Most kitchens have a knife block jammed with a bunch of semi-sharp knives of different shapes, sizes and blade configurations. If you’re like me, you have a favorite, or, more likely, you just grab whatever one is cleanest and closest. But each knife has its own reason for existing, its unique cutting situation that it was designed for. And that what I’m typing about right now. This is your guide to knives.
Parts of a Knife
As you can see, the parts that you cut with include the tip, for fine cutting of delicate items, the edge, for the bulk of chopping and slicing, and the heel, for splitting dense foods. The handle components including the butt (or end), the tang, which is grasped by the inside of your fingers, and the ever-important bolster, the piece that connects the handle to the blade, protecting your fingers from sliding into the blade while you chop.
Key Knives to Have
Most knife experts agree that you only need a handful of knives, and it’s better to have a few of excellent quality than many cheap blades that make clean cutting impossible. Cheap knives tend to be flimsy, and lose their edge quickly, which can increase risk of the knife slipping and cutting your finger.
Four of the most useful knives include:
- Chef’s knife: Usually comes in eight- or ten-inch lengths, and have a broader width than most other knives. They are the go-to knife for most cutting tasks, including slicing and chopping meat, vegetables and fruit.
- Serrated bread knife: Enable you to saw through the food with little downward pressure, to avoid squishing the item. They are ideal for bread (hence the name) tomatoes, angel food cake, citrus and more.
- Paring knife: Suited to cutting smaller vegetables, for which a long chef’s knife feels like overkill. They aren’t good for cutting dense foods, so stick to softer items that need a bit of finesse, like strawberries.
- Boning or carving knife: Long, but not as broad as a chef’s knife. These are good for carving poultry, which requires a narrower blade to navigate around bones.
Keep it sharp
Again, it’s important to keep your knives sharp. A honing steel is an essential tool for the kitchen, nearly as important as the knives themselves. A honing steel doesn’t technically sharpen the blade, by removing steel from the knife. It realigns its fibers, which does make the knife more effective at cutting. You don’t need to break out the honing steel every time you use the knife, but when the knife starts to feel less effective, give it a hone. Here’s a video showing how to use a honing steel properly. And consider getting your knives professionally sharpened—some experts suggest once per year.
What is your favorite knife? Let us know in the comments section below!
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