Cutting it in the kitchen - I am a keen cook and love to spend some time in the kitchen in my spare time. Like many people all over the world, I believe that cooking your meals from scratch far out ways buying the masses of produced ready meals that litter our supermarket shelves these days. However, it can take some time! No matter what you intend to cook, if you factor in all the preparing and cleaning up, you can easily find your evening after work has disappeared. Making little and often changes to the tools you use for your cooking can certainly speed things up in the kitchen and one of the biggest revelations I recently discovered was knives! An area of cooking that is often overlooked by the home cook, but never by the professionals. I would like to share with you the information I have found out, when I wanted to purchase a set of, what I would call profesional kitchen knives - and tell you what a difference it makes! The information written in this article is from my own personal research on the subject of knives and my recommendations are purely based on what I regard as important to me. Believe it or not, it mostly comes down to personal preference, so take from this article, as little or as much as you like, I think it is an important topic that many people often overlook.

Where to start?

If you are relatively serious about cooking and you regularly turn out some of your finest dishes then, I would highly recommend you invest in a decent set of knives. Firstly, for the average cook you do not need many! There are types of knives for just about anything, however I found out that at most you need about 4 to 5 good high quality knives and this will suffice. This is good, as when you consider the prices for these premium knives buying a select few and adding to your collection slowly is much easier on the wallet.

To start with I recommend you get:

  • Chef’s Knife, also known as a Cook’s Knife or French Knife
  • Serrated Bread Knife
  • Utility Knife
  • Paring Knife
  • Boning Knife

These will get you through 90% of your kitchen slicing and dicing tasks, these are the major knives you would be requested to purchase if you were to go to a cookery school or professional restaurant kitchen. Granted, within these classes of knives there are varying lengths, but most stores and online shops will highlight the most utilised sizes. I find myself going for the chef’s knife for the majority of tasks, if you get a good one, you will feel comfortable using it for many slicing and chopping techniques.

What to look for when buying?

Firstly, I would recommend you go to a good store and pick up the knives in your hand. The knife must sit comfortably in your hand when you grip it. Also see how balanced it feels as you hold it. I recommend getting a knife with a full tang. The tang is the part of the knife that runs through the handle usually. The blade side of the knife should smoothly run into the tang to form the handle. These knives are usually more balanced as the material used for the whole of the knife is made and shaped from one piece. You don’t have to buy the knife from the store and I recommend once you know what brand of knife suits you, return to the Internet as deals on knives are usually better than in stores. I have no preference as to whether you buy a complete knife set and block or individually purchase them as you progress. For me, I bought them individually and built up my collection.  You must always get a feel for the knives, don’t just go out and buy some online without holding them first. If you get the correct knife suited to you, you will find it easier to carry out various chopping and slicing techniques as well as improve your speed and safety. Some brands that I recommend and have seen used by many chefs and kitchens are listed further down this article.

So what are the benefits?

So you’ve parted with some serious money for a set of professional knives, you are going to want to know what’s so good about them right? Well, just for starters, they are sharp. Extremely sharp! Be very careful when handling them and try not to touch the blade. It will cut you with very little pressure. The first thing you will notice when compared to your old supermarket / budget knives is that they will cut with very little effort. The cutting edge of the blade has been through many manufacturing processes to make it as sharp as possible with very few imperfections. You will notice that the knife feels like it grips the surface of the item you are cutting. Just rest the blade on the top of an onion say, and it feels secure and immediately cuts at that point. A sharp knife like this is far safer in use even when compared to a new supermarket / budget knife. It prevents the knife from slipping off the item you are trying to slice, therefore saving your fingers! In addition to this, if you have chosen a knife that feels comfortable in your hand, many slicing and chopping techniques will all of a sudden seem allot easier than before. You do not have to put the effort into the cutting action, you can practice gripping and handling the knife when in use. The sharpness of the blade will remain as good as the day you bought it providing you care and sharpen your knives regularly. I have plans to write a follow up article to this one specifically for care of your knives. Please check back to see it. Your supermarket / budget knives will not remain sharp. Even with sharpening, the imperfections in the material from new will always degrade the quality of the cutting surface. Your professional knives should last as long as you do!

So what should I go for?

The brands recommended in this section were discovered as I was researching which knives to buy. There are many, many more brands that will also suit, but from what I understand, there are a few that are market leaders and are seen in use in some of the worlds best kitchens . I love to watch many cooking programs and have found myself trying to glimpse what brand of knife is being used. Programs such as Masterchef, usually give a good insight into what knives are currently out there. Some of the top class restaurants featured on the program show the contestants working in their kitchens. Next time, see if you can spot what brand of knife is being used. Areas to look for are, the sides of the knife blocks, the knife handle or at the top of the blade near the handle. There will usually be a logo of some kind in these areas.

I would look for:

  • Zwilling J.A. Henckels
  • Global
  • Wusthof
  • I.O. Shen
  • Tojiro Senkou
  • Sabatier

These are all professional level knives and are not cheap, but the performance and durability provided by these knives far out ways the cost. If you are passionate about cooking and want to improve your speed, technique and safety in the kitchen then I can highly recommend you purchase a set of these knives. You will not be disappointed. I hope you have found this article interesting and informative. A quick Internet search of the brand names above will provide you with all the information you need to know. If you have an interest in engineering and manufacturing, just read through the processes and techniques used to to produce these high quality knives. It is very impressive. Please check back for further articles for knife care and other kitchen and foodie items.

Henckels Knife
Global Utility Knife
Tojiro Senkou