The average person’s kitchen only has a couple of chopping and cutting knives lying around – sharing a draw with a bunch of other utensils. This is ok as long as you are not planning to prepare anything out of the ordinary, but if you are an aspiring chef and serious about your culinary activities, you should definitely invest in a good set of knives. Each knife in a typical kitchen knife set is made for a certain purpose, and using the right knives will make preparing food much easier. And when preparing food is much easier, it will without doubt inspire you to rustle up more delicious dishes for friends and family!
Look for knives made of the finest material and proven to be rust proof – which means your knives will last longer than the average kitchen knife purchased at your local supermarket. Knife blades can be made of a variety of materials. Carbon steel blades are tough and sharp, but can be brittle and discolour when in contact with foods high in acid. Stainless steel blades do not discolour, however, but can stain if not cared for properly. You can also get a combination of those two, or titanium – which is lighter and more flexible, and holds its edge longer. Ceramic blades are much thinner which makes cutting through items easier, however they are quite brittle and are better for slicing rather than chopping.
If you search the internet you’ll find that there’s a wide variety of good quality knives available for purchase and delivery – such as the renowned and trusted Wüsthof knives. Alternatively, if there’s a kitchenware or utensils speciality store near you – pay it a visit to find and purchase a knife set suitable for your kitchen and cooking needs. Unfortunately most inexpensive knives will wear out and lose their edge over time, so more often than not; the more expensive a knife is the better its quality is. Which means that you should always aim to buy the best quality you can afford.
Apart from quality, choose knives that you are comfortable with – knives that fit comfortably in your hand and are not too heavy or have handles that are too small or too big for your hand.
For the average person, the following three types of knives are used the most and will be sufficient for day-to-day cooking needs:
- A chef’s knife, also known as a French knife, can be used for almost everything when it comes to chopping, slicing, dicing and cutting. A curved blade and a heavy handle make chopping with a chef’s knife easier. Leave the tip of the knife on the cutting board and simply rock the knife back and forth over the items you need to chop.
- A serrated knife has saw-like teeth, which makes it easier to slice through bread and other things that are hard on the outside but soft on the inside. Glide this knife back and forth in a saw-like movement in order to cut through the outer layer easily while not damaging the inner layer.
- A paring knife is helpful when you’re doing more controlled cutting of delicate fruit or small garlic cloves – as it’s small in size and perfect for precision cutting.
Herewith a list of another few types of knives which can be useful for aspiring chefs, as well as a brief description of what they are most frequently used for:
- A boning knife is a knife with a thin, narrow blade used for removing the bones of poultry, meat and fish.
- A carving knife is a knife for carving large cooked meats such as poultry, roasts, hams etc.
- An electric knife is an electrical device consisting of two serrated blades that are clipped together, providing a sawing action when powered on.
- An oyster knife has a short, thick blade for prying open oyster shells.
- A coring knife is a knife with a small but sharp blade used for cutting out the cores from fruit
- A butter knife has a blunt edge blade used to apply spreads on bread
- A steak knife is a table knife used for cutting main courses such as steak, and often has a serrated blade
- A cheese knife is a thinly shaped knife which can cut easily through soft or hard textured cheese, and often has a forked tip used to lift up pieces of cut cheese.
- A bird’s beak knife is similar to a paring knife but with a shorter blade that curves upward on both the cutting edge and the top edge.
- A cleaver knife is a knife with a rigid, long, thick blade – used to chop, shred, pound or crush food.
- A mincing knife can be used to mince food into very small pieces, and this knife is perfect to roll back and forth over herbs.
- A roast beef knife is a knife with a long slender blade that can cut across a large chunk of meat, making thick slices.
Very important to keep in mind is the way you care for your knives, as this will in the long run make them last longer. Some tips to keep in mind are:
- Don’t use your knife to cut anything but food.
- Handwash your knives instead of popping them into the dishwasher.
- Dry knives properly before putting them away to avoid rusting.
- Use soft wooden cutting boards rather than plastic or ceramic ones.
- Store knives in a wooden knife block – not in the draw with other utensils that can damage the blades.
- Get a professional to sharpen it, if possible, as improper sharpening will ruin the blade.
Remember that knives are worthwhile, long-term investments. So spending a bit of extra money is ok, especially if you really want to improve the way you prepare food in your kitchen. Have fun hunting for your new, indispensable tools!