4 Essential Kitchen Knives
April 15, 2019
Whether you’re a skilled home chef or a novice cook, it’s important to have the right knives in your kitchen. Different knives are designed for different tasks. Nothing brings this point home better than seeing a beautiful loaf of crusty Italian bread ruined because the person cutting it decided that a straight-edge knife was just as good as a serrated blade.
The most commonly known kitchen knife, the Chef’s knife is truly a kitchen essential. Use this versatile blade for cutting and slicing vegetables, fruits, fish and meats. Blades typically run 6 to 12 inches, but 8 or 9 inches is often preferred.
The paring knife is a small knife with a blade of about 3.5 inches. It is best used for trimming and peeling fruits and vegetables, or working with smaller foods like garlic. Avoid using on “hard” vegetables like carrots.
The heavy rectangular blade on the cleaver makes it the perfect tool for cutting through large chunks of meat. It has the appearance of a small hatchet and does great work of hacking through bone. (Note: there is a difference between a meat cleaver and a Chinese cleaver. The meat cleaver is for heavy duty use as described above, while the Chinese (vegetable) cleaver is more suited to precise work like slicing onions, scallions, ginger and so on).
Also often called a “bread knife”, a serrated knife is your go-to blade for vegetables with a waxy surface (think tomatoes), and anything that requires a “sawing” rather than slicing motion. The average blade length is about 6 inches.
You may also wish to add a boning knife to your collection, but unless you see yourself filleting a lot of fish, or frequently boning meats, you probably won’t use it very often.
If you’re feeling fancy, or want to do some decorative work with your vegetables, a Japanese Mukimono knife is the way to go. (Mukimono is the Japanese art of food carving and decorative garnishing).
Keeping Them Sharp
Now that you’ve equipped your kitchen with the knives you’ll need, you’ll also want to make sure they stay sharp. There are a few ways you can achieve this.
You can use a controlled-angle sharpening system, which will allow you to choose the best angle for your knife and guide you so that you stay at the correct angle. You can do it freehand on a whetstone or benchstone if you feel you’re skilled enough to maintain the angle on your own. Or you can use a rod-style system like the Master’s Edge, which will provide you with the three most common sharpening angles, as well as a rod specifically designed to sharpen serrations.
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