Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Chef’s/Cooking/Kitchen Knives

I do love knives. My current collection is a weird combination of the great, good, and cheap – and all have a specific use in my kitchen. (By the way, I’m really beginning to dislike the word “chef.” We’re all just cooks. Most of us aren’t chefs, celebrity chefs, or home chefs. We just enjoy cooking and using good tools for the job.) My kitchen knife collection, from top to bottom:

Analon santoku from China: This is the first “good” knife I bought for my wife. It’s an 8-inch chef’s knife, and the first “real” knife she’s owned in 59 years. I’m sorry to be sexist, but most women – great cooks or not – do not know and appreciate good knives. I thought it was time to advance her education.

Ran 6-1/2-inch santoku from Japan: This is my newest baby. The “Damascus” steel blade isn’t really Damascus steel (a long story, so don’t get me started) but a layered steel whose tradition goes back thousands of years to the making of Samurai swords. It has absolutely perfect balance and weight, and is a joy to use.

Dexter high-carbon chef’s knife: This knife is probably 50-60 years old – possibly even older than I am. It was a gift from my ex-father-in-law, and for 25 years it was definitely the “best” knife I owned. As worn and used as it is, I still love it.

A cheap, heavy cleaver: I think I got this at K-Mart, and its heft is great for cutting through bone or the Amazon rainforest. I use it when there’s some tough job that I don’t want to risk doing with a “good” knife.

An even cheaper off-set-handle serrated knife: This is great for bread. (Anyone who says you need a serrated knife for tomatoes hasn’t used a good, sharp, traditional blade – such as the Ran or Dexter, above.) This was probably part of some set of 12 knives for $10.

Kai ceramic “fish” knife: My first foray into inexpensive ceramic knives. Nice; I never use it for scaling fish; but it works as a quickie slicer.

Kai asymmetrical-blade paring knife: My wife calls this “the wicked little knife.” It’s small, extremely sharp, simple but beautiful, and one of my top three knives (along with the Ran and the Dexter).

A cheap Chicago Cutlery knife: I got this at a hardware store, but it’s still my favorite cheese knife. Good, thin, sharp knives don’t work too well with cheese. Something with coarser steel and a double bevel (such as this cheapo) cuts cheese much easier.

Kuhn Rikon ceramic paring knife: This inexpensive knife from Switzerland is surprisingly handy for slicing limes for Mojitos or any quick and small job.

(Along the side in photo) A big-ole carbon-steel knife: I found this huge, unknown-brand knife at a thrift store, and figured Julia Child would be proud. I don’t use it much, but is sure is fun to have.