Cooking can get to be an expensive hobby, what with all the exciting gadgets and cookware available to us in the 21st century. While we have lots goodies like cherry pitters and salad spinners, brassiers and Dutch ovens, it’s helpful to remember the most basic thing we use in the kitchen: the knives. While you can get bargain versions of many kitchen tools, it’s my contention that knives are the one thing that you want to spend good money on.
We have a drawer full of knives of many shapes and sizes, but we keep going back to the same ones again and again for most of what we do. You’ll notice a pattern:
That’s an 8″ Hikari, 7″ Santoku, 7″ serrated utility, and 4″ classic paring knife, all from Shun. I certainly don’t want to turn this into a Shun commercial, but I can’t ignore the fact that these four knives take care of nearly everything we do and how much we love them. The top one is our newest purchase, and what got me thinking about the knives in the first place. We’ve had the other three for in the neighborhood of ten years; the Hikari is our newest, and what got me thinking about this topic in the first place.
Obviously, a knife must have and keep a great edge. For me, the whole thing is about these knives is balance and feel. Even though the Hikari is a sweet knife, the Santoku is still my favorite because of the weight. I get that Gretchyn, whose hands are a little smaller than mine, likes the lighter weight and slightly tapered grip of the Hikari–which I’m happy to use any time, especially for more delicate work.
I happened to be chatting a few weeks back with one of our friends, David Williams, who you might know as a professional Magic: the Gathering player, poker star, and Master Chef finalist (and for the next two days, ESPN WSOP analyst). He was actually giving me a few plating tips (absolutely the weakest part of my game) when knives came up; we quickly realized our mutual love of the Shun–and it was all about craftsmanship and feel. We even had a similar criticism: they need to be sharpened quite frequently. Still, that’s a small price to pay for the perfection of the way these babies handle. I believe that being so comfortable with them is the reason I’ve never cut myself while using one (plus always keeping a sharp edge, so you don’t need to force the knife to work). I did once lay open my thumb while cleaning the Santoku, but that’s another story.
Of course, this is less about a particular brand than it is about finding the perfect knives for yourself. Our hands are different sizes and strengths. Some folks like one knife for everything, some love a different blade for each job. The clear part to me is that the knife that suits you best, lasts the longest, and serves you best in the kitchen is going to cost a little extra–but then again, you’re worth it.