Hey everyone! I began thinking about what my next post for you ought to be. I began thinking about what might be pressing for some home cooks, skills to be obtained and whatnot and it came to me! I want to talk to you guys about knives. Yes yes, knives! We all have them, we all use them, but do we all know what each one is for or even called??? I will admit, I might not have THE best home knives, but we’re poor college kids so eventually I’ll get a better set to work my magic with. But for now I am settling with my Farberware set that my husband picked up at a yard sale (they are useable knives and do the job… but preferences, preferences, preferences). Same thing goes with my pots and pans set… another post to come on that subject here soon!
First off, let me show you the knives I carry with me into work everyday:
Any industry people out there reading this might scoff about the knives I DON’T have but honestly, I haven’t needed an arsenal of different knives over my career to take care of what I’ve needed to do everyday. All I have really needed is a bread knife, a chef’s knife (there are two in this picture) and a paring knife. These four have really done everything I’ve needed them too so why drop tons of money on a knife that I’ll only use sparingly?! Now if I ever work in a kitchen in which a slicer, let’s say, is needed and I’d be using it frequently, then I would invest in a really good slicer because I’m going to be using it enough to justify the money for it.
Same thing goes with everyone at home, you don’t need every little knife out there that is sold on QVC or any late night info-mercial. All you need to do is to invest in a few really good knives that are going to get the job done of what you do frequently. The four I think every home cook needs are: a Chef’s knife, a paring knife, a utility knife, and a bread knife.
“But Marlee, there are 5 knives in the picture??? What about the fifth one???”
Honestly, I don’t even know why they make this knife. It’s a cross between a utility knife and a bread knife… I have never used it and wished that they had used this space in my knife block to give me a slicer or something a bit more useful. I believe this knife to be a huge waste of space and even worse, a waste of your money.
One of my big pieces of advice, when you’re looking to build your armory of kitchen knives is that you avoid buying a “set.” Two reasons
You’ll end up getting a knife that you don’t really use all that often.
Like my crazy knife that is a love child of my utility and bread knife, I never use it at all and would much rather have a different knife in its stead that I would use a lot more. This leads to my second reason.
Everyone’s hands are different.
I have quite small hands. My husband has bigger hands. Joe Shmoe who was the model used to help design the handle and the balance of the knife has a different sized hand. One of the things you need to be aware of with buying knife sets is that you don’t get to control what size blade you get with your Chef knife (yes, the blade comes in different sizes!), or the fit of the handle of the knife in your handle. For example, my bread knife that I use for work has a nice little lift to the handle right towards the base of the blade which means that my hand is angled a bit higher which feels much more comfortable to me when I have to slice bread. The bread knife that is in the set I use at home, doesn’t have that lift and so it feels really awkward for me to slice bread at home.
So when I build my new knife arsenal, I’m going to buy each knife individually so I can pick out a bread knife that I like and my Chef knife with the blade that is comfortable for my size. This is why you ought to buy knifes individually rather than in a set. It is very rare that you’re going to like every knife equally when you buy a set. Make sure that when you buy knives, you invest in good quality knives. This doesn’t mean going out and throwing out $1,000 on new knives because they are “top-of-the-line” but it also doesn’t mean you ought to throw your money on the “10 knives for $19.99 plus shipping and handling” gimmick because it’s a “good deal” and somehow they used surgical steel to make the blade. Moral of the story: go to a store with a good kitchen section with an awesome selection of knives and try out each knife one by one until you get the 4 knives you need!
Let’s go over the purpose of each of these knives:
This is your all-purpose knife! This is the knife that you use to do all of the chopping and slicing you might need to do. This will be your most used knife so you want to be super comfortable with this knife. If you are a smaller person, I would recommend getting a chef’s knife with an 8” blade because it’ll be easier for you to maneuver and handle! If you are a bigger person, I would recommend a 10”-12”; I know that those sizes sounds like driving a Cadillac, like one of those old school boats, but these will give you the room to maneuver around the cutting board without you feeling like your using an Exacto knife to chop parsley.
