Kitchen Basics: Knives

September 28, 2020

So just how many knives do we need in our kitchen? And are those fancy sets necessary? You basically need two knives in your kitchen. And possibly a third depending on how much you cook.

The most important knife is a Chef’s Knife. It will be used for over 80% of all cutting tasks. A Chef’s knife can be anywhere from 6″ to 14″. This knife is used for slicing, dicing, veggies, meat and just about everything else. There are many different styles and brands. Professional chefs often get knives custom made according to their height. For home cooking, this is not necessary. You just have to find a knife that fits well in your hand and feels good. My go-to knife is an 8″ Japanese Brieto-M11 Pro vegetable knife. I use it for 95% of all kitchen work. It is very light but also very, very sharp making quick work of most cutting tasks. I recommend you spend about $90 or more on your Chef’s knife.

The second most important knife is a paring knife. It is used for smaller tasks that require precision like peeling, coring and hulling. This knife is normally from 2″ to 4″ long with a pointed tip. Recommended spend for this little knife is anywhere from $45 to $60.

The third knife that is nice to have in your kitchen but not essential is a serrated knife. It is also called a bread knife. This is great for slicing bread, bagels, tomatoes or any food that has one texture on the outside and another inside. I love to use a serrated knife for cutting up a pineapple, melons or peeling a squash. Recommended spend for this knife is about $60.

The best way to sharpen a knife at home is with a slot sharpener to avoid warping the blade. Sharpen your clean knife before each cooking session. If you want to get fancy and use a sharpening stone, take a class to avoid damaging the blade. It is recommended that you have your knives sharpened professionally a few times a year to repair and straighten the blades. My favorite sharpener is the Brod & Taylor Classic Triple -Action Austrian Tungsten Carbide. It is easy to use and cost about $60. Lastly, remember that a dull knife will result in more accidents.

To care for your knives wash them by hand and dry them after each use. There are some professional knives that can go into the dishwasher. These knives are made of one piece of stainless steel with no wood on the handle. I would recommend that these knives also get washed and dried by hand. Avoid scraping the blade on a cutting board to pick up what you are cutting or to clear the board. This warps the blade making future cutting tasks less precise. Store your knives on a knife magnet, in a knife case or in a slotted drawer.

My first knives were the classic Wusthof knives. After 30 years, they are still in use, beautiful and work like machines. My second favorite brand is the Global Pro. This brand is very practical and durable. I also love a variety of Japanese style knives.

How do you know what knives are for you? Either go to a knife shop and “test drive” a few. Or if you know a chef, ask them if you can play with their knives for an afternoon. If you are lucky enough for them to agree, expect to have your bags searched before leaving their house…

We are working on providing you with some short demo videos on basics like how to use a knife, cut up a pineapple etc… Stayed tuned!