How to Choose the Right Knife

If there is one tool that every Practical Cook needs, it’s a really good knife. Please note, gentle readers, that was singular, not plural (as in “block o’ knives”). Once you’ve found the knife of your dreams, then think about the other slicing needs that aren’t being well-managed by your favorite blade. Why should you spend time on this decision? Because it’s more practical to cook using a full set of fingers and two opposable thumbs.

The Practical Cook is writing this blog with a few assumptions, starting with that we’re all adults here with a modicum of good sense, but some kitchen safety rules deserve to be repeated. I  will not name names, or even monikers, of the loyal readers who have inadvertently shortened their digits. And knife safety and selection guidelines  go hand in hand (there is a pun in their somewhere), so here they are, combined.

  1. Choose a knife that fits in your hand. This should seem obvious, but is not always. The Practical Cook subscribes to the idea that if there are multiple cooks in the kitchen, there will likely be multiple knives. Fit and comfort should trump knife popularity, trends, etc. I love the internet more than most, but this is not a time to order based solely on a photo. Go to a store and touch the knife you are considering.
  2. If you have one knife, make it a chef’s knife. For more in-depth research, I recommend reading this excellent overview from Cook’s Illustrated. The standard is around 8 inches, but the weights and styles vary.
  3. Buy a knife you can keep sharp and then keep it sharp. Reviews will be important here. Do some research to learn about the types of sharpening required, how often, and how well the knife blade holds up.  A sharp knife is far less dangerous than a dull one.
  4. Price is far less important than fit, purpose, and sharpness. The Practical Cook is not asking that you borrow from your nest egg to invest, but one good knife is worth a lot more than seven horrible ones. One ER visit will eliminate any perceived savings. The best knife for you may not be the most expensive one either. Trust your research and your road-testing above hype and marketing.
  5. Run your own race. What does that mean? Do not be distracted when chopping, and do not be lured into chopping like you belong on the Food Network. This advice is somewhat paraphrased from Paula Deen, of all people. She stopped chopping, looked into the camera, and reminded the viewers that it was better to move at their own pace and finish the job than to rush and regret.
Garlic, Knife, and Spinach

Wusthof Classic Chef's Knife

After terrifying a clerk at a kitchen specialty chain—not the Practical Cook’s fault, the clerk professed to be afraid of knives (true story, unusual choice of employment for one with such a fear)—by air-chopping with every knife in the joint, a Wusthof Classic Chef’s Knife was selected.

I use it every day, I test for sharpness often, and I love it more than I can say. This is not to say I’m endorsing this knife over all others, this is simply the knife that felt right to me, much like finding the perfect wand in Harry Potter.

Coming up tomorrow, Calling All Cauliflowers. The Practical Cook shares the story of how she changed from being a cauli-hater to a gobi-fan.



Filed under Kitchen Philosophy

2 responses to “How to Choose the Right Knife

  1. Kelly

    As far as keeping things sharp, our local grocery meat dept butchers will sharpen your knives in a trice and then wrap them nicely in paper so you don’t inadvertantly cut yourself getting them home. I sharpen at home usually, but getting a really good edge on it occasionally makes all the difference.

  2. The Practical Cook

    What a fantastic tip. Thank you for sharing. I’ll be at the butcher shop this week, knife in hand.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s