Getting a handle on knives

Ask a hundred chefs to name their favorite knife and you’re likely to get a hundred different answers. Chefs become passionate about knives because there’s no kitchen tool that’s more important to them. We asked a group of experts to weigh in on the key buying points.

Match the knife to the job
One of the biggest mistakes is using a knife for purposes beyond its original design, explains Jim Bellerose, marketing manager for Dexter-Russell. “Some people think one knife can do everything, but that’s not the case,” he says. Christopher Day, corporate chef for Mercer Cutlery, agrees: “I see many cooks using the wrong knife for the job, such as a boning knife to cut vegetables or a paring knife to open cans.”

You get what you pay for
Since knives are in nearly constant use, “quality and comfort should be your two main concerns,” says Marty Pedlicki, manager of Northwestern Cutlery in Chicago. For example, if you ever run into a problem with a knife handle, he notes, you’ll have no problem getting it replaced if you’ve bought a quality brand. A high-quality knife can last almost as long as the chef does. “I talk to many older chefs who boast they have had the same knife for 50 years,” says Day.

­­­­­­­Stay sharp
While frequent use of a sharpening stone and steel is important, professional sharpening is imperative for optimal performance and longevity. “Look for an edge that’s very sharp out of the box, that’s going to hold up and that’s going to be easy to sharpen,” says Pedlicki. Any costs involved in sharpening are outweighed by improved performance.

Santoku rules!
What’s new in the knife drawer? In a word, Santoku. This Japanese-style knife has a blade of 5 to 7 inches and usually sports oval-shaped indentations, or grantons, in the blade to facilitate thinner slicing and prevent sticking. “More chefs are using the Santoku in place of a traditional chef’s or French knife,” says Day. “Five years ago we didn’t have any Santoku,” says Dexter-Russell’s Bellerose. “Now it’s probably the most popular style.”

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