Choosing a Kitchen Knife 101

A knife may be the most often used utensil in your kitchen, and it is one of the most popular wedding gifts given, according to  I need a new set of knives.  My last set was very old, and said they never needed sharpening.  Well guess what?  They became dull after twenty years!  Now that I have taken a few culinary arts classes, and own a few nice knives (two), I want to complete my set.  When I started doing a little research, I came up with a ton of information.  So, to save you some time, I have condensed everything I have read into a few important points.  Also check out the great You Tube on how to select knives.

First, you have to decide if you are a serious chef or a Food Network junkie like I am?  Do you use knives a little or a lot?  I use them daily, but not for fine or precision cuts, so high end knives are probably not the best bet for me.  Most places tell you to purchase the best knives you can afford at the time, as they should last a lifetime.  They are more affordable if you purchase them in a set, but if you want the really expensive knives, you can find someone with open stock, and purchase one at a time.  The up side to a set is that they usually come with a block.  I actually prefer the magnetic strip that hangs on your wall.  This keeps them in sight and out of my three year olds hands!  Wherever you store them, keep them away from other utensils and in a sheath or block to protect fingers.

Now you have to decide if you want a fine edge knife (which will need sharpening with a steel) or a “never needs sharpening knife.”  Most kitchen knives are manufactured with a blend of carbon stainless steel, so that they do not rust or stain.  So if you want a fine edge knife, you have to decide if you want a stamped knife, which has been pressed out of solid sheet metal, or a forged knife.  Forging is the process of heating a single piece of metal and then hammering and grinding it into the shape of a blade.  These are more expensive, and heavier to hold.  It is also a more superior knife.  You can tell it’s forged by looking at the handle, and being able to see the blade all the way to the bottom of the handle.

Now comes the easy part.  Which knives do you need?  I am constantly using my chef’s knife and my paring knife.  I would love a Santoku knife (as seen on Rachel Ray and every other Food Network show in the last year).  The upside to these knives is that the divots in the side of the knife keep the food from sticking to it.  The downside is that it may not be as easy to dice foods as with a chef’s knife.  I also need a serrated knife for breads and tomatoes, etc…  A good pair of kitchen shears is imperative.  I use these to mince herbs or cut produce from the garden.   What am I going to choose-probably a two more paring knives (fine edge) and a large chef’s knife (fine edge).  Whatever knife brand or set you choose, make sure that they feel good in your hands.  Give them a test drive in the store before purchasing them.  Finally, keep your knives in great shape by washing them by hand and drying them immediately.  Make sure they are sanitized between uses.

2 Responses to "Choosing a Kitchen Knife 101"

  1. Tristian's Mommy

    You mentioned washing them by hand….have I been hurting my knifes by putting them in the dishwasher?

  2. Tristian’s Mommy,
    when you place a knife in the dishwasher, it dulls the blade quickly, and can cause it to slice the inside of your dishwasher. It is always best to handwash your knives, and air dry them.