In the kitchen, many tools make cooking easier, but few are more vital for excellent cooking than good knives. Commercials for knives often tell us that they chop, dice, slice, filet, and we are occasionally told that the knife can even ‘cut through a nail and still slice a tomato’, or that it can ‘slice through a pineapple in the air’. None of this makes a knife good; it just means that it is durable and is used for different things.
A good knife has a couple traits, which are sometimes difficult to find out about without actually using the knives for a time, unfortunately. They should hold an edge readily and for quite awhile, and they should be relatively easy to sharpen. Dull knives are about as useful as a burned out light bulb, and often much more dangerous.
There is a technique that should be used when sharpening knives, but even using it, poor knives don’t sharpen easily or well. Unless you are Rambo, few people want to spend countless hours sharpening the knives, only to have to repeat it all before too long.
The knife must also maintain an edge, which is the cutting surface and ability to do what the knife was designed to do. Knives that don’t hold an edge will need to be sharpened more frequently and won’t cut as well.
The sharpening is normally done best using a sharpening stone, and stones come in different grits. The edge is usually created by using a steel or special stones designed for specifically this purpose. If you can avoid it, don’t use electric grinding stones as these will nick and grove the cutting surface.
There are also some things you should never do with a good knife. For instance, never rap on something hard with a knife edge. This puts gouges in the blade that are difficult to remove. The result will be that the knife will become dull quickly and won’t have the same ability to hold an edge.
By the same token, some things should be done routinely. An example is that after washing, the knife should be immediately dried and put away. This is true even if it is stainless steel.
It also needs to be understood that dull knives easily cause more cutting accidents than sharp ones. They are more likely to slip and slide, and they produce jagged, harder to heal cuts. People seldom get cut badly with sharp knives unless they are careless or aren’t using them properly, such as when using the wrong knife for the job that needs to be done.
Using the proper knife is a lot more important than many people might imagine. Paring knives are meant for pealing and coring, chef’s knives for chopping things like vegetables, boning knives are meant for doing just that, boning, and filet knives are meant for producing filets. There is even a use for serrated edged knives. These cut very ripe fruit, vegetables, and soft bread easily without crushing what is being cut.
Although most knives will do pretty much the same thing, it is better to use the type designed for what you want to do. This only makes sense. Driving a dump truck to do your shopping or to pick up the kids from day care will work, but the truck isn’t exactly designed for it.
Learning how to handle a knife in the kitchen, what it is best suited for, and how to sharpen it properly all take time and a little effort. We aren’t born with this knowledge, we must be taught. None of it is difficult, much of it is common sense, and all of it is pretty easily explained. It is worthwhile to try to learn these things, whether you cook often or seldom.
Few people would consider using a spoon to try to make fish filets. There are also few people who cook even once in a while who don’t understand the importance of kitchen knives. However, learning about knives in the kitchen will benefit almost everyone, especially if they want to prepare an especially wonderful meal.