Knives are maybe the most personal choice for any chef or home cook. There are tons to choose from. How do you choose? There are German, Japanese, American, and on and on… There are high-carbon steel, there are ceramic, stainless steel, and more. Then there are wood handles, plastic handles, flat handles, round handles and so much more… It can be overwhelming.
Best place to start is with what you can afford. Sure there are things to know about knives. Do I need to know about the handle? the bolster? the heel? the spine? the edge? The answer is actually, no. Well, yes and no… OK, so you don’t need to know all that but you need a sales person who does.
So first you need to shop for knives where there are sales people to help you. Next, you need to shop for knives where they will let you handle the knives. Stores like Sur La Table even have a set up so you can cut veggies in order to get a “real feel”. This to me is the most important thing. You need to know what the knife will feel like in your hand. How does it feel to grip the knife? How does the weight feel? Is it balanced? Does the blade feel heavy? Does the handle feel too heavy?
Buying a knife is all about feel. You’re personal preference is the only thing that matters here. For me I love the feel of the Wüsthof Classic Ikon. The shape of the handle was what really sold me on this line of knives.
Next, don’t buy knife sets! OK. If you really want to you can but all you need is one good knife. Once you see how a truly great knife performs and you figure out the kinds of things you do with knives you’ll want to add to your collection, and that’s just what knives should be…a collection. I only have a boning knife because I bone 40 pounds of chicken thighs a month. If I only boned my turkey or the Christmas goose once a year I could do it with a chefs or pairing knife if I had to.
For me my knife collection has to include:
- Chef’s knife
- Santoku knife
- Boning knife
- Paring knife
- Serrated Bread knife
You’ll notice that I have two of each with the exception of the boning knife. This is for several reasons. One, some tasks I fine work better with a larger or smaller version. Then, there’s two of us in the kitchen and lastly if I need to take my knives in for a professional sharpening I can take all the large knives or all the small knives and I still have a full complement of knives.
Lastly there is knife care. A few thoughts on this:
- Never store in a drawer unless it has slots designed to hold each knife separately and in place. The easiest way to damage the blade is with the knife sliding around in a drawer.
- Never put your knives in the dishwasher. Again you don’t want them banging around plus dishwasher soap is too abrasive for knives.
- Figure out the best way to store your knives. As you can see I store my knives on a magnetic strip on the wall. This ensures there is no chance of edges getting stressed from storage and they are super easy to grab when I am cooking. I would have to say I don’t like knife blocks. They are impossible to clean, the knife rests on its “edge”, and it’s possible to get bacteria in those long dark slots… ew! Do what works best for you but whatever your choice make sure your knifes edge is well protected.