Kitchen Knives - Choosing the right style, size and price range.

There are so many different shapes and sizes of kitchen knives that it can be difficult to figure out what are the most practical choices for you. Chad Ward, author of An Edge in the Kitchen, recommends getting your knives “al a cart” because they all have different uses. When you buy a whole set together, a lot of manufacturers are also selling you a tourney knife, an expensive carving knife, a top-of the line honing rod, etc. You may have bought a $90 roast beef slicer in your block that you are only using once a year. Even though you bought a 14 piece knife set for $500, you are reaching for the same 2 knives over and over again every time you cook. A more cost-effective approach may be to buy a top name brand for those 2 knives, and to buy less expensive, but still high quality knives for your “specialty knives.” A specialty knife might be the cleaver you get out on your annual hog roast. It might be your turkey carving knife that you use for Thanksgiving once a year. Maybe it’s a boning knife that you only need when you fabricate whole cuts of meat. Many consider a bread knife to be a specialty knife since serrated knives get dull slower than their straight edged counterparts.
Let’s say you wanted a slicing knife for the 3 or 4 times a year you have big cuts of meat and the company to eat them. You can buy a typical high-end slicer for $80 or more. The high quality of the steel will help the edge stay sharp longer, but how do the numbers play out? If you bought a $20 slicer that had a really sharp edge, when would you need it sharpened again? If your local sharpener charges $5-$10 to sharpen the knife, it could be sharpened 6-10 times before you have spend the same amount of money (assuming the high-end knife hadn’t gotten dull over all that time). Most household who have their kitchen knives sharpened professionally use a sharpening service 2-3 times each year. They normally have their knives that are used often (chef knives and utility knives) sharpened regularly and the specialty knives sharpened once every year or two.
Working through that logic, the average user of a kitchen knife will have to wait 10-20 years to see the payoff of a high-end specialty knife. It’s great to do your research and find the knife that is really right for your daily needs. Maybe you like to use paring knives for everything and you just need a bunch of little small knives. Maybe you need a gyro knife that is razor sharp for your restaurant. When you’re choosing a kitchen knife, ask yourself some basic questions before you buy:
  1. Am I paying for a brand, or am I paying for a tool that I need?
  2. Is it really logical or cost effective to have a uniformed set of kitchen knives?
  3. How often am I really going to use this particular type of knife?
  4. Am I able to either sharpen it myself or have it sharpened professionally?
Whether you use your knives daily in a professional kitchen, or just occasionally at home, it is worthy of some serious consideration. Many people have expensive sets of dull knives just sitting around their kitchens for years and years. Cutting vegetables and meat can become an unwanted chore instead of a pleasurable thing to do with friends and family. It doesn’t have to be that way! Do some research and experimenting and find out what you like. Then keep your knives sharp and you’ll find you can really enjoy all of the prep-work that goes into a great meal!!
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