Monday, August 16, 2010

How to select chef knives

My culinary mignons,

I had a request for this posting so here you are.  "How to select chef knives"

One question I am often asked is “which brand of chef knife is the best?” That is like asking “is Honda is better than Toyota?” or vice versa. It is not a question of which brand is better; it is a question of which brand feels more comfortable to you. Some examples of top brands are, Wusthof, Henkel, F.Dick, Global, Sabatier and there are others as well. The only way to find out which knife is right for you is by going to a store that specializes in knives (that doesn't include Wal-Mart or Kmart) and speak to a specialist. Ask them a lot of questions. Ask them to show you the proper way to hold different types of knives. This is something that is hard for me to explain on paper as opposed to showing you. Try different brands of knives to see what feels good in your hand.

When you build your set of knives you may not want to stick with just one brand. In my case I have different brands of knives, not just one. For example, I have a Wusthof chef knife, a Henkel slicing knife and a F.Dick bread knife. I guess it is like clothes in a way. I love Levis jeans but not their other products. I love Zegna shirts but not their pants and so on.

What knives should everyone have in their kitchen? That depends on how much cooking you do and how serious you are about it. To cover the basics you need: a chef's knife, paring knife, boning knife, bread knife and a sharpening steel. The downside to top quality kitchen equipment and utensils is it can be expensive. The upside is that a high quality knife should last longer than you. Yes, I know what you are thinking, those knives won't do you much good when you are dead. Depending on what you get you will need to spend about $300-$500. If you don't have the money to get a set of knives and need to put it together piece by piece, I suggest starting (at a minimum) with a chef's knife, sharpening steel and sharpening stone.

How to care for and sharpen your knives. I could do an article on this topic alone but I wanted to provide you with some basic points you need to know. Never put knives in the dishwasher. It dulls them. Keep them in a wooden block if you have one. If not, wrap the blade in a towel and tie a rubber band around the blade. Don't just throw them in a drawer with everything else.
Everyone seems to think a sharpening steel actually sharpens. It does not. A sharpening steel is used to hone the blade, nothing more. If you are going to spend the money to get top quality knives than you must have a proper sharpening stone. I can't emphasize how important a sharpening stone is. Too many times I see people buy the most expensive knives but they don't have a stone. If you don't care for the blade of the knife then why spend the money?  

In closing I can't forget one important point.  Make sure you have a nice, wooden cutting board.  Those are the best thing for the blade of the knife.  Forget all that nonsense about people saying wood harbours parasites and all that.  OK, it isn't as sanitary as polyurethane but trust me, I am a professional and I only use wood and you will be fine.  

oh, ps.   one last word of advice.  When you drop one of your knives, and it will happen, don't try to catch it.  I have seen someone try to and it doesn't end up well.

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