Cooking 101: How to Choose the Right Knife for the Job

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photo credit: Gastro maniacos via Flickr

Knives, knives, knives. You need them to cut anything in the kitchen. But, how do you choose the right knife for the task at hand? That is the $64,000 question. But you don’t have to spend a fortune!  Learn more about affordable knife sets over at The Kitchen Professor.

photo credit: Gastro maniacos via Flickr
photo credit: Gastro maniacos via Flickr

Salmon (Fish) Knife

Fish knives are great for skinning, you guessed it, fish. Do you really need a fish knife? No, not if you don’t eat a lot of fish. But, if you do eat fish on a regular basis, you’re going to become infinitely annoyed by the filleting process without one. So, do yourself a favor. If you eat a lot of fish, buy a fish knife.

Spatula

It’s not actually a knife, but some spatulas look like knives. These are actually more or less glorified butter knives, and are great for baking. If you make a lot cakes, cookies, or anything that needs icing, you need this knife. Some of the best spatula knives out there can be purchased relatively cheaply through Bed Bath and Beyond, too.

Bread Knife

Getting a good bread knife from some place like William’s Sonoma is like going through the desert. It’s a brutal trial but, when you’ve made it through, there’s no greater sense of satisfaction. Bread knives can be tricky to buy because you want one with a serrated edge that’s long enough, and yet without the weight that most of them unfortunately have by design.

A heavy bread knife will just tear and crush the bread. You want something that will slice it cleanly.

Santoku Knife

This is the classic “slicing, dicing, and mincing” knife that everyone with a kitchen should own. The top of a Santoku’s blade is set in-line with the handle, making it easy to grip and control. These knives tend to be well-balanced and perfect for the amateur chef.

Carving Fork

A carving fork is something you probably won’t use but once or twice a year, but when you don’t have one, holiday season is a nightmare. Fortunately, a good carving knife doesn’t have to be expensive. You can pick them up almost anywhere.

Cleaver

A cleaver is strictly for chopping through tough meat and bone. You’ll need one if you’re a modern cave man who eats a lot of meat, especially if you prepare it while it’s still frozen.

Paring Knife

A paring knife is a specialty blade made for fine cutting work. The secret to a good paring knife is getting one that is really sharp – scary sharp. The sharper the better. You want the blade to do the cutting. Ideally, your paring knife will be of Japanese origin. Why? Because Japanese blades have a steeper blade angle, and thus produce scary-sharp blades ideal for fine work.

Chef’s Knife

A chef’s knife is something almost everyone has, but almost no one knows how to use properly. A good chef’s knife is perfectly balanced in your hand (that means it has a really heavy handle). You hold the knife at the blade, pinching your fingers just ahead of the handle. Your fingers wrap gently around the handle and control is accomplished with the fingers, primarily.

Chef’s knives are mostly for slicing and, like paring knives, they need to be kept very, very sharp to be effective.

Erin Perryman spends a lot of time in her kitchen each day. A retired sous chef, she likes to research and write about all things cooking. Look for her helpful posts on many of today’s websites and blogs.

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