Many of the things that go into making a great knife (or one that’s great for you) are things that you might not necessarily have considered, at least explicitly. But these are things that are tremendously important in the sense that minding them when choosing a knife can profoundly elevate your experience of preparing food for
and feeding yourself, friends, and family.
If cooking becomes something you do, value and enjoy more because your relationship with your #1 tool in the kitchen has become better than you ever imagined it could be, you will necessarily become more invested in and emotionally connected to what you’re doing with that tool… namely cooking and eating. That improved connection and accompanying excitement and awareness) I believe, will see you feeling a whole lot better about an acutely important subject a great majority of the time.
3 things to think about when choosing a knife:
- Look and feel.
Do you think it’s beautiful? Compelling? Does it feel natural in your hand?
- Try it out on actual food.
Some stores will allow this, others won’t. If they won’t, at least move the knife the way you would if you were actually cooking. Just picking it up, flipping it back and forth, and shaking it makes very little sense. But go to a kitchen store and watch people trying knives by squeezing then shaking – everybody does it and it’s silly
- Learn a little about material.
Different steels are strong in different ways. A material that’s perfect for slicing peppers might not be ideal for chopping ice. Heat treating is also a crucial part of the process of making a knife -this is where the steel is made hard enough to take and hold an edge. There is significant variation and it’s worth asking about. In broad strokes, a lower hardness makes for a tougher knife (won’t break) and a higher hardness, a more delicate knife, but one able to take a sharper edge.
3 quick notes on using a knife:
- Knife Skills.
Learn some knife skills or sharpen up the ones you have – if you like using your knife, you’ll like using it well even better.
Keep knife clean, dry, and ideally, out on the cutting board, definitely not in the drawer, and never in the dishwasher.
Learn to use a steel at least (and the difference between a traditional bucher’s steel and an abrasive hone*). Maybe even learn to use a sharpening stone. A leather strap is a nice touch too for every day tuning up.
* traditional butchers steel is best for carbon steel knives while a very fine abrasive (diamond or ceramic is better for stainless knives (go easy though!)
We don’t survive by chance. We do so by design. The more thoughtfully and artfully we relate to the meals we prepare and consume, and the stronger our emotional connection to them, the better our overall quality of cooking, eating, and living will be.