Learning to Cook

Learning to Cook

Learning to Cook with Homemade Gourmet:

What cooking knives are essential to have in your kitchen?


Knives. There are more knives in the world than there are cooks to use them. When starting to build a knife set, there are a few essential kitchen knives I find are “must-have” for most recipes:

  1. French or ‘chef’s knife’ – minimum 8”
  2. Utility knife or ‘paring knife’
  3. Bread Knife

The first two are fairly all-purpose, one for chopping, slicing, and mincing, the latter slicing, peeling, carving, and cutting, with the bread knife sort of self-explanatory. I also find, although not necessary for months or years later, that a good sharpener is a great investment to keep those blades sharp and functioning properly.

The Chef’s Knife (also “Cooks” Knife) is the most important of the tools you’ll own in your kitchen. It’ll be your go-to baby, doing most of your kitchen work. It’ll take a little time, but eventually the weight and feel of it will become second nature in your hand. You’ll use it to chop vegetables & herbs, slice steak, carve chickens, and you might even find yourself smacking around a coconut or two – really it has a use for just about anything you can think of.

  • Japanese blades from companies such as Shun Cutlery or Global are incredibly sharp and extremely precise.
  • Wusthof-Dreizack, an Austrian blade maker, carries incomparable weight; this heft will allow to crush & crack or even butcher meat.

These may be big steps to take for your first “real” knife however, which no one would hold against you. If this is the case, blades from makers such as Victorinox’s Forschner Fibrox series, Dexter-Russell, or even Cuisinart make fine starters that will not break the bank – a minimal investment until your skills improve and you can take things to the next level.

Now, a little more about the Paring Knife. During your culinary exploration you will most assuredly run into a task that only the experts can perform with a large standard knife, the most obvious of which is paring or peeling fruit and segmenting or sectioning citrus. Note: this is usually performed with a serrated version of the blade.

This leads us to cover the few styles of paring knives that exist and their various applications. Besides the serrated, there are:

  • Bird’s beak – made for peeling rounded fruits or carving vegetable garnishes
  • Straight edged or a more “classic” style – with the purpose for precision tasks like corning, mincing, peeling, dicing, and decorating

Ideally these paring knives are sharp and will easily rest in your hand for control.

The last, and perhaps the most overlooked, is the bread knife. There is truly no other knife that can perform its function. These are serrated, long and thin knives that will cut even the hardiest of breads with ease, but will do it without destroying it in the process. They are also great at leveling cakes! Personally, I use it when finishing up a Homemade Gourmet carrot cake and when applying our delicious White Chocolate Icing.

For any of these look for high-carbon stainless steel, it’ll help keep your edge sharpened longer, and the thinness of the blade will facilitate more intricate tasks. The secret to any great knife is sharpness after all. To keep it sharp invest in honing steel.






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