Knife Tips for Home Cooks
If my five years as a cook taught me anything, it's that my prior knowledge of knives was all wrong. In talking to folks recently, I have discovered that a lot of people without experience in commercial kitchens share the same misconceptions about knives that I did; how they work, how to use them, and how to take care of them.
This being a blog about homeownership among other things, I figured that my experience in this area might be worth talking about.
Taking Care of Knives
A dull knife is more dangerous than a sharp one. You should always maintain a sharp knife in your kitchen both for the sake of quality in your food and of safety in your appendages.
Sharpening a knife is something that I had no understanding of prior to working in a kitchen.
I always thought that those 'steels' that come with every knife block set are sharpeners; they are not. Really, they are called honing rods, and their job is to push the bur that develops on the edge of your knife back into place so that the sharp edge can best be utilized. If you don't have a sharp knife, then the honing rod will do nothing for you. Sharpening a knife always consists of removing material from the blade, which the honing rod will not do.
This can be accomplished with a variety of tools, including the traditional wet stones (sand paper bricks that grind material off the blade), or automatic knife sharpeners. The former takes some finesse and practice in order to perform effectively, so unless you're willing to invest some time into learning, I recommend just using a knife sharpener like the one below made by Priority Chef that's on amazon for $14.
You Probably Just Need a Knife for That
In my career as a Realtor, I have learned that one of the biggest concerns from buyers about a house is the size of the kitchen. A lot of times kitchens are too small, and that can be a problem. Oftentimes though, I think that people (myself included) are guilty of hoarding kitchen equipment that isn't necessary.
Having some knife awareness can prevent you from owning unnecessary kitchen items that take up space in your kitchen, and can free up cabinet space in your kitchen.
Just consider that knives are probably the most versatile tool in the kitchen. Tools that can only be used for one function are typically not worthy of taking up space in your kitchen, and knives can probably accomplish most of the same functions anyway.
A good chef's knife is worth investing in, and you don't have to spend a lot of money on them. You can get a Victorinox ($30) or a Mercer ($29) that gets the job done and keeps its edge well. Other items worth having are a steel, a paring knife, a knife block, and maybe a bread knife (I am a big fan of the offset serrated knives). Those are all typically included in knife block sets that you can pick up for like $70.
Some final Knife Tips:
Always use a cutting board (don't use a plate as I've seen done before; it will mess up your knife). You can secure a cutting board with a damp towel so it doesn't slide around.
Always wash your knives by hand, don't put them in the dishwasher (it will mess up your knife) and don't put them away dirty or wet.
Always use "the claw" when using a knife. It will keep your fingers away from the blade and will almost always ensure that you won't cut yourself.