Kitchen Essentials – Sharp Things

What would a kitchen be without knives?

I couldn’t imagine cooking a meal without having a knife close to hand. In general I’ve found that there are two schools of thought when it comes to knives. The “Each knife has a purpose” school and “The one knife suits all” School. Both have their own merits, so I’m going to give details on both.

Knives
Knives

I subscribe to the “Each knife has a purpose” school while Elly is more of a “The one knife suits all” type of gal.

“The one knife suits all” school, I think has a lot of “this is what I’m comfortable and happy with” about it. Which is good because the one thing you should never be is uncomfortable with a knife in your hand, you’ll only end up cutting badly or cutting yourself. Elly uses her large Kitchen Devil for almost all cutting and slicing jobs and it works for her, if I’m honest she’s far quicker at slicing and chopping than me.

The “Each knife has a purpose” school that I subscribe to means I generate more washing up to be done, but that’s a small price to pay. I use a selection of Sabatier steel knives, there are six in total, ranging from a small paring knife, up to “Mr. Choppy II, The Cleaver”. OK, so maybe I have a bit of a thing for knives, but each one really does serve it’s own purpose.

The two smaller paring knives I use mostly for fruit and I find them great for really fine slicing and dicing of garlic and chilli. My vegetable knife, is appropriately used for almost all my veg chopping requirements these days, with the exception of butternut squash (which I despise preparing BTW) the only thing for those beasts is Mr. Choppy and a good swing followed by a reassuring thud, I find it helps relieve the stress of dealing with squash.

While we’re on the subject of Mr. Choppy, cleavers are the ideal tool for slicing raw meat. Provided he’s sharp Mr. Choppy will slice through almost any meat by simply dragging the blade across it, without any downward pressure.

Next up is the bread knife which does what it says and really if you bake your own bread or buy any type of bread that isn’t sliced a bread knife is the only way to slice it without squashing the bread into a doughy icky mess.

Lastly is the carving knife, this is the least used as we don’t cook whole poultry or large joints of meat too often and in the modern world is probably the least essential knife that we own. For most people carving is almost a lost art and with electric carving knives being so cheap and easy to use why would you want to learn the art of carving?

Outside of knives we also use three other sharp things in our kitchen, a mezzaluna, a peeler and a julienne peeler.

Peelers
Peelers

A mezzaluna is basically a large curved double blade with a handle on either end, that is ideal for chopping fresh herbs and with the amount of those that we use in our cooking we would be lost without it, yes I can chops herbs almost as quickly with a vegetable knife but it takes more effort and concentration, so why not take the easier option?

I’m hoping that I don’t need to explain the use of a peeler to anyone, but a julienne peeler may be a bit different, this looks almost exactly the same as a regular peeler except that the blade has teeth which slice vertically while you’re peeling, it’s great for julienne carrots but also for finely dicing them for a risotto, simply julienne first then hold the bunch and dice them quickly and easily.

The most important thing when choosing a knife or set of knives is that you feel comfortable with them, I like mine because they are exceptionally well balanced so you only lift the weight of the knife you’re not “holding up” the tip you’re simply holding the knife.

So which school do you prefer or currently use?

5 thoughts on “Kitchen Essentials – Sharp Things”

  1. I grew up in the school kitchen of one knife fits all…. well, make that two – no three. The carving/bread knife with a serrated edge, a small vegetable come whatever knife and a very special old dinner knife that Nana used to mix her wheaten and soda bread.

    PS We did have other cutlery for use at the table! :roll:

  2. @Grannymar A knife for mixing bread? I HAVE to know more

    @Rummuser It’s not so much the doing of the washing up as the never ending worry of “will this be the day that I accidentally cut myself real bad” which is odd cause that thought never crosses my mind when I’m actually cutting things :)

    1. Nana was very hands on in the kitchen, she measured by handfuls. When making bread or pastry, she rubbed the fat into the flour with her fingers, then she used the knife to mix in the liquid. I too use a knife to do the same when I bake.

      In my early years of making Christmas cakes (I started in 1960), I beat the butter and sugar by hand – literally! I hated that feeling of the gritty butter on my hands, but using a wooden spoon left me with welts on the palm of my right hand! We had no electric mixers or food processors back then.

      Right, I will put away the violin now! 😀

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