If you are going to be a good cook and have fun in the kitchen, you need to have some good knives. Having a dull knife or the wrong knife for the job can make cooking any dish seem like hard work and can suck all the joy out of cooking. Knowing what knives to buy can be difficult since the variety of knives on the market is mind blowing. Most housewares stores have entire sections dedicated solely to knives containing everything good quality cutlery to the worst gimmick being hocked by a D-list celebrity chef on TV. Navigating your way through the choices can be a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be. You just have to start with the basics. Every kitchen really only needs 3 good knives: A chef’s knife, a serrated knife, and a paring knife. With these 3 core knives you can tackle practically any culinary endeavor.
Now, let’s look at each of them individually:
A good chef’s knife– This is any good cook’s go-to knife and is by far the most important. This is the knife with which you will do most of your cutting work so, if you can only afford one knife, make sure this is the first one you get and that it is a good one. You should look for a knife that has a nice comfortable weight but still feels balanced. The best way to ensure good balance is to look for a knife with full tang construction, where the metal the blade is made of extends into the knife’s grip. Because this is the knife that a cook ends up using 80% of the time, the blade needs to easily hold a sharp edge. To that end, a high-carbon stainless steel blade in the German tradition is a good choice as it’s easier to sharpen, but the Japanese style blades and ceramic knives are known to keep their edges longer. Chef’s knives come in a variety of sizes but 8 inches is usually the best length to start.
A serrated bread knife– Not only is this knife going to be useful for slicing breads of all kinds it also has other uses. A large serrated bread knife is perfect for any food where smooth edged knifes such as chef knives just don’t get a good grip on the target, resulting in slippage and/or the need for excessive force while cutting, either of which can cause dangerous loss of control, accidents, and crushing of delicate or squishy foods. These make cutting tomatoes a breeze.
A paring knife– It only makes sense, when dealing with smaller foods, such as limes, cherry tomatoes or shallots, to use a smaller knife for better control. You wouldn’t use a jack hammer to push in a thumb tack, so why would you use a ten inch chef knife to carve a radish into a rose? A small, sharp paring knife will give you maximum control and lighter weight, with less chance of skipping off of the smaller cutting surface and lopping a finger off.
If you have any questions or have anything that you’d like featured in a future post on The Renaissance Beard , don’t hesitate to contact me or leave it in the comments.