I’m not a gourmet, nor a foodie, and definitely not a chef. I cook. And I enjoy cooking. It’s probably my favorite hobby and I wish more people enjoyed it.
One thing that always drives me nuts is how complicated people want to make it. “I spent three days finding the perfect tomato” and “I can’t do that withing gizmo X, I must get one” and so on. Take knives. The other day I was flipping through Chefs Catalog and saw a 36 knife & block set! Thirty six! You have to be kidding me.
To be fair, every hobby has this problem. I see it in woodworking. I see it in metal working. Cycling. You name it. I can’t do this until I get that. Those people are called tool collectors. They keep buying things for their kitchen/shop/bike but never actually cook/build anything. Don’t be a tool collector!
I’ve done the “buy expensive knives” thing. The forged ice hardened stuff. The Japanese giant made by sword smiths. Nice knives. But not so good for everyday use. Here’s what you really need for everyday, home cooking:
From top to bottom:
- Joyce Chen cleaver. It has a thin blade, but hefty enough to go through bone easily. Also great for smashing stuff. Do not bother with an expensive, bulky, forged cleaver. You can’t sharpen them properly and a cleaver should be sharp.
- Scalloped knife. For cutting meat, bread, cakes, whatnot. Get a good one, as they are hard to sharpen.
- Dexter chef’s knife. About $25 of stamped steel goodness. 8″.
- Victorinox chef’s knife. Almost identical to the Dexter, but a more comfortable handle.
- Santuko knife. Not required, but I like a non-rocking blade for some uses.
- Cheap OXO 4″ chef’s knife. A good stamped utility knife. I used mine so much I broke the plastic handle and replaced it with a homemade wood version.
- Paring knife. This is a better brand, but cheap is fine, too.
Why two chef’s? Not really required, but I find it handy, especially when working with meat and veggies. I use the green handle for veggies only, black for anything. It helps me prevent cross-contamination. The Santuko isn’t really needed, but it’s a knife I like, and holds a good edge.
Here is the secret sauce: Get the $25 stamped chef’s knife. And keep it damn sharp. These cheap knives keep an excellent edge and are super easy to sharpen. If they break, who cares? If you take off too much metal, who cares? They are also very easy to clean and can take a beating. There’s a reason why you see stamped knives in restaurant kitchens. You’ll see that there are only two forged knives in my lineup — the Santuko and Paring. That’s because I had them already and they are good knives. You do not need a forged paring knife. In fact, I’d recommend against it. Get a Dexter or Victorinox or something similar. The best source for these is either Amazon or your local restaurant supply house (GFS, ACE, etc). The Dexter is made in the USA.
You must be nuts, Ron! An expensive knife cuts/feels/works better! Bullshit. Expensive knives scare me. Why? Because I’m afraid I’m going to screw up the edge! Maybe that’s just my hangup, but I’d rather screw up a $25 knife than my $250 Masahiro. Either way, a sharp knife works better. Period. And for that you need one of these:
It’s an AccuSharp knife sharpener and is the perfect mate for stamped knives. Put away your $200 electric sharpener. Put away the sharpening stones. Just get this $9 sharpener. Yes, $9. And it will last for ages. And it’s made in the USA.
You run it along the length of the blade a couple of times, wipe the residue with a wet paper towel, then dry the knife. Done. It takes about a minute to get the blade razor sharp. Because it’s a pretty aggressive sharpener, I mostly use it on stamped knives, where metal loss is less of a concern. I sharpen everything about weekly, but I cook a lot. How good is the AccuSharp? My fancy (and very nice) electric sharpener sits in a cabinet, unused. I only break it out if I need to hone some special knives.
You’ll also notice no knife block. I have one, but it holds my specialty knives that I might use once a year. I don’t like blocks because they are germ and grease collectors. Get a magnetic knife holder and mount it somewhere handy. Mine is right above the sink, so super easy to get at knives, and high enough to keep them away from kids/cats.
If you don’t believe my ranting, take the 30 day challenge. Get a good $30 chef and a $10 paring knife from your local restaurant supply house. Get the AccuSharp. Try it out and compare to the $150 forged knife you have in the knife block. At the least, you’ll be out $50. At the best, you’ll understand why I love sharp stamped cooking knives.
A good deal on all three of their sharpeners from Amazon:
Try out this knife, also from Amazon: