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Of course we’re talking about a knife; the 8”-10” chef’s knife to be exact. At Carmel Valley Kitchen we believe it is the most important and versatile tool for any cook. There is hardly a recipe that doesn’t require the use of a knife. Most cooking professionals have their own personal set of knives that they carry with them always. We get lots of questions about cutlery so we thought we’d fill you in on some of the details.
What do you buy and where do you buy it? There are knife brands galore at every store that sells kitchen equipment, but it all boils down to a few makers that are tried and true, make top quality knives, and stand by their product.
Let’s start at the highest price points…Shun (a Japanese maker) and F. Dick, Wusthof and J. A. Henckles (all German makers). At Carmel Valley Kitchen, we’ve been using two Dick knives, an 8” chef’s knife and a 10” slicing knife, that were purchased in 1975 for about $80 each and they perform as well today as the day they were purchased.
We have a variety of other expensive brands including Henckles (steak knives acquired at Macy’s during a sale) and Shun, an 8” chef’s knife and a 4” paring knife, recently purchased for $180 and $60 respectively. We had to have them!! Shun actually makes a chef’s knife that runs about $300 but it’s more about the name and aesthetics than the quality.
So are high priced knives worth the exorbitant price? We say yes; they’re an investment that will last a lifetime when cared for properly. You can find all these locally at Williams Sonoma, Sur la Table or at most kitchenware sites on the web.
If you don’t want to drop up to$300 on a knife, you’re not sure cooking is for you, or you’re just getting started in the kitchen, we’ve got suggestions for you too. For example, The Victorinox Forschner Fibrox 8″ chef’s knife is used exclusively by “America’s Test Kitchen,” and after testing most brands in every price range this is their top choice at ONLY $29.99. Look for it at Target or on the web…we use it at CVK and it’s excellent. Calphalon also makes a very inexpensive but terrific knife that runs about $30 at Bed, Bath and Beyond or $19.99 at Tuesday Morning if they have one. Stick to one of these suggestions and you’ll own a great knife that is also a great value.
In addition to the chef’s knife, we recommend that you have a 9” serrated knife for slicing, a 6” utility knife, a 3”-4” paring knife for small tasks, and a pair of good kitchen shears.
Let’s spend a few minutes on two extremely important topics…knife care and sharpening. Knives should be cleaned, dried and properly stored immediately after use. Please hand wash and dry, and keep in an appropriate receptacle like a wooden block or a tray made only for knives that fits in a drawer. Never put knives in the dishwasher or leave them in the sink. A properly sharpened knife is very dangerous; never allow anyone to use a knife unless they know correct knife skills. By skills we mean the proper way to cut with and care for a knife.
A dull knife is useless. Be sure your knives are properly sharpened. By this we mean sharpened by a professional about every six months, not run up and down that long pointy thing (a steel) that grandpa uses right before he cuts the Thanksgiving turkey. A steel does not sharpen a knife; it simply realigns the cutting edge so it’s straight. We recommend Julius, who can be found standing in front of Sprout’s Farmer’s Market under a green umbrella in Poway on Tuesdays or Clairemont on Thursdays, 8am-2pm both days. He is VERY reasonable and very good. You can contact Julius at 619-818-0177.
To keep your knives tuned between professional sharpening, we recommend the ACCUSHARP KNIFE SHARPENER, 001. It is available at Ace Hardware for $11.99. Please forget the expensive electric sharpeners. And always use a steel prior to each use.
We hope these words will help you obtain the “cutting edge knowledge” you must have to master proper knife know how. For more specific info on slicing techniques, sharpening, care and products please spend some time on the web or feel free to express any questions, comments or concerns below this article, and I will respond ASAP.
Dave Clegg is a self-taught amateur chef and recipe creator who has always been inspired by his mom’s great cooking. He has been cooking for over 40 years and has lived in Carmel Valley with his family since 1985. He created “Carmel Valley Kitchen” as a way to share his passion.
Dave was recently selected as a semifinalist in the “Next Great! News Instructor Cooking Challenge” and his basic cheese cake took third place at the 2011 San Diego County Fair. Dave has a comprehensive knowledge of ingredients, equipment and cooking techniques that he is always happy to share.