Few items in your kitchen are as important as your knives. You’ll use them for nearly every meal you create yet choosing a knife has left me with severe buyer’s remorse in the past. I’ve had knives that gave me blisters and ones that never kept their edge despite incessant sharpening. I’ve had knives that rusted and one even broke. I hope these tips will help you avoid my frustrations because if you choose well, your knives can last a really long time and help you work safely and efficiently in the kitchen.
There are blades for many specific tasks and you could buy every one if you wanted to, but more than likely, you’ll only need a few depending on how you cook. Most home cooks need a chef’s knife, a paring knife and a mid sized serrated utility knife. If you have specific needs, say you bring home a lot of fresh fish, then you might consider a specialty blade like a filet knife to round out your collection.
Hold the knife in your hand as you would if you were about to use it. For a chef’s knife, I prefer to hold it high on the handle so my index finger and thumb is at the blade, while my other fingers clutch the handle. Does it feel well balanced? Does it seem comfortable to you? Is it too heavy or too light? Is the handle made of a material that won’t become slippery when your hands are damp or greasy? Make sure your fingers are high enough out of the way so you don’t knock your knuckles on the counter as you chop.
As you grip the knife, notice where your fingers will rub on the top of the blade, or the spine, of the knife. Does it feel ok? You could potentially get a blister from this pressure point so you’ll want to evaluate contact. The blade should be straight and balanced so it doesn’t wobble to one side or the other as you bring it down on a cutting board. Personal preference will dictate whether you choose a wider, heavier blade or a slimmer light one. I prefer a wider and heavier blade because I find it more versatile for chopping through squash and other tough things but you may prefer a slim and light blade which can often be sharper.
There’s no use choosing a knife with a natural handle and slim blade if you toss it in the dishwasher to get dried out and dinged up. If you need your knife to go through the dishwasher you’ll want to go for a synthetic handle and a heavier blade. Care will still need to be taken that they blade doesn’t knock around against other items in the dishwasher or it will dull. If you choose a high quality, natural handled knife be sure to baby it with hand washing only.
Good care can see your favorite knife last a really long time and for this reason, consider your knives as an investment in every future meal you’re going to create. Keep them sharpened and stored correctly to ensure safe and efficient use for years to come. You’ll be glad you put some thought into their purchase!
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