By The Maitre D
When it comes to kitchen tools none is more important than your knives. If
you've ever talked to a professional chef you'll know that the one thing they
bring with them no matter where they're working are their knives. These
are the most personal of kitchen accessories and having ones that work for you
makes the difference between enjoying your time in the kitchen and not.
Knives should be a lifetime investment, so buy the best your budget will afford.
And if you can't afford top quality right away, this is one item you should
begin saving for so that you can eventually own a quality set.
So what should you look for in knives?
You want knives that feel good in your hand, are well balanced, will keep an
edge and last a long long time. High carbon stainless steel is best. It
has the strength of carbon steel and the rust resistance of stainless steel. As
a result, knives made of it hold an edge with minimum care and are easy to
Choose knives that are forged from a single piece of steel tapering to a sharp
point. The thick end, or tang, should extend right through the handle to
prevent it from working loose. While I prefer a wooden handle, plastic is
fine also. The important point here is that the tang extend right through
the handle. Feel the knife in your hand. Find its balance point. It should
balance close to where the handle meets the blade. A well-balanced knife will be
easier to use and you won't tire as quickly when using it.
If you can't afford to buy an entire set right away, start with a 10 inch Chef's
knife and then work your way through the paring knife, serrated knife and
Once you have your knives it's important to properly care for them. The first
thing is that they should never, ever, ever, go into the dishwasher. Use
warm water and a soft cloth to clean them after every use. Never use abrasive
cleaners that could cause your knives to scratch. Keep them clean and
sharp and they'll provide years of use. It's best to store them such that they
don't bang against each other in a drawer. Use either a wood block or a
magnetized wall strip.
Contrary to what many people seem to believe, you are much less likely to
accidently cut yourself with a sharp knife than a dull knife, so keep them
sharp. It's easy to sharpen a knife if you do it regularly. Begin first by
having an edge put on them by a professional knife sharpener. Next you'll
need to buy good whetstone. This is not the same whetstone you might have
for keeping your pocket or fishing knife sharp. You need one that is on a solid
block of wood and designed specifically for kitchen knives. You can get one at
most hardware or kitchen stores. They'll usually come with instructions
you can follow so I will not cover knife-sharpening technique here. A word of
caution. They're not cheap, but a good one is worth its weight in gold.
Finally, you'll need a sharpening steel to maintain your knife's edge before and
after every use. The sharpening steel doesn't replace the whetstone for knife
sharpening, but it does remove any small burs that might appear after each use
of the knife. Finally, I strongly suggest that you find a good, reputable
kitchen store to buy your knives at. Preferably one that sells wholesale
and retail, a place where both professionals and amateurs can shop and
especially one that has a reputation for knowledgeable staff. They can provide
you with lots of guidance in selecting the best knives for your budget and you
get to try several different makes, thus making sure you get ones that feel
right for you.
The Maitre D is the author of the Culinary Blast and the inspiration behind
Thousands and Thousands of Recipes and the Internet Maitre D. If you like food
and cooking this is the place to be. Join Thousands and Thousands of Recipes and
download your free Internet Maitre D, your guide to food and cooking on the Net.
Sign up at