I am not a chef.
I do not claim to be a chef.
I do not pretend to be a chef.
I would look terrible in a chef’s hat.
That aside, my absolute favorite kitchen tool is my chef’s knife. It is also the second most used (first being my cutting board), and I’d say the most important in your kitchen to get quality. Over the next few weeks I will be doing a mini series within Real Food Simplified on those basic kitchen tools that make the kitchen go round. It seemed only right to start with knives, specifically a chef’s knife. Since they are one of those things you can’t really run a kitchen without.
I would say knives are the first thing you should invest in for a real food kitchen, or really any kitchen. With a good knife you can do the work of many gadgets. Skip the mandolin, the food processor, and any slicer until you can get a good knife. Those things are nice, but if you are trying to replace cruddy knives with specialty cutting utensils… it is not going to work. No matter how many you get, it’s not going to change the fact that you still got to cut upon a squash on occasion. I am always amazed at the well furnished kitchens I see, with dull poor quality knives. It’s like those humble necessities were forgotten about. Real food needs prep, and prepping rarely does not involve cutting something. Knives are something that really help the kitchen go round. Every kitchen has them, but it is important to get them quality.
I have used some pretty terrible knives in my life. Ones that make my hands, arms, and shoulders scream for mercy. Where cutting an onion seems more like some lost art of torturing then food prep. No, I do not consider food prep and torture the same thing, unless the kitchen is extremely inefficient. A good knife makes all the difference.
I understand that good knives cost money, but I beg you save up and invest in them. First one being a chef’s knife, you can build up from there. My knife collection is far from complete. I still need a decent boning knife and different sized paring knives, but with my chef’s knife I can do most of my work.
I like the pampered chef’s professional knives. As I have learned a bit more about cooking I realize they are not the best knife money can buy, but for the cost they are great. Besides, any better knife would be lost on me as I only have basic knife skills. I am trying to prepare good quality food for my family, not win master chef. So, they’re prefect for me. And pretty much any home chef.
The backbone of prepping
Knives are the backbone of prepping. You can not chop vegetables, quarter chickens, slice fruit, chop nuts without them. That is why it is so important to get them quality, because you will be using them at every turn.
Why good knives?
- Do the work for you. The balanced weight of them paired with a sharp blade (which takes maintenance, but more on that later), comfortable handle, and quality solid make makes the knife glide through food. Your hand is more guiding the knife as it glides through the food, not pushing the knife through food. It really is incredible the difference between using the right knife for the right job, and it being a good well cared for knife, and using a cruddy knife.
- Are safer to use. Despite popular belief dull knives are dangerous. You are having to use force with them, making slipping easier, and cuts more ragged. If you are putting your weight into something, you are much more likely to slip. One time I was at a friends house and she gave me a paring knife to cut an onion. Be careful she said, that thing is sharp. It made me sad. Dull knives are extremely dangerous to use. Good, sharp knives, used correctly, are not.
- Saves time. And a ton of it.
- Are worth the money in saving time and safety but if you need a frugal argument here it goes: if you do not have a good way to cut up vegetables you are far more likely to buy prepared foods. If it took me twice as long to prep a pound of carrots, I would always buy baby carrots. But with a good knife (and good peeler, but that is another post!) it takes hardly any time at all. I am also able to get any produce that is on sale (instead of only getting easier to prep ones) and cut up my own chickens. They are well worth the money.
- Makes kitchen work easier and more enjoyable. Even if you do not like cooking, it is important to get good knives. Taking half an hour to cut up a pineapple, or getting sore from your neck to your fingers from cutting up an onion will not help anything.
- Is an investment in your homemaking. Do you sweep your floors with hair brush? Do you use a toothbrush to clean your your floors? Do you open up cans with a hammer and nail? Do not prep food with a flimsy dull knife. Caring for your family is worth investing into.
- Improves the quality of your food, as cutting up an onion, and celery is actually a possibility. I do use onion powder and celery seed for my food occasionally, but nothing beats sauteed onion and celery. Mmm. I am hungry now. Maybe I should have eaten more dinner, but we were having liver. Yuck. (Yes, I made it….)
- As far as specific characteristics of what a good knife is, here is a list of three things.
Since going out and buying a nice variety of knifes is not exactly possible for most budgets, here are the knives in order of the importance to have them quality (at least in my opionion).
- Chef’s knife- I do 90% of my cutting with this. It is a great multi-purpose knife.
- Boning knife- If you use anything other then ground beef you should have a boning knife. It is what is used for cutting up chickens, skinning and butchering fish (not that I really do that, but if you live near the coast or go fishing, I am sure this is a good skill to have), removing silver skin, trimming fat, deboning, ect. ect. ect. I actually do not have a great quality boning knife, but it is on the list of things I would like soon. Right after a garlic press.
- Santoku- Santoku stands for “three things” it is named after being being good for slicing, dicing, and mincing. I actually rarely use my super nice version of this knife, and I regret that. I am sure learning to use it would be a great benefit to my kitchen work. For now, I mostly use my chef’s knife.
- Paring knives- Paring knives are really good for smaller work. Basically anything where you don’t want a huge chef’s knife. If you are cutting something in the air instead of on the board (think orange segments, peeling apples), chances are you want a paring knife. Since paring knives are about the size you want a variety of them.
That is hardly an exclusive list, but for a home chef that is a great place to start. A bread knife is also very important, but not as important to get it quality.
Well folks, the hubby is back and it is time to enjoy each other’s company. I will have to wait till next week to talk about caring for knives. Even the best of knives are only as good as they are taken care of. Until then, ta ta.