Basic Kitchen Knives

Friday February 26, 2016

classic wooden handle

What knives do I need to own?

There is a saying that there are more style and types of knives than food to prepare with them. There are more knife styles, knife companies, knife price points than there are recipes that need them.  Even before the fork and spoon, man has had a knife.  Knives are universal across cultures. There are only two basic parts to the knife:  The blade and the handle.  Rudimentary?  Yes.  But within each of the two parts, there are more varieties than you would think and more parts than you know.
We have chosen our favorites from Germany France and Japan. To start cooking, you need a knife. For a German knife, I prefer the St Moritz series from Messermeister.  The classic styling and craftsmanship of Aine and Perrier in France make this our favortie Sabatier brand.  We even have several sizes of their knives in carbon steel.  The Classic Series from Shun in Japan remains a favorite for Asian knives.
Knife choice or selection is determined by many factors–size, function, style, and preference. The most important factor is function. Different knives have different uses. It is important to use the proper knife for a specific task, since proper knife selection and the use of a proper-sized, sharp knife make for safe cutting. General kitchen tasks and the knife to use for them are as follows:

The Handle: This is really where the variety in knives comes through.  In the past, handles were bone or wood, but now, there are endless options.  You can even special order knives of whatever material you’d like.  But for the kitchen, we’ll focus on three basic types:

Wood handles. For kitchen knives, this is the most traditional.  They do require extra care, as over time, if you put them in the dishwasher, the handles will dry out, crack and break.  I have to say, though, I’ve not been as nice as I should have been to my Chicago Cutlery knives I got for my first wedding back in 1978, and they’re still as sharp and nice as they were the day we opened them.
Ceramic handles. These often are made from the same material as the blades, but that also means they’re very hard and difficult to use over a long period of time, such as if you’re cutting a lot of vegetables for soup.
Plastic/rubber handles. Quite a few knife manufacturers are now using spongy-type rubber handles to make the knife easier to on the hands.  Others are using hardened plastic on the handle, which has a softer feel than the ceramic, more like the feel of the wood handles and they last longer.

Paring: The most common to own and use, a paring knife is generally for small cutting jobs and peeling of vegetables or fruit. The blade size is usually from three to four inches. Choose the shape and size to fit your hand. Since this is one of the more versatile knives, owning more than one is recommended.

Chef’s: The most important tool and essential to every cook, a chef‘s knife is most often used in a rocking method to mince, dice, and chop vegetables and herbs. This one is known as the chef’s best friend. It comes in different sizes.

Slicer: Most commonly used to slice meats, poultry, and seafood, the slicer is an important companion to any host or hostess.

Boning: As its name suggests, a boning knife is used to trim or remove meat and fish from the bone.

Bread: Serrated: An edge designed with small, jagged teeth along the edge. Designed with a special edge, a bread knife makes easy work of cutting through crusty bread, pastries, or any item with a crust and a soft interior.

Cleaver: An important addition to any collection if you butcher meat, a Chinese style cleaver is often used to cut or chop through bones.

Utility: An all-purpose knife often referred to as a sandwich knife, the utility knife peels and slices fruits and vegetables, and even carves small meats. Get a size that fits your hand comfortably. there are also mandolines, sissors, steak knife sets.

The purchase of your knives is the easy part but when it comes to taking care of your knives, it can be a matter of life and death – well, maybe not literally but it can make the difference between knife safety and having to hack apart a tomato.  How you take care of your kitchen knives can also have an impact on how long they’re usable and whether or not you’re fighting against the cut.  With that in mind, here are some tips on giving your knives a long life:

Store your knives in a knife block or within sheaths in the drawer to protect the blades and prevent cuts from reaching into the drawer.
Hand-wash your knives after each use.  Putting knives in the dishwasher can damage to the blades and dry out the handles.
If you’re using a carbon-steel knife, it’s important to keep it dry and oiled with food-grade mineral oil.
Keep your knives sharp.  Each time you reach for a knife, reach for the steel or sharpener as well, and keep the blades in tip-top shape.  Sharp knives make quick work of veggies, etc. and are safer; dull knives require more work to make the same cuts and can slip, resulting in injury.
Use a wood or plastic cutting board; cutting boards made of other materials can dull your knives quickly and can also cause other damage to the blades.
Use the correct knife for the correct purpose; don’t use a fillet knife to pare carrots or potatoes.
It should go without saying, but I need to say it – hold the knife by the handle only, not by the blade; otherwise, you can expect to hurt yourself.
Immediately replace any knife that won’t hold it’s edge or that’s damaged.
Hand knives to others very carefully, handle side toward the person you’re handing it to.  Better yet, set the knife down and let the other person pick it up.
Teach your children knife safety and ensure they’re not using knives without adult supervision.

What are the different knife edges and what do they do?

Straight: The vast majority of Victorinox knives come with a straight or fine edge. This means it has a perfect taper along the blade and no serrations. It is designed to cut without tearing or shredding.

Today there are as many inexpensive knives and knife sets with molded plastic handles that are of exceptional quality as there are the classic, expensive knives.There are only three kinds of knives you need to have to do 90% of everything. And if you can’t get all three, just get the first one.the chef;s knife,paring knife, and serrated bread knife.

I decided I needed a new all purpose knife. I looked and found that the German manufacturer Messermeister has created these smaller stamped blades, callled Petite Messers, for casual kitchen uses. They are light weight and have smaller, yet very ergonomic handles. These are perfect for traveling to beach houses, RV’s and camping, and also for beginning teenage cooks and women with small hands. This granton edge santoku knife has a bright orange handle which makes it easy to locate in a busy drawer.German manufacturer Messermeister has created these smaller stamped blades, Petite Messers, for casual kitchen uses. They are light weight and have smaller, yet very ergonomic handles with classic shapes. This chef’s knife has a bright green handle wich makes it easy to locate in a busy drawer.  I’ve read, on more than one website, that their quality surpasses that of Henckels and Wusthof. I believe it. they feel great in the hand and cut perfectly. Sabatier, you won’t go wrong with a Messermeister and of all the German knives it is my favorite.  My Messermeister also is the most comfortable to hold. I was so surprised to receive it and it was so sturdy. the handle is fantastic. fits the hand perfectly. I got a 5 inch chef knife and the santoku knife which is a favorite with any girlfirend who comes into the kitchen. and the price is incredible…$20 each.

Recipe and text copyright Beth Hensperger 2016

Please enjoy the recipe and make it your own. If you copy the recipe and text for internet use, please include my byline and link to my site.

I bought my Petite Messer from La Cuisine, the Cook’s Resource, of Virginia. They are also available from

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