The knives you buy will become your constant companions in the kitchen. Even if you cook only once or twice a week, having a few good knives makes all the difference.
Before you head for the nearest kitchen shop to buy a full set of knives, there are a few things to know.
Why Buy an Expensive Knife?
Cheap knives represent false economy. They are fine in a pinch, but it's always a good idea to buy the best knife you can afford. Properly cared for, they will last a lifetime.
Good knives hold their edges and sharpen to fine cutting edges. They are a joy to work with, whether you are chopping a few tomatoes for a salad or working your way through several whole chickens.
What Are the Best?
The best knives on the market today are made from carbon-stainless steel alloys that combine the hardness of carbon with the ease of stainless steel.
The carbon steel holds it edge; the stainless resists rust and pitting from acidic ingredients and humidity.
Good knives have full tangs. This means the metal of the blade visibly extends to the end of the handle and is held in place with secure metal rivets. This makes it less likely that the blade will break or loosen from the handle.
Handles are made from wood, wood impregnated with resin, or sturdy plastic. Any of these materials works well. Choose the one that feels best in your hand.
How to Choose a Knife
There are several good brands of knives on the market. The trick is to select the one with which you feel most comfortable.
Because a knife essentially will be an extension of your hand, it should feel balanced and secure when you hold it. Never buy a knife without holding it first. A good kitchen shop should let you do this.
How to Care for Your Knives
Cut food on a cutting board, not on an unprotected surface. Wood or plastic is resilient and won't damage the blade of the knife.
Keep the blades honed with a sharpening steel before and after every use. Have the knives professionally sharpened every so often.
Wash knives by hand in warm, soapy water and dry them immediately. They will knock against other utensils in the dishwasher, which will dull the blades, and the extreme heat is not good for the handles.
Soaking knives can loosen the handles. Plus, you could cut yourself when you plunge your hand into the water.
Store knives on a rack, in a knife block, or in a drawer designed with slots for the blades. Do not put them in kitchen drawers with other loose utensils where the blades may bump against other tools and dull or nick.
An eight-inch chef's knife and a paring knife are essential. After these have been acquired, decide what you need for your cooking style. The most commonly recommended knives are:
- Serrated bread knife
- Carving knife
- Slicing knife
- Boning knife
Once you get used to using good knives, you will have a hard time working with anything less than the best.