This knife is really good for detail work and doing lots of small work. Do you want to eat grapefruit without the bitter pith??? A paring knife is the knife you would use to cut each segment out without suffering through the bitter membrane. It’s also good for doing slicing of small fruits and such. Love this little guy.
You may be wondering what a utility knife even is. Simple. It’s the in between of a chef knife and paring knife. If you need to clean a whole chicken or a roast, this is your guy! The blade is not wide enough like your chef knife so you won’t ruin the integrity of the cuts and the blade is longer than a paring knife so you’re able to make longer, prettier cuts when you filet a steak or what have you.
This knife is really the ONLY serrated blade you need! Except steak knives but that’s neither here nor there. We obviously know the purpose of a bread knife. You can’t slice a piece of bread with the same prettiness using a straight blade as you can with a bread knife. It keeps the bread together while slicing and not smashing it. You NEED a bread knife!
Now another thing we need to consider when we think about our knives is what kind of knife do we want? Here are my thoughts on stainless steel vs. ceramic knives. I personally like to go for stainless steel knives: they’re super durable, they don’t rust like their steel counterparts, and really don’t take extra care. The only con is that they need to be sharpened frequently.
This is where the weird rod that’s in the knife block comes into play. THAT, ladies and gents, is called a steel. This is what we use to “hone” our blade; over time and after being used, the knife blade will start to bend microscopically and that effects the sharpness and effectiveness of the blade of the knife. We hone our knives to help get the blade back into a straight line so we can now cut things more effectively. There are quite a few Youtube videos you can watch that give you the 411 on how to properly hone your knife. Eventually, you’ll need to really sharpen your knife and there are quite a few little get ups they have in the stores that can help sharpen the blade of your knife to its previous glory. Another option is to bring your knife to your local farmers market as they often have shops set up there that offer sharpening services! These guys are fantastic, they can really get your knives back to tip-top shape for a very small fee and the sharpening lasts for about 3-5 months depending on how often you use your knives and how much of a beating they take. Make sure that you have sharp knives!
As far as ceramic knives are concerned, they do have their merits. I don’t work with them too much because they are very fragile; one drop and the blade can shatter… I’m a bit of a clutz so I tend to stay away from super fragile things. However, ceramic blades tend to stay sharper longer than their stainless steel contestants. If you do need to hone a ceramic blade, you need to use a ceramic steel rather than the metal steel that comes with most knife sets. Ceramic steels are made out of ceramic as well and are equally as fragile as the knives but the ceramic will be gentler on the ceramic knives than the metal steels which will beat up your ceramic knives. So just some food for thought for you to mull over.
Last but not least, we need to go over one more thing.
There is one thing that will push me out of a home kitchen faster than watching someone use the wrong knife for the wrong job… and that is knife handling… I just… I just can’t watch. I am providing this public service to you all so that I can enjoy being in your kitchen, watching you cook. Please watch your fingers! Often I see people hold something that they are chopping like this:
This is how we hold something that we need to chop. I have created a claw with my fingers to hold on to my brave parsley that volunteered to help me illustrate this
concept. You use the tips of your fingers to hold the parsley in a bundle with your knuckles being exposed. As you chop with your chefs knife, the side of the knife ought to come into contact with your knuckles (it won’t cut you don’t worry), when you hold the object you are chopping with your fingers in a claw shape, you’ll avoid cutting them. Another thing to note is that my thumb is tucked behind my index finger instead of being left out in the open; when you tuck it in, you’ll never get the tip cut off! So can we all raise our right arms to the square and solemnly swear that this is how you will hold anything being chopped from henceforth and forever??? Awesome!
Hopefully you all found this post to be enlightening and informative! Remember
- Don’t buy knife sets
- Make sure you buy knives that fit your size and hands
- Up keep the maintenance of your knives
- Use the right knife for the right job
- Please handle things properly and carefully when knives are around your little fingers
Happy cooking everyone! Stay tuned for some more food and kitchen fun!