Asked Questions About choosing a Knife for a Kitchen
The Three Must-Have Knives
There are only three knives that are crucial in a
kitchen: a chef's knife, a paring knife and a serrated knife. Any other
knives are a luxury-they can make cooking easier and more enjoyable, but
A chef's knife (sometimes called a cook's knife) is the
most important knife to have in your kitchen. It has a wide blade
between six and ten inches long and is used primarily for chopping,
though it can be used for anything you want to do. The blade of a
classic, French-style chef's knife curves upward toward the tip. A
Japanese-style Santoku knife can be used in place of a
French-style chef's knife; it's usually shorter and has a "sheep's foot"
tip, meaning the top of the tip curves downward. European manufacturers
of Santoku knives add a Granton or kullenschiff edge, a row of
hollow-ground pockets that prevent food from sticking to the knife's
A paring knife looks like a miniature chef's knife, with a
blade ranging from two to four inches long. It's good for delicate tasks
where a larger blade would get in the way. Paring knives are ideal for
peeling onions, coring tomatoes or trimming vegetables.
A serrated knife is used for bread, tomatoes and even meat.
Serrated knives are most useful on foods that have one texture on the
outside and another inside, like a hard-crusted bread or a tomato.
Choose a longer serrated knife to minimize the amount of sawing
necessary. An offset serrated knife, sometimes called a deli
knife, minimizes the chance of hitting your knuckles on the cutting
board once you're done cutting.
A slicing knife is for cutting cooked meat, poultry and fish.
It should be long enough (eight to 10 inches) to span a large roast,
narrow for reduced drag and flexible enough to easily separate flesh
In skilled hands, a cleaver can do everything a chef's knife
can do-slice, chop, fillet, scoop, smash-and more. Its heavy,
rectangular blade is designed to hack through the sorts of bones other
knives have a hard time with.
A boning knife is for the delicate task of separating raw
meat, poultry and fish from bone. Its blade, six or so inches long, is
thinner than a slicing knife and flexible enough to follow the contours
of a fish or bird.
How to Buy a Knife
A good knife is a worthwhile investment. If you
buy a quality one and take care of it, you will have it for a lifetime.
A good knife will pay for itself over time. Cooking will be much more
enjoyable, so you'll spend less money on restaurants and takeouts. A
good knife is also safer, so you'll spend less on bandages.
Before you buy knives, learn their anatomy. Knives are made up of
four parts: the blade, the handle, the bolster, and the tang.
The blade can be made of stainless steel, carbon steel,
high-carbon steel or ceramic. Metal blades can either be stamped
(pressed out of metal) or forged (molded under high heat). Forged
knives are heftier and tend to last longer, though stamped blades are
useful for lighter work like filleting.
• Stainless steel knives are inexpensive, but cannot be sharpened
once they lose their edge.
• Carbon steel knives hold their edges remarkably well, require
careful cleaning and drying, and will eventually discolor, turning black
over time. There's nothing bad about the discoloration; it's a matter of
• High-carbon steel gives you the sharpen-ability of carbon steel
without the discoloration. Most professional knives are made of this
• Ceramic knives stay sharp the longest but can break easily.
The handle can be made of wood, plastic, rubber or metal.
Though wood can be beautiful, the other materials are more durable. The
handle can either be riveted to the blade or molded around it. Riveted
ones are believed to be the strongest, but the most important thing
about a handle is that it feels good in your hand and you feel
comfortable holding it.
The bolster is the thick ridge between the blade and the
handle. It's standard on forged knives and rare on stamped knives. It's
usually ground down towards the bottom to make sharpening easier.
Your knives are an investment, so follow these
easy steps to take care of them.
Don't throw your knives in a drawer. Banging around against one
another will dull their blades. Use either a knife block or a magnetic
strip to keep them separate. If space is an issue and you must put your
knives in a drawer, buy blade guards to protect them.
Never put a knife away wet; it'll corrode the blade. Let it air-dry,
or dry it with a kitchen towel. And don't put knives in the dishwasher;
it will dull its blade.
Use a sharpening steel regularly, preferably one made of high-carbon
steel. A steel doesn't sharpen the blade but instead straightens its
edge. Regular use of a steel will keep a knife in relatively good shape.
Your knife will inevitably dull, though, and be in need of a proper
sharpening. To do that:
• Use a sharpening stone: "wet stones" need to be moistened
with water or oil; dry stones don't. Most commercially sold stones
require water. Carefully pull the knife across the stone at a 10- to
20-degree angle. Keep your fingers spread out on the blade, applying
even, gentle pressure, while dragging the knife from the tip to the
handle. Use the same number of strokes on each side of the knife.
