Choosing your Cutlery: Part One

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Shopping for a knife is not only an investment, it can also be a bit intimidating. Jumping into a huge purchase, like a large knife set, can be daunting when you don’t know whether you’ll even like the knife line. Whether you are selecting your first cutlery, upgrading, gifting or just adding to your own set, here are some tips from our Cooking School Coordinator, Chef Lisa Chang on making this serious selection.

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For starters, Chef Lisa suggests that the two basic ‘must-have’ knives for any kitchen are a 6-9 inch chef knife and a 3-4 inch pairing knife. The average home chef can make just about every cut necessary with one or the other, so begin here and find out what works for you, your style of cooking and your expectations for a quality kitchen knife. As you discover your preferences, you can add pieces to your set and build your collection from various lines, styles and materials.

Where to start when choosing a knife:

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Chef Lisa suggests, “There are several important elements to choosing a knife. When it comes to the handle style, make sure the form of the handle fits comfortably in your hand. Grip the handle in your hand and mimic a chopping motion. If you find that your hand doesn’t have to adjust too much to grip the handle properly.”  This will indicate a comfortable handle once the work gets started.

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“Also,” she notes, “make sure that you can see the steel material of the knife coming through the handle to the back and look to see that there are three bolsters through the actual handle.”

This not only acts to secure the blade, “it is important for the balance of the knife. You should be able to hold the knife flat with one to two fingers at the neck of the knife without it tendering.”

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“Now that you’ve got the handle style picked out, think about how much you use your knives. The most important part of caring for your knives is keeping them sharp. A sharp knife is a safe knife. So now when choosing the material for your knife, you have to ask yourself how much time you are willing to give to maintaining your knives.”

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“There are several different combinations of materials used in the blades of knives. The harder German steel knives take a lot more time to sharpen then a softer Japanese steel knife. With a harder steel knife, once sharpened the sharp edge will last a lot more cuts.”

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“With a softer steel knife though it is easier to sharpen you will have to sharpen them more often.”

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“Most of the big brand name knives come with instructions on how to properly sharpen the knives (including the angle), and it is important that you have the proper sharpening tools to sharpen the specific steel your knives are made from.”

A ceramic blade is also a consideration in knife material, and while it keeps an edge longer than a metal knife, it is sharpened differently than a steel blade would be. Kyocera, for example, suggests you send your knives back to the manufacturer for sharpening, so while the process takes place less frequently, it is important to plan the time needed for sharpenings.

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Once you’ve selected your knife, it is important to keep it in good working condition.

“It is up to you as to how much time you have to care for your knives. If you don’t really have the time and skill to sharpen your own knives you can always take them to a knife sharpener. ”

Again, this is an investment and proper care will not only make sure your knives perform properly, it also means safety and satisfaction for the user.

Chef Lisa reiterates, “I want to emphasize that any knife can be the best knife ever so as long as you keep them sharp.”

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