This article is reposted from Spoon University of Guelph.
Knives are often sold in sets, but who actually uses them all? Even culinary school can be done with two. So two for the rest of a non-professional cooking life is plenty. There are much better—and fun—ways to blow money than buying a bunch of knives to take up space in your kitchen.
Why Good Knives Are a Must
The most important thing about a knife is how sharp it is. I’d prefer a cheap, sharp knife over an expensive, dull knife every time. Sharp knives are actually much safer than dull knives. Dull knives often slip on foods, like tomatoes, and it’s only a matter of time before they slip onto fingers.
It is also commonly found that after one gets used to cutting with a dull knife, their cutting technique involves a lot of downward pressure, making the case of the knife slipping all that more dangerous.
Sharp knives never slip, since they always break the surface of whatever is being cut. This inevitably leads to less downward pressure in one’s cutting technique. Even if an accidental cut occurs, the pain is less noticeable.
It is good to note that all new knives are sharp and that any knife can be sharpened. It may seem counterintuitive, but this is actually one of the reasons why the regular home cook may benefit even more from investing in good knives than a professional cook.
Takamura R2 Petty 5.9″(paring) being sharpened on a Naniwa Professional (Chosera) 1000 grit stone (sharpening stone)
Although all knives come sharp, some dull quicker than others. Since the average home cook doesn’t know how—or even want—to sharpen their knives, investing in a good knife with relatively resilient steel will ensure a safer and more enjoyable chopping experience.
The Only Two You Need
Mcusta Zanmai Pro Damascus Pakka Wood 8.2″(chef’s knife)
Your chef’s knife is your workhorse. This is the knife you’ll use for 90% of your tasks. If you could only choose one knife, this would be it. It’s the one you’ll be chopping, slicing, and even smashing with.
Takamura R2 Petty 5.9″(paring)
This is the knife you’ll use for those hard-to-reach places or for cutting jobs that a chef’s knife might feel too big for. Most people use theirs for mincing garlic, pitting strawberries, cutting up fruits, and peeling the skin off things like ginger and onions.
What To Look For
If you are going to put money towards a knife, it’s good to know what that money is getting you. The two most important things to look out for are comfort and the blade material.
Mcusta Zanmai Pro Damascus Pakka Wood 8.2″(chef’s knife) shredding lettuce
You’ll be holding your knife pretty often for the next few decades, so you might want to pick something that feels nice to hold. This means that it’s safest to buy the knife in stores where you can try it out or at the very least hold it.
It’s ultimately up to you, but larger hands generally call for larger handles. A lot of people advise to go with an 8-inch chef’s knife, however it’s more important to pick the knife that feels most comfortable.
Peeling an apple with a Takamura R2 Petty 5.9″(paring)
For a home cook, a good quality stainless steel knife is the way to go. It’s easy to take care of and it’s extremely durable. This means that your knife will stay sharp longer.
Where To Look
Naniwa Professional (Chosera) 1000 grit stone (sharpening stone), MAC Black Ceramic Honing Rod (honing rod), Takeada Stainless Aogami Super Banno Bunka 6.8″, Takamura R2 Petty 5.9″(paring), Mcusta Zanmai Pro Damascus Pakka Wood 8.2″(chef’s knife), Kanehide Hankotsu 5.9″(boning knife), Tojiro DP Serrated Bread 8.5″(bread knife).
Unfortunately, there aren’t many places in Guelph with a good selection of high quality knives besides Casual Gourmet. If you want a second opinion and are willing to travel, Toronto is home to Nella Cucina; they supply to a lot of restaurants in Toronto. If you are feeling particularly fancy, Toronto also have Tosho and Knife.
Another option is to order knives online. It’s a bit of a gamble in terms of how it’s going to feel in your hand, but it’s convenient and the prices are often the best you’ll find. You can find most knives on Amazon.
A popular trick is finding the knife you want in a store and ordering it on Amazon for a better deal. If you want something ultra high end, Chef Knives To Go and Chubo Knives have pretty great selections.
What makes a good knife may be personal, but anyone that’s had one will say it’s invaluable. Once you get your hands on one, you’ll never go back.