knife for 20 years and it is still good as new after a sharpening.
The Knives You Need:
Let me be clear I like gear especially sharp stabby things like these, I enjoy the thought, construction, and the craftsmanship that goes into tools. You do not under any circumstance need the 20 odd knives I have, you do however need 3 or 4 staples. Those staples are as follows:
- A chef’s knife. This is the most important knife you’ll buy spend the most money on it, care for it carefully and as Anthony Bourdain advises “get the biggest one you can handle” for most people this means a 7, 8, or 9 inch chef’s knife. I’d also recommend going with a forged product here.
- A paring knife. These are short typically in the 3-4 inch ranch and you can get by with stamped or ceramic here, these are typically used for cleaning and cutting things like fruit and veg.
- A serrated knife. Used for slicing things like bread, and roasted meats, this tool is less often used but still a staple in the kitchen.
- A boning knife. It is for what the name implies cutting around bones, for this reason the knife is actually designed to flex – but cheeping out here isn’t a great idea, boning can be dangerous work and the slip of a cheap dull knife could be a cut of your finger.
Now that we have talked about the who/what/where/how of knives we will follow on with some recommendations.