If your kitchen is typical, it is likely furnished with a few pots and lids that don’t necessary match; a stack of baking and roasting pans that may or may not be the right size for the task at hand and a drawer crammed with utensils in a variety of conditions and configurations (some of which you don’t know how to use but some day you might) and several knives none of which are sharp enough to be of much good.
I believe the ideal kitchen should be furnished minimally. By that I mean it should contain an adequate supply of excellent quality, highly useful pieces of cookware and utensils.
If that doesn’t describe your kitchen, it’s time to take inventory and dejunk your cupboards and drawers so that each piece of equipment you decide to retain is used often, performs adequately and has its own place. That’s the kind of simplicity that has a beauty all its own.
With that in mind, today I want to offer a little knife advice together with some points to follow when you’re ready to purchase for yourself or as a gift.
The best knives are high-carbon stainless steel, finely honed, perfectly balanced and expensive—a single chef’s knife can easily run $500 or more! While investing in knives should be a once-in-a-lifetime purchase, I think it’s a mistake to spend a lot of money on a knife. It’s more important to invest in knives that can be sharpened and then determine to keep sharp whatever knife you do buy. You can get the best chef’s knife but if you don’t maintain it, there’s no point in buying it. A dull knife together with the amount of force necessary to make it do its job is an accident waiting to happen.
An excellent knife starter set that will handle all of your needs is a 3-inch straight-edge paring knife for peeling fruits and vegetables and cutting small items; a 5-inch utility knife for slicing small items like cheese, fruits or sandwich ingredients and an 8-inch chef’s knife for slicing, chopping and mincing. A long serrated knife is a luxury and you’ll be glad you have one when it comes to slicing French bread, fresh tomatoes or a prime rib roast because they have a gripping quality that allows one to lie paper-thin if necessary.
BEST INEXPENSIVE BASIC KNIFE STARTER SET: Wusthof PRO 5-Piece Starter Knife Set. Made in Solingen, Germany, Wusthof is a highly respected brand of high-carbon steel cutlery, and considered top of the line by professional chefs. Includes cook’s knife, paring knife, bread knife, steel and 8-pocket knife storage roll. This basic set may be all the knives you ever need. This is beautiful basic set of knives. About $95.
BEST INEXPENSIVE HOME KNIFE SHARPENER: Wusthof Precision Edge 2 Stage Knife Sharpener. Good knives should be sharpened professionally once every year or two. Between sharpenings, however, you will want to keep those blades honed to a razor’s edge. Safe and easy to use, this two-stage knife sharpener requires nothing but a few easy strokes to keep blades that sharp. Its V-shaped cutting head with two crossed carbide blades puts a quick edge on knives. About $20.
The Wusthof basic starter set with the knife sharpener would make a perfect gift for any home cook—or aspiring young chef.