Types Of Kitchen Knives
The difference between a good meal and a great one is in the preparation. You need to get some fantastic fresh ingredients, aromatic spices and you need to have the right tools. Without a doubt, the most important essentials your kitchen needs are good knives. Most food preparation involves a lot of peeling, slicing, dicing and cutting and there is a knife for almost every purpose in the kitchen.
Some of the world’s most renowned professional chefs can have anything from six to over a dozen knives. You can also buy yourself a great set of knives, touted as the set every professional chef in the world uses. They are expensive and come in a stunning looking case or a classy looking bag that rolls up so you can conveniently pack up your knives and carry them with you wherever you go.
Looking through the whole list of different knives and sets of knives can be pretty confusing. You may choose to get a complete set, and then not use half the knives in that set. Perhaps the better alternative is to look at the most commonly used knives and make up your own personal set of kitchen knives. After all, if you get just a few good quality knives and take care of them properly, they can last you a lifetime. With this men’s guide to kitchen knives, you’ll have the right knives at your fingertips and you’ll understand how to use them.
Let’s Start With Materials
One of the best materials used in making knives is stainless steel. Kitchen knives, in particular, see a lot of moisture. That moisture can lead to corrosion or rust. Stainless steel is durable and rust resistant so it will last. Most kitchen gadgets, utensils and cutlery are made of stainless steel because it can last for such a long time and still look new.
Before stainless steel became such a popular material for making knife blades, many blades were made from carbon steel. Carbon steel blades were sharper and much easier to work with than stainless steel, but these blades were susceptible to corrosion. This meant you had to take extra care of them if you wanted them to last. You can also find titanium or ceramic blades. Titanium blades are not quite as sharp as stainless steel or carbon steel blades, but they are popular for divers. Ceramic blades, on the other hand, are great knives that keep their sharpness, but they do have a tendency to break and can only be sharpened using specialized tools.
Which Kitchen Knives Do I Need?
There are so many different kitchen knives to choose from, so deciding which ones you will actually need, and use comes down to individual preferences. It’s also important to understand the primary function of each type of knife and its purpose in food preparation. We’ll break it down to about six kitchen knives that you will actually get plenty of use out of, and these are knives that will be perfect for most of the food preparation jobs you will ever need to do.
The Chef’s Knife – This is the knife that will get used the most in your kitchen. You can de-bone smaller cuts of meat, slice, dice and chop pretty much anything you need to get ready to start cooking. It’s a comfortable knife to hold and in many cases, may be the only knife you need for food preparation.
The Paring Knife – The paring knife is a delicate little knife that is generally used for peeling fruit and vegetables. You can also remove cores from things like apples and tomatoes using a paring knife. If you need a knife that can tackle those delicate little jobs like making radish or cucumber flowers, then the paring knife is the one to reach for.
Serrate Edge Knife – That knife with the jagged edge is the one you need when you want to slice bread, a bread knife. It’s also a great knife to use when you need to slice soft vegetables like ripe tomatoes.
Meat Cleaver – Every kitchen simply must have a meat cleaver. Although this knife isn’t known for its accuracy in cutting like a butcher knife, it’s perfect for butchering large cuts of meat or chopping through chicken, turkey, and other birds. Its ax-like shape makes it ideal for any chopping job you may need to be done in the kitchen.
Filet Knife – The filet knife is another delicate knife with a very precise function. It’s mainly used to trim gristle, silver skin and fat from good cuts of meat, or removing the bones from fish so you end up with nice fillets.
There are a number of other knives you can add to your collection, but you really need to examine your cooking style and ask yourself if they are necessary. The knives we’ve discussed can pretty much handle any normal everyday type of food preparation.
Selecting the Best Knives
As we’ve mentioned earlier, you don’t need an entire set of knives. Nor do you need to select the most expensive of each type of knife to slice and dice like a pro in the kitchen. When you go to buy your knives, take each type in your hand in the same way you would when using them in the kitchen. If the blade looks good and the handle feels comfortable in your hands then this is the knife for you. As long as the materials are good quality and you like the feel of it, the price isn’t the most important factor.
Taking Care of Your Knives
You’ve invested in good quality knives and you want them to last. Good quality knives can last a lifetime if you take care of them. Obviously, washing them is one thing, but you also need to ensure they are properly stored.
