Friday, November 28, 2008

Christmas Ideas for the Cook - Knives

Sharp, good knives are absolutely essential to good cooking. Get rid of the old dull, worthless cooking knives and get the 3 essential knives every chef needs. You can seriously get by with these three knives.

First is the 8 to 10 inch chef's knife in the top left picture. Yes, it is big but it can be used for mincing garlic as well as for cutting through a duck leg bone. You will notice the handle is much higher than the blade and that the blade is quite curved. The blade also is quite thick at the handle end and very delicate at the point end. This shape is essential to safe and efficient cutting as it allows essentially rolling the blade back and forth to mince or do the other fine cuts you need with your hands out of the way. the thick handle end is for cleaver like cutting as in the duck bone. You really do not need all those other chef knife sizes and if you only use and maintain one good knife for chef knife purposes you become more proficient at handing it.

The middle knife above is somewhat incorrectly referred to as a bread knife. This is really a slicing knife and is essential to that task. It has large scalloped "serrations" and is a big, but thin and light blade. If you have ever tried slicing a ripe tomato with any other kind of knife you will understand why this type of knife is essential. It can cut trough delicate items like bread and soft fruits in very thin slices without crushing or damaging the edges of the food. It is also great for thin slicing of meat or really any item.

The third knife on the right is a boning knife. It is very thin fairly straight blade and is used for filleting fish - separating the skin from the flesh easily and cleanly. It is also essential for cutting up poultry like chickens or ducks. And if you get to cleaning Foie Gras it is great for those pesky veins you have to find and remove. If you are buying poultry any other way than whole and cutting it up yourself you can pay for this knife in about a week. The cost of a whole chicken or duck compared to what you get in return (11 pieces and carcass for stock - in a duck the duck fat alone separately costs more than the whole bird) is incredible. Example, at Costco you can get two organic whole bagged chickens for about $20 at around $2 a lb. . Organic chicken breast alone cost $6-10 a lb.. I will write another post on how and why to buy whole poultry - and why to buy organic when it comes to poultry. In any event, when you get ready to do your own butchering (cutting up meat - slaughtering is the killing it part - I always have people confusing those 2 when I talk about butchering). you will need this knife.

In general spend a lot for a good knife. I prefer Wusthof brand but here are lots of brands. What is important is that they have and keep a sharp blade. A sharp knife is essential and is much SAFER than a dull blade. All CHEAP knives are worthless in a few months as they dull and will not properly sharpen. A knife steel is good to use after every use run the blade down it. It actually does not sharpen the blade as is normally supposed - what is does is smooths out any small nicks, or other imperfections created while in use. This is why you need to do it every time you use the knife - as it cannot fix big problems created over time only deals with small ones on a regular basis. Also, DO NOT put Kitchen knives in the Dishwasher as the buffeting action dulls them and weakens the handles quickly. they are designed to be quickly cleaned off by hand after use. They are hard and sharp and don't require lots of scrubbing or soaking to get rid of 100% of contaminants quickly.

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