Kitchen Knife 101

Without fail, just about every social event I attend will have curious cooks ready to pick my brain about various foodie topics.  Knowledge is power, so I love to help in any way I can!  Perhaps the most common question asked is, "What are the main tools I need to have in my kitchen?"  My answer is always, "A few quality knives are first and foremost!"  Knives are perhaps the kitchen tool that most newbie cooks take for granted.  A few excellent knives will make life much easier in the kitchen, and boost your culinary self esteem to chef-like confidence!

Overhead shot of me preparing swordfish with my 8" Shun Classic chef's knife via Instagram

There are four main knives I recommend for your cooking needs, they can cover most tasks with ease:


8 Inch to 9 Inch Chef's Knife:

One of the most common knives used in professional and home kitchens alike.  These knives are generally all-purpose, but are great for cutting through large items like melons and butternut squash.  It's also ideal for chopping, mincing, slicing, and even carving.  If you have smaller hands, I recommend going for a smaller version to better maintain control of your knife, but try not to go shorter than 8 inches.  If you're not quite sold on this one, you could also opt for the following blade:

Santoku Knife:

Also known as a Japanese chef's knife, they are capable of just about anything a standard chef's knife can do, with an added benefit.  See those grooves on the sides of the blade?  That's called a Granton Edge which contains divots to prevent food from sticking to the blade when you're chopping, slicing, etc.  These are becoming more common in household kitchens, as they are shorter knives for easier control, wide blade for scooping and moving prepared foods from the cutting board, and the divots keeping foods off the blade as much as possible.  You can have one of these, or a standard chef's knife, or both like I do (never hurts to have options).

Serrated/Bread Knife:

Serrated edge knives are perfect for more delicate foods, such as tomatoes, bread, pound cake and sandwiches.  Narrow gaps between the serrations are better for tomatoes and delicate fruit, and wider serrations are usually better for breads.  Find a happy medium and you'll be set.  You'll be glad to have this handy blade around so your bread slices won't look like a smashed mess.

Paring Knife:

Last but not least, a good utility knife will be your saving grace, and I'm not talking about box cutters.  A paring knife is a must in your culinary blade arsenal.  Although there are a variety of shapes and sizes of paring knives out there, the standard chef's paring knife will be more multi-purpose, which looks must like a miniature version of the large chef's knife.  Paring knives are ideal for peeling and hulling veggies and fruit, sectioning citrus wedges, deveining shrimp, and detail cutting to make infinite culinary sculptures!  Like this fab food floral sculpture:
Credit to theBerry.com (formerly known as SheChive) for the image!
The same inquiring minds want to know, "What brand or style of knives should I buy?"  That's using your noodle, folks!  Remember the tried and true saying:  You get what you pay for.  An entire collection of nifty looking knives will do you no good if you go cheap.  All quality knives are forged (not stamped) from high carbon stainless steel.  Also look for balance in a quality knife by holding the knife by the bolster, or the space between the handle and the blade as shown below:
Photo courtesy of ChefDepot.net
My brand of choice are Shun knives (as you can tell from the examples above), because I'm a huge fan of their quality construction, accuracy/sharpness, and durability.  I currently own 4 blades from their Classic series and I am more than happy with them.  If Shun doesn't suit you, other notable brands to consider would be W├╝sthof, Global, or Zwilling J.A. Henckels.  As you might have noticed, Japanese or German cutlery is the way to go!

When it comes to knife storage and care, DO NOT store them loose in a drawer, especially if you like your fingers.  Make sure you store them in a case, or a chef's block to ensure the longevity of the blade, and your digits.  Also, DO NOT put your knives in the dishwasher!  Hand wash them as soon as possible after use with a soft bristle brush and put back in its case or chef's block.

heeding this advice will make your cooking experiences much easier and exciting!  You'll have a new appreciation for the kitchen when you have quality knives in your hands.  Any questions?  Ask away!

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