Keeping your knives clean is easy. The most important thing to remember is to wash them as soon as you have finished using them. If you leave them out too long after use, the food particles can crust on the blade making them more difficult to clean. If this does happen, and let’s face it, it does, soak them in warm water for a few minutes to soften up the food particles. Then you can clean them with warm soapy water and a regular sponge. Avoid scouring them if you can as this can leave scratch marks on your blade. One thing you should never do is wash your kitchen knives in the dishwasher. The detergents used in these machines can be harsh on the blades and handles which will affect the sharpness of your knife. You should also avoid just dumping your knives in the kitchen sink. You may end up throwing other dishes, pots, and pans in as well which could bend any knife stuck at the bottom.
Storing your knives is also important. If your knives get used frequently, you should invest in a knife block. Better yet, when you go to buy your set of knives, get a set that comes with a block. This block sits neatly on your kitchen counter and each knife fits snugly in its own slot. You could also install a magnetic strip in a convenient location on your kitchen wall. You can then just keep all of your frequently used knives on the magnetic strip ready for use.
Other storage solutions for your knives are knife bags and cases. Each knife has its own spot in either of these so the blades will not be rattling around bumping into other knives. Not only is this convenient for safe storage of your knives, but it’s also great when you need to take them with you.
Avoid storing your knives in the utensils drawer in your kitchen. The frequent movement this draw gets can cause other items to rattle against your knives, potentially damaging them. But the main reason to not store your knives in the utensils draw is that it’s dangerous. You could be reaching for a knife or something else and end up cutting yourself. The same could also happen to curious little ones. Kitchen drawers are too easily within reach so apart from kids being at risk of cutting themselves, they may also be tempted to take a knife out of the drawer which has a whole serious of problems we need to worry about. Keep them secure and out of reach of children.
To get the best use out of your kitchen knives, they need to be regularly sharpened. There are a number of ways you can sharpen your knife. Many knife sets come with their own sharpening steel. This is simply a steel rod that you can run your knife blade along. There are a number of different techniques you can implement to sharpen your knives with this steel. You’ll have to find the one that works best for you.
There are easier ways to sharpen your knives. You could get yourself a counter-top knife sharpener that can do the job for you quickly and easily. There are a variety of different models. Some simply sit on your counter and you can run your blade through the sharpening implement. Others are electric and do the job even faster. Then you could also go really old school and sharpen your knives with a sharpening stone or whetstone. Find what works best for you.
One thing your kitchen knives will definitely benefit from is an annual sharpening by a professional knife sharpener. After a lot of use, the sharp part of the blade can end up with a few nicks that will affect how well you can use your knife. A professional sharpener will work out these nicks and get your knives back into immaculate shape again.
Basic Knife Techniques
Once you’ve bought all your knives and understand how to care for them, all that’s left is for you to learn the various cutting techniques. If you’ve watched the professional chefs on television, you’re probably wondering how they can chop through pounds of meat and vegetables at lightning speed. Their skills didn’t come to them overnight but are rather the result of years of practice. The techniques can be rounded down to a few basic ones.
Chopping – This is one of the first and easiest techniques when it comes to kitchen knife skills. As the name suggests, all you are doing is “chopping” the food into irregular sized pieces. Depending on what you are cutting, you can use a chef’s knife or a meat cleaver.
Dicing – Dicing is a little similar to chopping, but with a little more precision. You want the pieces or cubes of your food to all be of a similar size. This is usually the size of a dice which is where this term came from.
Mincing – Whether you are mincing meat, vegetables or herbs, what you are essentially doing is chopping at the food until it is in tiny little pieces. This is usually the method used for onions, garlic, herbs, etc.
Julienning – This technique involved turning food into thin, almost toothpick or shoestring type pieces. This method is usually used for vegetables, but it can also work with meat and fish. The most popular type of julienning is with potatoes for French fries.
Just remember to keep it simple and take it slow. Over time you will be developing your own skills, and with those skills, your knife will be flying over the food at lightning speed. You’ll be a world class chef in your own kitchen, creating fantastic meals for family and friends. In no time at all, you’ll be impressing your guests with your culinary skills, including knife skills. Take your time buying your knives as well. You don’t need to buy them all in a single day. Shop around until you find the best ones for you. Most of all, enjoy preparing and cooking great meals. There is a reason most top chefs in the world are men. You can be one too.