The knife is probably the single most important tool in the kitchen for both beginning chefs and professional chefs. Obviously knowing how to use them is critical, but the knife in and of itself is important as well. There are a few things I have learned about knives over the course of the last say decade that I have been cooking and I am going to share what they are here.
1) Make sure you buy a knife that has a forged blade, meaning the blade goes all the way through the handle. This will ensure a much longer life expectancy then one without.
2) Get a knife that fits your hand. People generally assume that one size fits all. Well, I have found that isn’t true. I have really small hands compared with most male chefs. Therefore I require a much smaller knife. You can test knives out at quality knife purveyors and hold them to see how they feel in your hand. Go with one that feels natural and doesn’t have a blade too much longer than the length of your hand.
3) Look for a knife that has good weight to it. I want the knife to do the work for me, not vice versa.
4) Get a Santoku style knife. Santoku is a Japanese style knife that has ridges along the blade. These ridges actually create air pockets that allow food to pull away from the blade rather than sticking. This really makes a difference when you are trying to chop something rapidly and don’t want it spraying everywhere.
5) Get a good quality hone and learn how to use it. Keeping a knife sharp is paramount to not cutting oneself. You are infinitely more likely to cut yourself using a dull knife, which sticks than a sharp knife. About 3 or 4 times a year, have your knife professionally sharpened. Incorrect knife sharpening can actually damage the blade and destroy it. If you were to magnify a blade you would see what look like little teeth. These teeth are in alignment when a knife is sharp and are frayed outward when a knife is dull. If you incorrectly sharpen a knife, rather than realigning these teeth, you may actually break them off and create gaps in the blade.
6) NEVER put a good quality knife in the dishwasher. Always wash it in hot soapy water. The dishwasher can use harsh abrasive cleaners which can damage the blade of a knife as well as allow the knife to bang around, hitting other dishes, pots and pans again, potentially damaging the blade.
7) Store your knife safely in either a knife rack or a knife protector. Again, simply keeping it in the drawer with other utensils may result in damaging the blade fo the knife.
Nowadays one can purchase a decent quality knife for approximately $50-$75. I don’t recommend butcher block sets as they tend to be mediocre quality knives even though they offer a lot of bang for your buck. Of all the equipment to invest in, above and beyond expensive pots and pans, expensive gadgets and gizmos, a knife will always get use and can accomplish almost anything in the kitchen.