Almost any good cook will tell you that a
good-quality knife is the single most important tool in the kitchen. There
is no reason to buy a lot of knives. Just be sure to stock 3 top quality
ones - a chef's knife (for chopping, slicing and dicing), a paring knife
(for paring) and a serrated knife (for bread and tomatoes). The chef's
knife is the most important.
Men are usually comfortable with an 8" to
10" chef's knife and many women prefer a 6" knife for its lighter weight.
Hold the knife in your hand, it should feel comfortable and be easy to
grip. The knife that feels good in your hand is the right knife for you.
To get a sturdy blade, look for knives that
are fully forged or full-tang, meaning that they are made from a single
piece of metal that is beaten, ground into shape and extends from the
blade to the back of the handle, where it is usually riveted into place.
Avoid stamped knives, cut from sheet metal, because they are not as
strong. Also, make sure that the blade is made of high-carbon stainless
steel, which keeps its edge longer and won't stain or discolor food.
When sharpening on a stone, place a clean
whetstone on a damp towel to prevent slipping. Position the stone and
towel near the edge of a sturdy surface. Lubricate the stone with water or
mineral oil to help reduce friction, which could eventually harm the
blade. Position the wide end of the knife blade against the upper corner
of the stone and tilt the blade up at an angle of about 15 degrees. Move
the blade toward you in an arc over the stone, beginning with the wide end
and ending with the tip, so that the entire length of the blade gets
sharpened. It will feel like you are shaving slices off the top of the
stone. Repeat 10 to 15 times, keeping an even pressure.
Turn the knife over and repeat with the
opposite side of the blade, making an equal number of strokes and keeping
an equal amount of pressure. Always sharpen the blade in the same
direction to ensure that the edge remains even and properly aligned.
To hone on a steel. A steel does not sharpen
a knife, but it hones or aligns the blade between sharpening to keep its
cutting edge razor-shape. Find a spot where you have plenty of room to
work safely. Grip the steel safely behind the guard with your thumb and
Hold the wide end of the blade against the
tip of the steel at an angle of about 15 degrees. Draw the blade of the
knife down along the steel, curving slightly so that the entire edge
touches the steel. Keep the pressure even. Reverse the knife, holding the
other side of the blade against the other side of the steel. Draw the
blade down in the same direction as before, curving slightly as you go.
Use a light touch, stroking evenly and consistently. The knife should make
a slight ringing sound as you work. A heavy grinding sound means that
you're applying too much pressure. Do five sweeps on each side of the
blade. If the blade requires more than five strokes per side, it should be
sharpened on a stone.
When cleaning, wash knives in hot, soapy
water but never in the dishwasher, which could ruin the blade and the
handle (especially if the handle is wooden). Also, avoid dropping knives
into a sink full of water, where they can be dulled by other utensils or
metal pots and could injure anyone reaching into the sink. Be sure to dry
knives thoroughly between cutting tasks and before you store them.
To protect knife blades for storage. If
storing knives in a drawer, stock the sharp point of each knife into an
old wine cork. The cork helps protect the knife tip and helps prevent the
blades from knocking into each other. Alternatively, you can make a
homemade sheath from an old cardboard box. Using scissors, cut off a
rectangular piece of corrugated cardboard that's just large enough to fit
over the knife blade. Starting at a short end of the rectangular piece,
use the scissors to snip through the center of the corrugation, creating a
pocket for the blade. Stop just short of the other end so that the blade
will not poke through. Insert the knife blade into the sheath and store
flat in a drawer.