Whether you are preparing healthy food for your family or just for yourself, some basic kitchen know-how not only saves time and money, it also makes cooking at home much more enjoyable.
Since the healthiest foods on the plate – vegetables, fruits, garlic, onions, and herbs – all require some sort of slicing, dicing or other preparation before they can be turned into a delicious meal, it is really important to have, and learn to care for, a good chef’s knife.
The cost of knives can range from reasonable to expensive. It is not necessary to buy the most expensive knife to be a good cook. However, if you plan to cook at home more often, it’s a good idea to buy a knife that is both durable and comfortable to use. If you have the chance to go to a store that sells chef’s knives, ask to try a few out. After all, the best knife in the world won’t work well for you if it is too large or too uncomfortable (or just too scary) to use.
Chef’s knives come in a variety of lengths and weights and quality. An 8” knife is standard, but if you are new to cooking, you might try a shorter and lighter knife, like a Santuko-style knife, or a chef’s knife with a lighter and smaller blade.
I have used my knives for anywhere from 5-20 years and they have all held up well with a lot of use. Some were expensive, but others, like this knife made by Victorinox (the Swiss Army Knife guys) were very reasonable. The Victorinox consistently rates as one of the best bargain knives available. I found this for about $30. So shop around and find something that fits your experience, your hand, and your budget.
Believe it or not, sharp knives are safer to use than dull ones. A dull knife won’t cut food very well, which might require you to put more pressure on the knife as you use it. This extra force and pressure can cause a knife to slip and cut your fingers. A sharp knife slices easily, with less pressure. But you still need to keep your fingers out of the way of the blade!
New knives arrive super-sharp, and can stay that way for a long time, with a little care. To keep your knives sharp, your fingers safe, and your experience in the kitchen positive, get into the habit of using a knife-honing steel, every few days.
The blade of a knife actually starts to bend to one side or the other as you use it, and with time, this makes the knife dull. A steel straightens out the slight bend in the blade, keeping it sharp for a longer period of time.
Watch the video to see how you use a honing steel to straighten the blade of your knife, maintain that sharp edge and look very cool in your kitchen!
Even the best knife will eventually get dull, however, and you will, at some point, need to sharpen your knives. Professional sharpening services are available, but there are also good tools out there for sharpening your knives at home. One of the best, and least expensive sharpening tools is an AccuSharp Knife and Tool Sharpener. It costs about $10 and, with a little practice, is easy and safe to use.
Other home sharpeners include two- or three-stage manual types like Chef’s Choice as well as a variety of electric sharpeners. A professional sharpening stone, like this, often produces the best results, but it takes a bit of practice to learn to use.
After all of your hard work sharpening and straightening your knives, be sure to protect them from getting nicked and dull in storage. I store my knives at home on a magnetic bar attached to a wall near my stove. Plastic knife protectors, work well if you store knives in a drawer.
So keeping your knife sharp and using your honing steel everyday should really help you have more fun slicing and dicing all of those veggies in your kitchen! After all, it’s a lot more fun to be able to slice a tomato using a sharp knife than using a dull one where you run the risk of losing a finger.
In our next post we’ll talk about choosing and caring for cutting boards – another essential kitchen tool, and we’ll practice some basic knife skills while we make a delicious salad together.
See you next time in ‘Your Healthy Kitchen’. Happy Slicing!