What You Need |
"A kitchen's knife needs are as simple as they need to be," says Suzie Hawes of Scullerymade, Malvern, Victoria's paradise of culinary wares. "A few top-quality blades will set you up for a lifetime of dicing." According to Hawes, the star of the show is an eight-inch (20cm) blade commonly called a cook's or chef's knife. You can use this for just about anything -- from parsley to pumpkin.
Runner-up is a carving knife with either an eight-inch (20cm) or 10-inch (26cm) blade. But don't try to be too fancy and get both. "The length of the blade is a matter of either/or," Hawes says. "Try out both sizes, and see what's most comfortable for you. Feel the balance of the knife, and decide which suits your hand best."
After these two blades, go for a six-inch (16cm) utility knife, and a five-inch (13cm) or three-inch (8cm) paring knife. "Those four blades will get you through the entire spectrum of kitchen tasks," she says.
But if you've got lots of money and like to accumulate stuff, there's a range of extras that you can get, including filleting, boning and ham knives; a wavy-edged slicer; an oriental cleaver; and a carving fork, along with one essential -- a sharpening steel. Hawes recommends an oval-shaped steel, which gives more of a guide and is great for beginners.
What To Look For
There are criteria for buying a knife beyond pressing it on your finger to see if it hurts. Top-notch knives are made from fully forged steel. This means the steel has been tempered by heat and cold, and there are no joins between blade and handle. Hence, no weakness. The Germans are the best at this process, and the French are pretty good. "A fully forged steel knife is the easiest to sharpen and maintain, and, if properly looked after, will provide a lifetime's use," Hawes says. One of these fully forged beauties, say a cook's knife, should set you back between $50 and $100.
You don't need to be a rocket scientist to know that you can get a cartful of knives at Safeway for that amount. Money should certainly be considered, Hawes admits, but not surprisingly, quality -- not quantity -- is the answer. Even those block sets that you can get for around $100 will leave you with inferior quality knives along with a couple that you'll never use in your life. The best idea is to buy one or two knives as you go. But buy the best you can afford, and build up a set gradually.