3.23.2011

What knives can’t you live without?

by Carl Smith, Deli & Cheese Buyer

KnivesSwiss, Calphalon, Kitchen Aid, J.A. Henckel, Messer Miser, OXO, Zyliss: there are many of knives out there to choose from. Whether they are high end chef quality or discount national brands, knowing the basics and what you really need in the kitchen is crucial. Understanding the uses for each knife is also very important in determine whether you need them or not.

More expensive knives, especially those of popular heavy German knives, are made with very hard steel. In some instants, they can be very hard to sharpen at home and you will have to go to a professional to get the job done. Less expensive knives are made of softer steel and sharpen very quickly. Their blades are thinner, but sometimes do not work well on harder fruits and vegetables. The other alternative is carbon steel knives, particularly from France and Japan. They are easier to sharpen than stainless steel, but may also need to be sharpened more often or honed before every use. They also rust if left in dish water and/or not dried properly. Stains may occur from some foods. In spite of these drawbacks, many chefs still prefer carbon steel because it’s easier to keep sharp.

In the past few years there have a couple of new introductions: Ceramic and Nonstick Coating. Both of these originate from the Far East. Porcelain Ceramic knives are made from high forced porcelain, one of the hardest materials you can find. They are made well for cutting vegetables especially delicate greens because porcelain does not leave a bruise or browning on the edge on vegetables. Downfall; very hard to sharpen.

Non Stick Coated Knives are basically High Carbon Stainless Steel Knives forced with a non stick power coating. They are available in multitude of colors, shapes, and sizes. They work as well as any other high carbon stainless steel knife.

Here are the basics you need in your kitchen regardless of your preference:

  • One Chef’s Knife: The largest you can find. A 14 inch knife will chop herbs twice as fast as an 8 inch chef knife.
  • One Paring Knife: 4 inch for boning poultry, trimming vegetables, or preparing fruit.
  • One Flexible Knife: Long and thin. This is used for filleting fish or slicing smoked fish and prosciutto.
  • Bread Knife: 10 inch knife with serrated blade.

Just remember, all knives are not created equal.

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