Knives, blades, cutters, slashers, and choppers – I love them and so should you! Knives to a cook are like tires are to a NASCAR driver (no I’m not a big fan of NASCAR but I do love jean shorts (jorts) & mullets). When you get down to it the knife you use is a direct reflection of how you feel about the food you are making for your friends and family. A dull shitty knife shows that you’re just trying to get through it – like a hung-over Monday at work. You’re just bruising and tearing the products you’re working with. Where as a sharp well made blade treats the foods being cut with respect – gliding though the product, slicing through the cells leaving a clean beautiful cut. Is this a little OCD? Damn right it is and you should develop the same condition! Take a look at the blades you use – are they from target, a hand me down your mom gave you when you moved into your first apartment, purchased from some kid trying to earn money for summer camp? Yeah, those knives are crap. Toss them out or give them to your husband to use in his man cave for cutting PVC pipe and beer-bong tubing – these do not belong in your kitchen.
Knives are a very personal thing – one size doesn’t exactly fit all. Chefs and cooks are very weird about their knives – never just pick up somebody’s knife and start fukn with it. You could catch the wrath from some people for such an offense! Today there are many reputable knife makers the big boys are German vs. Japanese: Wustoff, Hinkel, Kershaw, Shun, and Global – to name a few. For female cooks I recommend Globals, they’re a great light weight knife (and yes they’re pretty). Each has their own characteristics and is best suited for different people. Personally I use both Wustoff and Shun knives – Kraut and Japs. I like Wustoffs because they are classic and traditional heavy German blades that you feel in your hand, they can take a hell of a beating and retain their edge. Shuns are a relatively new knives in the U.S., made in Japan in the traditional samurai sword method of folding the steel – this is why you get the beautiful waves on the surface of the blade. They have a D-shaped handle that is made for right handers (though I believe they’re now making them for southpaws); I find that fatigue is less with this type of handle. My third favorite blade is the Chinese cleaver, the “Tonka Truck” of the knife world. I got mine 8 years ago in San Francisco’s China-Town for ten bucks. I can hack at chicken bones with it then go right to slicing tomatoes – these are big cumbersome bastards that take a while to get used to, but once you get it – it’s tough to use anything else.
Knives are not cheap – there’s a reason for this though. A good blade will last you decades. It will grow old with you change as you change – develop character. Don’t rush into it and buy the first expensive knife you come across – make a day of it! Go to a cutlery shop if possible but if you can’t find one near you, hit up the box stores like William Sonoma, Sur la Table, or even Create & Barrel. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the myriad of choices and styles so here’s a couple tips: 1) You need a “Chef’s knife” 8 or 10 inches preferably – shorter and you are limited in what you can do, longer and it’s like you’re trying to be a Viking not a cook. 2) Get the sales person to lay out every knife in the size you want and hold them. Pick each one up and grip it like you’re slicing something – feel the weight and how the handle feels in your hand. Weight and feel are the most important factors – LOOKS ARE NOT! One by one start eliminating options until you find your Excalibur. 3) Package options – sometimes you can get a whole set of the knife you want for a pretty good deal with a storage block. These are cool and look neat but aren’t necessary. Any chef will tell you that you really only need 3 knives; a chef’s knife, a serrated “bread knife”, and a pairing knife (a very small knife with a 4-5 inch blade). With these three knives there is virtually nothing you cannot make any others are just for shits and giggles.
Once you’ve picked out your new baby – take it to be sharpened BY A PROFESSIONAL (out of the box knives aren’t truly honed). I don’t trust those electric kitchen store trinket sharpeners – typically the just screw up your blade. For the average home cook I recommend taking your knives to a REAL cutlery shop once or twice a year and having them sharpen them for you. Know this – that metal rod with a handle that you have in your utensil drawer is called a Steele and this does not sharpen your knife. The purpose of a Steele is to realign the blade’s edge, which gets out of whack from standard use. You can also use your Steele to create a “tunnel” in a tenderloin for stuffing – FYI.
Last but not least – learn to use your new knife properly! Look up one of the many culinary schools in your area and enroll in a knife skills course. Here you will learn how to properly hold and use your new baby, as well as how not to cut a finger off! Take it from me – it is much better to cut yourself with a sharp knife than a dull one so take care of your blades. Do not put them in the dishwasher!!!
Oh yeah, it is bad luck to give knives as a gift to anyone! You have to make them buy it from you. I’ve sold hundreds of dollars worth of knives for a total of about 4 bucks. You don’t want to be the person that breaks up a marriage or cause someone to lose a finger (it’s ok dave & tim – I don’t blame you).