• Use a pull-through sharpener. These are easier to use than
sharpening stones, but tend to be less precise.
• Take your knives to a professional sharpener. Check your local kitchen
store for a recommendation.
It's worth your while to keep your knife sharp-dull knives are more
dangerous than sharp ones as they require more pressure and can slip
To slice food, we suggest using a sharp chef's
knife. To hold your chef's knife properly, grasp the handle with three
fingers and put your forefinger and thumb on opposite sides of the
With a rocking motion, keeping the tip of the
knife on the chopping board, slice down through the food at regular
intervals. There should be no starting or stopping--try to achieve one
Use your other hand to feed the item toward the
knife. To do this safely, curl your fingers in and use your fingertips
to grasp and move the item.
To chop means to cut foods into pieces. This is a larger
cut than dice or mince and generally does not need to be uniform. To chop
vegetables, first trim the stem and peel if necessary.
To hold your chef's knife properly, grasp the handle with
three fingers and put your forefinger and thumb on opposite sides of the blade.
With a rocking motion, keeping the tip of the knife on
the chopping board, slice down through the vegetable at regular intervals, using
the full length of the knife.
Use your other hand to feed the vegetable toward the
knife. To do this safely, curl your fingers in and use your fingertips to grasp
and move the item. With a little practice, you'll be chopping quickly and
A dice is a cube, usually of a vegetable, that ranges
form 1/4 inch to 3/4 inch square.
Using your chef's knife, trim the vegetable so its sides
are straight and at right angles.
Next, determine the size dice you want--say, 1/4
inch--and, holding your knife vertically, slice the vegetables into panels.
Then neatly stack the panels and slice through lengthwise
in 1/4-inch cuts, creating uniform matchsticks. Remember to keep your fingers
tucked in, and out of the knife's path. Your hand serves as the guide as you
Finally, line up your sticks and cut across them again in
1/4-inch cuts, creating perfect dice.
Note that a dice is smaller and generally more precise
than a chop and is larger than a mince.
To julienne means to cut into narrow, fine sticks that
can measure from 2 to 3 inches long and 1/8 inch square. A finer julienne
measures 1/16 of an inch square.
First, determine the length of your julienne and, using
your chef's knife, cut the vegetable into pieces. Next, trim the vegetable so
its sides are straight and at right angles.
Then, holding your knife vertically, slice each piece
into 1/8-inch panels.
Finally, neatly stack the panels, or lay the panels out
on the board, and cut them lengthwise to create uniform matchsticks. Remember to
keep your fingers tucked in, and out of the knife's path.
For a finer julienne, simply slice thinner panels and
thinner matchsticks. A larger matchstick--roughly 1/4 inch across and 2 1/2
inches long--is called a baton.
To mince an onion, first cut it in half from root to tip
and peel it. Lay one half on its flat side--this way it won't roll around the
Slice down vertically, from the root end down, making as
many parallel slices as you can. Do not cut through the root, though, since that
is what holds the onion layers together.
Then, holding the blade horizontally, cut through the
onion several more times.
This makes a grid within the onion that you can cut
across to create very small pieces. The same technique can be used on garlic,
shallots, tomatoes or any hard vegetable.
First, cut panels from the pepper and remove any white
Next, cut the prepared panels lengthwise into very thin
strips, called a julienne.
Then neatly group the strips into a "woodpile" and slice
across in thin cuts--creating very fine, confetti-like pieces of pepper. These
are beautiful as a garnish, or in a soup or sauce.
To brunoise a broader vegetable, such as a carrot, first
trim the vegetable so its sides are straight and at right angles.
Next, holding your knife vertically, slice very thin
Stack the panels or lay them out, then cut them
lengthwise into very thin julienne. Remember to keep your fingers tucked in, and
out of the knife's path.
Finally, turn the julienne and chop them into a beautiful
When translated literally from the French, "chiffonade"
means "made of rags." In culinary terms it means finely cut strips or ribbons of
leafy vegetables or herbs.
To chiffonade a cabbage for coleslaw, cut a cleaned,
washed head into quarters, remove the hard core, then thinly slice the quarters
across the grain.
Greens with large, loose leaves, such as chard, can be
rolled up and sliced thinly.
Smaller leaves, such as basil, can be stacked, then
rolled and sliced across the vein.
For leaves with a central woody stem, such as kaffir lime
leaves, roll from tip to stem, slice parallel to the vein and discard the woody