Kitchen Stuff We Can’t Live Without—Part 2: Knives

Knives. Unless you are planning to file a spoon down to a razor sharp edge, another big item you will definitely need is actually a lot of little ones, that is, knives. They can be pricey depending which ones you choose, so this would be another good item to get others to buy for you, Brides.

When choosing a knife, be sure to actually hold each one you are considering. If it isn’t comfortable in your hand, keep moving.

The best material for most kitchen knives is high-carbon stainless steel, as opposed to just stainless or surgical stainless, which is not very good in kitchen knives. Titanium is also good for knives where flexibility is preferred, such as boning knives. Ceramic blades are extremely hard which means they hold an edge well but require special equipment to sharpen. Ceramic knives must be used only on a cutting board and never on a plate, countertop or other glazed surface.

Regardless of the materials used, there are fundamental differences in the way Asian-made knives and European or American knives are constructed, so be sure to learn about the care and sharpening requirements of the knife you select before you buy. As with everything there are pluses and minuses.

Given all of that, the following knives were recommended by our friends:

—At least one Santoku of any of the following brands— J.A. Henckels Four Star Series 7″ Santoku Knife , J. A. Henckels Professional “S” Hollow 7″Santoku Knife , or Wusthof Classic 7-Inch Santoku Knife, Hollow Edge, although of these brands, I generally prefer the Wusthof Classic line. Santokus are different than regular chefs’ knives because the little gouges along a Santoku blade help release food. This is a good thing because we all know cling-ons suck—especially when chopping vegetables.

—A J.A. Henckels Twin Pro S Chef’s Knife. If you follow the above link, you will be given a choice of sizes. I would go with the 10″ version.

—I also rely on my paring knife, my utility knives, and my serrated slicer.

—You will also need a honing steel such as the Chef’s Choice 10-Inch Oval Diamond Sharpening Steel and either a natural stone sharpening or honing block such as Smith’s SK2 2-Stone Sharpening Kit, or sharpeners for regular, serated, and sankotu blades such as Chef’s Choice M4623 Diamond Hone 3-Stage Manual Sharpener for Euro-American/Santoku/Serrated Knives, and instruction on how to properly use all of the above.

Now, notwithstanding all of the talk above concerning Wusthof and Henckels, I will confess, I am a fan of a Chicago Cutlery’s Insignia Steel line. (I can hear my foodie-friends’ groans already.) Here’s the qualifier—if you have pro-style chopping speed, you probably already have knives you like to work with. But for us mere mortals, pricey knives may be overkill.

Foodies may snicker because CCs are a heck of a lot less expensive than the German stuff. (A whole set CCs can be had for the price of just one of the larger-size German knives). As a result, they may not be considered all that sexy, but they are good enough for 85% of home cooks in my opinion.

My collection started with a Santoku, and later expanded when I bought a block including something like seven kitchen knives, kitchen shears, and eight steak knives. (Okay, so shoot me!)

Here’s why: I find them well-balanced and easy to sharpen. They hold a nice edge and are very comfortable to hold even during lengthy prep jobs. I saw some negative reviews on Amazon about rust, but I don’t leave them underwater for longer than it takes to hand wash them so I haven’t had that a problem.

I have since gotten rid of the block in favor of a MIU Magnetic, Stainless, 20″ Knife Holder, but have kept all the knives along with my Wusthof Classic 4-1/2″ Utility Knife.

Remember with any of these big-boy knives, whether one of the German brands or the Chicago Cutlery, your days of tossing them in the dishwasher are over. Piling them in with the stainless in the cutlery basket will stain them and dull the blades extra quick. I also never leave them in the bottom of the sink for safety reasons and to prevent dulling and the rusting mentioned of above.

Well, that concludes today’s installment of Kitchen Stuff We Can’t Live Without. Join us tomorrow for Gadgets!

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