Bonnie Aeschliman: The right knives are essential in the kitchen

04/24/2013 5:16 AM

04/24/2013 5:16 AM

If you asked a chef what kitchen tool he or she used most, undoubtedly the answer would be the chef’s knife. A lot of cutting, boning, chopping, slicing, dicing and mincing occurs in the kitchen.

If you asked an aspiring cook what kitchen gadget he or she had the most questions about, they might say cutlery. There seems to be confusion about knives: their function, selection and care. Let’s take a look.

Q. My mother recently gave me a cheese knife and tells me she uses it for everything. It is a strange-looking thing with a serrated edge but has holes in the blade. I am wondering why a knife would have holes in the blade.

A. You have a very useful knife. It was designed for slicing tomatoes and cheese. Have you ever tried to slice a tomato and the knife was so dull it would not penetrate the skin? The design of your knife is twofold: It easily will cut through the skin of a tomato without mashing as the serrated edge is very sharp. It also slices cheeses beautifully. The holes in the blade create air pockets so the cheese will not stick to the blade of the knife.

Q. How do you slice bread without mashing the loaf? There must be a trick to doing that.

A. First of all, use a knife with a serrated edge. Then gently “saw” through the bread. Don’t push the knife through the loaf with pressure. For bread that has a hard crust, turn the loaf on the side, as it is easier to slice through the softer edge, and you will get beautiful slices.

Q. How do you keep knives from getting dull?

A. Knives will become dull with use. A dull knife is dangerous: It may slip when it should cut, making injury more likely. To keep a keen edge on knives, you can use a hand-held steel to keep the edge lined up and sharp. However, I find it easier to use the chantry knife sharpener. It holds the knife at the correct angle and is small and easy to use and store. More importantly, it keeps my knives very sharp and in tip-top condition.

Q. I have been shopping for knives. After taking a class on knife skills, I now realize a good sharp knife that fits the hand is easier to use and requires less effort. But you can spend a fortune on knives. I don’t need a big set of knives, so which ones do you suggest I purchase first?

A. A good chef’s knife is basic. It is the workhorse of the kitchen. Next, I would suggest a long, serrated slicing knife for slicing breads and other items. Lastly would be a good sharp paring knife for those small jobs. That will take care of most kitchen tasks. Of course, you can later add specialty knives to your collection if you desire.

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