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  The Three Must-Have Knives
Start your collection with the basics
 
  How to Buy a Knife
Get the best knife for your money and lifestyle
 
  Cutlery Care
Knife storage and sharpening tips
 
 

Knife Skills
Learn these classic cuts with step-by-step instruction


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Frequently 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 are unnecessary.

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 surface.

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.

The Extras:

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 from bone.

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 preference.
High-carbon steel gives you the sharpen-ability of carbon steel without the discoloration. Most professional knives are made of this material.
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.

The tang

Cutlery Care

Your knives are an investment, so follow these easy steps to take care of them.

Storage:

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.

Sharpening:
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 easier

Knife Skill--Slice

 
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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 blade.
 
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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 continual motion.
 
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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.

 

 

 

Knife Skill--Chop

 

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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.
 
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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.
 
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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.
 
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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 safely.  

 

 

Knife Skill--Dice
 

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A dice is a cube, usually of a vegetable, that ranges form 1/4 inch to 3/4 inch square.
 
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Using your chef's knife, trim the vegetable so its sides are straight and at right angles.
 
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Next, determine the size dice you want--say, 1/4 inch--and, holding your knife vertically, slice the vegetables into panels.
 
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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 cut.
 
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Finally, line up your sticks and cut across them again in 1/4-inch cuts, creating perfect dice.
 
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Note that a dice is smaller and generally more precise than a chop and is larger than a mince.
 

 

 

 

Knife Skill--Julienne

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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.
 
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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.
 
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Then, holding your knife vertically, slice each piece into 1/8-inch panels.
 
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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.
 
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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.  

 

 

 

Knife Skill--Mince

 

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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 board.
 
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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.
 
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Then, holding the blade horizontally, cut through the onion several more times.
 
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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.  

 

 

 

 

Knife Skill--Brunoise
 

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First, cut panels from the pepper and remove any white membrane.
 
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Next, cut the prepared panels lengthwise into very thin strips, called a julienne.
 
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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.
 
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To brunoise a broader vegetable, such as a carrot, first trim the vegetable so its sides are straight and at right angles.
 
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Next, holding your knife vertically, slice very thin panels.
 
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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.
 
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Finally, turn the julienne and chop them into a beautiful brunoise.

 

 

 

 

 

Knife Skill--Chiffonade

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.
 

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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.
 
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Greens with large, loose leaves, such as chard, can be rolled up and sliced thinly.
 
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Smaller leaves, such as basil, can be stacked, then rolled and sliced across the vein.
 
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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 stem.

 

 

 

 

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