Thursday, October 8, 2020
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, millions of Americans seldom visited their kitchen in favor of take out and dine-in options at restaurants. On occasion they would cook a meal during the holidays or if time restrictions or budgets did not allow for ordering out. Now, since the pandemic has ordered Americans to shelter in place and quarantine due to possible exposure -- a survey conducted by Food Navigator-USA polled 1,005 Americans between the ages of 18-73 to reveal 54% reported cooking more. Of those Americans who are cooking more since the rise of the pandemic, 51% stated that they will continue to cook more often even after the pandemic comes to an end.
The survey also stated that Americans are searching for recipes to use up current ingredients in their kitchens, resulting in less food waste. Additionally, they are searching for healthier recipes, new foods to try, and cooking projects that help them learn new techniques. So, as millions of Americans start their journey to learn more about cooking, become acquainted with their kitchens, and build cooking confidence, we are bringing you five essential knives that will aid in this journey.
Not all kitchen knives are created equal. Many cheap knives that lack in quality, durability, and sharpness will negatively impact your food preparation. Imagine you’re trying to dice a tomato with an improper knife, this may result in sawing through the tomato, leaving you with a mess of juice and smashed insides. A proper knife will help you maintain the structural integrity of your tomato and be able to get the most from your ingredients. This goes for many vegetables that can be bruised, crushed, or damaged by a knife that is not the best choice for a specific vegetable.
That being said, let’s discuss our top picks for the best knives that will improve at-home cooking and keep your ingredients intact and ready to make gourmet dishes:
- Chef’s Knife
- Serrated Knife
- Paring Knife
- Utility Knife
- Honing Rod
One of the Most Widely Used Knives
Even though beginner at home chef’s may shy away from a chef’s knife due to its intimidating appearance -- a larger and wider blade, this knife sits at the top of our list. Once you learn how to handle this all-purpose knife, you won’t regret your purchase.
As the name states, a chef’s knife would rank as the top knife among most professional chefs. If they were allowed to only choose one knife to use for the rest of their career, it would probably be this one. This is because the other knives we have listed serve more individualized purposes, such as cutting smaller produce and garnishes, but a chef’s knife can do it all.
The longer and wider 8 inch blade makes for seamless slicing through mostly anything -- vegetables, meats, fish, as well as large and notoriously difficult to cut fruits like watermelon and pineapple. Similarly, this knife serves a multitude of cutting techniques -- slicing, dicing, chopping, julienning, and deboning. Yes -- a chef’s knife can cut through bone, thick slabs of meat, and even carve a chicken.
The blade of a chef’s knife is not only razor sharp, but also heavy duty which ensures easy cutting for every back and forth motion. A high quality chef’s knife can be determined by the blade and also if your fingers can easily and comfortable grip the handle. When cutting through a denser fruit like a pineapple, a high quality chef’s knife should not require much downward pressure.
The chef’s knife we have listed is made from three layers of 440c composite steel with the blade edge sharpened at 14%. The handle is delicately bowed to rest comfortably and safely in the palm, it’s also easy to grip and water resistant so you can feel secure and at ease while using this knife.
Your Go-to Knife for Tomatoes
A serrated knife, or sometimes referred to as a bread knife, is one of those knives that serves a more individualized purpose, but nonetheless is still an essential tool to have in your kitchen. A serrated knife is easily distinguishable by the blade’s saw-like appearance. A serrated knife has less contact with the ingredient you are cutting than a smooth blade. This is because the pressure applied at each of the contact points is greater than a smooth blade.
On the downside, a serrated knife is more difficult to sharper and can often result in less precise cuts. However, a serrated knife is designed to be used by dragging across the surface of the object you’re cutting. Specifically, these knives should be used to cut ingredients with a hard, tough, or thick exterior, but with soft insides. For this reason, the sawing motion is necessary rather than one swift forceful cut.
Let’s break it down even further back to our tomato example. A tomato has tough skin, but a soft, juicy, and easily damaged interior. A chef’s knife would harm the integrity of the tomato’s internal parts by applying a singular, swift slice. Instead the serrated teeth on the blade’s edge make the initial cut to break through the skin on the tomato. Then as you continue sawing, the teeth make a clean slice through the rest of the fruit. This makes for a clean slice all around.
The same can be said for a loaf of bread, say a baguette -- hard and crunchy exterior, soft bread interior. The serrated knife works by sawing and tearing through the crust, but continuing to cleanly slice through the soft interior.
Great for Small Ingredients and Garnishes
A paring knife is another knife with a more narrow focus. The blade of this knife is tiny -- only 3.5 inches and made with three layers of 440c composite steel. The smaller blade makes it ideal for peeling fruits and vegetables, trimming and cutting smaller produce, cutting garnishes, and finely chopping or mincing garlic and ginger.
Even though this knife is small, it is an all-purpose knife for smaller ingredients, more than we have listed above. It can be ideal for tasks like deveining shrimp, removing seeds from tiny peppers, slicing through cheese, and julienning small vegetables. You can think of this knife as your fine detail tool.
The smaller blade is more ideal and convenient for beginner cooks. It is easily maneuvered and better used for precision tasks. Once you master using this little knife you can upgrade to a utility knife.
Our Favorite Mid-Sized All-Purpose Knife
Larger than a paring knife, but smaller than a chef’s knife, this 5 inch mid-sized utility knife finds a middle ground in your kitchen essentials. Just like a chef’s knife, a utility knife is multipurpose and can be used for all of your meal prep work, unless of course your ingredient is too large for this knife to handle.
A utility knife features a scalloped edge which makes it efficient for prep work -- slicing fruits and vegetables, as well as dicing, chopping, and mincing. This knife may easily become your go-to because of its size and razor sharp blade. It can do the prep work of a paring knife by chopping herbs, fruits, and vegetables, and even slicing intricate garnishes for gourmet meals -- and it can also do the work of a chef’s knife. You can carve and debone smaller game with this knife.
Keep Your Knives Sharp
Once you’ve selected your essential kitchen knives, the key to keep them performing at the same high quality rate as when you first purchased them is a honing rod. A honing rod, or honing steel has a variety of names, but is used to re-align the edges of your blades. In other words, a honing rod keeps your blades razor sharp.
To use a honing rod, place it tip down on a cutting board and slide the knife from heel to tip down the rod at a 15 degree angle using a light, but consistent pressure. Honing rods come in a variety of types -- steel, ceramic, and diamond coated. More moderately textured rods are better known to sharpen the blade of your knife.
Whichever you prefer, maintaining the sharpness of your blade is critical if you want to keep continued use of your knife. After a while you will notice your knife dulling, a knife that once sliced through anything may struggle to slice through a sheet of paper -- it is your job to keep them sharp.
With these four essential knives and a honing rod to keep them razor sharp, your at home cooking aspirations are sure to take off when you start preparing gourmet meals at home. With these knives you can start improving your knife skills and techniques, then you won’t need to rely on take out because you’ll have the ability to prepare restaurant quality meals in the comfort of your own home.