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Knife Drawer Essentials

The best money you can spend when it comes to kitchen equipment is on knives.

A good quality knife will make cooking much more enjoyable and efficient, and, when properly cared for, good knives will last years. Here’s what you need to know when looking for knives.

What do I look for?

Before buying a knife, be sure to consider these features:

  • Buy a knife with a high-carbon steel blade. This type of blade is extremely durable, yet can be easily sharpened and will not rust.
  • Handles are a personal preference. Molded plastic is very sturdy but can be slippery when wet or oily. Wood handles are great looking but require a little maintenance.
  • Knife blades come either forged or stamped. Forged blades are usually better quality and will last longer, but if your budget won’t allow it, stamped knives are fine. They’re thinner and lighter weight but can cut vegetables and fish as well as heavier duty forged knives.
  • The most important characteristic of any knife is how it feels when you hold it. Grip the handle to find one that has a weight and shape that suits your hand.
Which knives do I need?

If you’re just starting out in the kitchen, you really just need two knives in your drawer:

  • A chef’s knife is the most versatile knife in the kitchen because it can be used for a variety of tasks, including chopping, mincing, and slicing. This knife has a pointed tip and a wide curved blade (8-inch is best) that allows the knife to rock back and forth.
  • For simple tasks like cutting and peeling fruits and vegetables, a paring knife is perfect. It has a small handle and blade (usually 3 to 4 inches) with a pointed tip.

 

Cooks who are a little more comfortable in the kitchen may want to add a couple more knives to their drawer:

  • A utility knife does a little bit of everything, from slicing to mincing to trimming meat. Its blade is shaped like a paring knife but is longer, usually 4 to 7 inches.
  • Slicing bread is the primary task of a serrated knife, but serrated knives are also great for cutting rinds from melons and pineapple.

 

Anyone who is seasoned in the kitchen will appreciate:

  • The santoku, a Japanese version of a chef’s knife. While it can perform all the same tasks as a chef’s knife, the blade has a less pronounced curve, allowing it to double as a slicer for meats.
  • A boning knife. It does exactly what its name implies—cuts around bones! The narrow blade is specially designed to pierce meat easily and work around the contours of the bones.

 

Beyond knives

  • Another essential tool in the knife drawer isn’t a knife at all—it’s a quality pair of kitchen shears. They are indispensable for cutting whole chickens into pieces, but are also handy for snipping fresh herbs, opening packages and more. One pair is all you’ll need to purchase.
Cleaning, Care and More
  • Always wash knives by hand using warm water and mild soap, then dry and return them to the knife drawer or block. Never, ever put them in the dishwasher. The harsh detergent and drying cycle will dull the blade and destroy the finish.
  • Quality knives need to be sharpened for top performance. If you’re just starting out, ask your cooking store for the name of a sharpening specialist in your area. As you grow more comfortable using knives, purchase a sharpening steel and keep them up yourself.
  • Wrap a few rubber bands around your knife handle. It will make the knife easier to grip if it gets wet or greasy.