If you love to cook, you deserve a proper chef’s knife

This is You Won’t Regret It, a weekly column featuring recommendations, tips, and unsolicited advice from the Mashable culture team.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a professional chef or a novice in the kitchen — either way, a proper chef’s knife is an essential. 

Every time I’m invited over for a meal at a friend’s house, I know I will inevitably have to bare witness to meals being prepared with a variety of small and useless knives — no doubt from a knife set. 

Watching someone chop mushrooms with a fish knife, or slice a potato with a bread knife is the visual equivalent of nails on a chalkboard to me. It stirs a physical and painful reaction within and I find myself losing a tiny bit of faith in my pal. 

Is this an extreme and pretentious overreaction? Yes, of course it is. But that doesn’t mean that I’m wrong!

I am by no means a professional chef or expert gastronomist. I’ve taken a couple cooking classes, I read Bon Appétit religiously, and as a New Yorker I try to take advantage of the bevy of culinary experiences the city has to offer. So far, the most important bit of information I’ve gleaned from my years of culinary obsession is the importance of one thing: a chef’s knife.

A chef’s knife is a “utility knife”

The chef’s knife is the only one needed to make a great meal. Of course, you may on occasion need a bread knife, or a steak knife for dining. But I guarantee once you have a chef’s knife you will find it is your go-to cooking utensil. Unless my kitchen is frightfully dirty and my good knife is at the bottom of the sink, I am preparing food with it.

And if my opinion is meaningless to you (and it probably is,) take it from the late great Anthony Bourdain, who expounded on the importance of the chef’s knife in his memoir Kitchen Confidential:

“I wish sometimes I could go through the kitchens of amateur cooks everywhere just throwing knives out from their drawers — all those medium-size ‘utility’ knives, those useless serrated things you see advertised on TV, all that hard-to-sharpen stainless steel garbage, those ineptly designed slicers — not one of the damn things could cut a tomato.

Please believe me, here’s all you will ever need in the knife department: ONE good chefs knife, as large as is comfortable for your hand.”

I understand that a very sharp, very large knife can seem intimidating, but with just a little bit of practice, I promise you’ll start to see the benefits.

Dicing and julienning your veggies will be a breeze. You’ll be able to delicately filet fish, split a chicken cutlet in half, and struggle a little less when cutting through tougher ingredients, like watermelons and gourds. 

Picking your chef’s knife

According The Kitchn, a chef’s knife is generally eight to ten inches in length, its blade sloping from wide to narrow at an angle of between 20 and 22 degrees.

Selecting a chef’s knife can be a daunting task, especially if you’ve never purchased one before. But fear not! There are many knife-buying guides online, and this video from Epicurious likely has answers to many of your questions:

Chef’s knives, because of their versatility and longevity (assuming you take good care of it, of course) can be a worthy investment. But, if you (like me) do not have the money to spend on an expensive knife, there are some amazing inexpensive alternatives out there.

To bring it back to Bourdain again, the master restauranteur told the Daily Meal last year that he recommended a chef’s knife from Global as a starter knife — which can be found for $124.95 on Amazon.

This could be your beautifully cut squash if you get your act together.

This could be your beautifully cut squash if you get your act together.

If that still sounds a little pricey, take a look at the Victorinox 8-inch knife (also available on Amazon) priced at a very reasonable $44.90, and a steal compared to the $169 Wüsthof knife sold at Williams Sonoma. I used the Victorinox knife at a friend’s house this past year and was blown away by its sharp blade and affordable price.

As for me, I use a Zwilling Pro Traditional 8-inch Chef’s Knife. It’s a little on the pricey side, but I’ve had it for close to seven years now and it still works like a charm. 

It’s always ideal to try out a knife and see how it feels in your hand before you purchase it. Unfortunately, not all of us have the time to do extensive research while shopping for knives, and if you’ve gone this long using a fish knife to chop your veggies, you might as well just order your knife on Amazon. (And if you’re feeling especially bold, purchase yourself a blade sharpener to preserve your new toy.)

I wish you well on your knife journey and hope you are blessed with many thinly sliced cucumbers and beautifully chopped herbs. 

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