To really cook like a chef, you need a few things; fresh ingredients, simple techniques, and few high quality tools. One of the most important tools in a kitchen is a chef knife. I use mine all the time, it's easily the most used tool I have in my collection.
A sharp, comfortable chef knife means more control and less slippage which leads to more precise and safer cuts. A good knife will make everything from breaking down a watermelon, to mincing garlic an easier task.
Choosing a Chef Knife:
Take time and care into choosing the right knife for you. Here's a couple things to look for and think about when buying one:
Feel: The most important aspect of buying a chef knife is the feel in your hand. If it's not comfortable, you're not going to want to use it, and it will make your hand sore and tired after extended use. A good knife will feel balanced in your hand, and be a comfortable length (between 8-10" is the average, but some people prefer shorter.) Try a few different styles out, and see what feels best in your hand.
The Steel: The most common chef knives are made out of a high-carbon stainless steel, because they hold a sharp edge longer, and are easier to sharpen and to take care of in general. There are other options, but I tend not to buy any knife that isn't a high-carbon stainless steel.
Price: Pick a knife that fits your budget. You don't need to buy the most expensive knife on the market, but you should look for something of quality that doesn't break the bank.
My favorite chef knife is an 10" high-carbon stainless steel blade made by F. Dick. I use this one religiously, it's well balanced, comfortable for me, easy to keep sharp, and moderately priced.
Caring for Your Knife:
A good knife can last a lifetime, if you care for it properly. Remember it's a precise instrument and not a blunt tool, so keeping good care of it will help keep it at it's best.
Cleaning: ALWAYS wash your knives by hand, using soap and water, then drying thoroughly with a clean cloth. The rough detergents, high temperatures and banging around in a dishwasher are all very bad things for your knives.
Sharpening: Using a honing steel to push the feathers back into place before every use will help keep the blade sharp, but that's not the same as actually sharpening a knife. Whetstones are the best way to put a sharp edge back on a knife, but you can also take them to a professional if you're not comfortable doing it yourself.
Storing: Always keep your knife safe in a wood block, in a case, or in a sheath. Definitely do not put it in a drawer where it can bang around. You can also buy a magnetic strip to a hang it on.
Cutting Boards: One thing many people don't think about when using a knife is the surface you're cutting on. Glass, marble, granite and other similar surfaces are too hard for the delicate edge of a knife, and can seriously damage them. Wood cutting boards are the best to use, followed by a rubber or soft plastic board. I tend to stick to wood boards for any personal or professional cooking I do.
Hopefully this post will help you find the perfect knife, and give you an idea into the thought process behind choosing one. If you have any questions, don't hesitate to e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
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