Whenever someone asks me about my most essential kitchen tool, I tell them my must-have tools are my knives.
I have lots of different knives, but there are only a few you really need. The mandatory knives are a paring knife and a chef’s knife. You will also need a sharpening steel and a knife sharpener to keep your knives sharp.
The two main designs for knives are German and Japanese. German knife design is what you think of when you envision a “standard” chef’s knife. They are perfect for “rocking and chopping.” Japanese knives are flat bottomed and do a wonderful job at fine knife work.
I tend to favor heavy, well-balanced German knives. The weight of these knives does a lot of your work for you. However, I do have my favorite Japanese santoku knife, which is sort of like a Japanese chef’s knife.
Knives should feel comfortable in your hand. Just because you pay a lot for a knife does not mean it will work well for you. For an affordable option, “Cooks Illustrated” magazine recommends Victorinox Forschner knives. I have not tried them, but I plan to buy one soon.
You may be wondering why I suggested both a sharpening steel and a knife sharpener. A sharpening steel (also called a honing steel) does not actually sharpen a knife; it is used to keep the knife’s edges straight and should be used each time you use your knife. Even when you use the steel, you will still need to sharpen your knives occasionally. If you are afraid you will cut yourself with a sharp knife, fear not; you are more likely to cut yourself with a dull knife. Just don’t forget to keep your thumb and fingers tucked in, so you don’t get an impromptu manicure.
Now that you have your required knives, there are a few other cutting tools I love. The first is a serrated knife, which is great for cutting tomatoes, bread and other soft items. My other favorite tool is a kitchen scissors. I use mine for everything from cutting the fat off chicken to cutting bacon into pieces before frying. Just don’t use your kitchen scissors for art projects.
Take proper care of your knives, and they will last a lifetime.
• Judy A. Toth is the owner of Simply Impressive Cooking School in Mesa. Her column appears the second Wednesday of the month. Reach her at (480) 654-1981 or www.SimplyImpressive.com