Helping you cut through the choices
On any insomnia-induced late night, you can flip on the television and watch numerous kitchen knife infomercials. At the heart of these infomercials is a smiley-faced chef armed with a throng of knives of every shape and size. The chef quickly tells the audience how amazing these knives are and proceeds to slice through cans, leather and plastic before flawlessly peeling an apple or dicing a tomato.
Unless you have heaps of leather waiting to be cut or you are running an aluminum recycling shop from your kitchen, you will probably never use your knives for these purposes. So what makes a great and practical kitchen knife?
A durable knife cuts fruit, meat and vegetables efficiently. It should withstand the abuse of washing, storage and the occasional drop, and you should be able to sharpen it easily. Forget the bold claims that a knife will stay sharp for a lifetime - after all, to who's lifetime are they referring, yours or the knife's?
Knives are generally forged from carbon steel, high carbon stainless steel or ceramic. High carbon knives usually stay sharper than their counterparts, but because the metal is softer they often rust or stain easily. Stainless steel knives are what most professional chefs use, so if you are new to buying knives try a set of these. Ceramic knives are sharp but because they are made of a weaker material they are extremely fragile.
Here are a few examples of typical kitchen knives and their uses:
- Cook's Knife - A heavy duty knife that every cook should have. If you only have one knife in your drawer, make it this one. It comes with a fixed stiff blade and rounded belly. Excellent for chopping, mincing and dicing.
- Bread Knife - Has sharp tips for breaking through crusted breads or fruits with hard skins.
- Vegetable Knife - Similar to a bread knife, but smaller. Used for slicing vegetables and small loaves of bread.
- Slicing Knife - Features a long slender blade. Used for carving meat and vegetables.
When you are shopping for a knife, don't be afraid to touch it. It is a tool that you will be using often, so if it doesn't feel good in your hands at the store, it's not going to feel good when you're preparing supper at home.