Get a set of great kitchen knives and you’ll instantly be a better cook—everything you cut will look terrific. Dull blades don’t let you slice finely or crisply. They’re also dangerous—they require more force, which can lead to slips and cuts. (When was the last time you sharpened your knives? Look in your Yellow Pages directory or ask at your local hardware store for a blade-sharpening service.)
If you’re going to invest in a set of knives, don’t skimp: You may only buy them once in a lifetime, so get the best, even if that means starting with just the five basic blades. What are the best brands? There are old standards, and new ones come onto the market each year as technology improves.
The new ceramic blades win raves although they require more care. If you use knives a lot, consider ergonomic handles.
Gorgeous Shun knives, licensing a design by
master bladesmith Bob Kramer, are available
at Sur La Table and Williams Sonoma. They’re definitely not recession priced; if you have to
ask, you can’t afford them.
Read all the reviews you can, and ask chefs and caterers. Remember that people have different hand and arm strengths; a knife that feels good in one person’s hand may not be right for another.
Before investing in a entire set, purchase the knife you use most and see how you like it after a few weeks of use.
Look for an excellent warranty.
Don’t fall for celebrity endorsements; they don’t ensure top quality (although they don’t preclude it, either).
Unless you’re a fanatic about care, leave the high-maintenance carbon steel to the professionals.
Call a store that sells numerous brands, like Sur La Table, and ask to speak to the head of the knife department. Make an appointment when he or she will have the time discuss your needs in detail, and make recommendations.
Even if you’ve been cooking for years, consider taking a knife skills course. We took one at the Institute of Culinary Education in New York City, and learned a tremendous amount. Call your local cooking school; you’ll meet like-minded food enthusiasts. You can also take (or send) a friend as a special birthday or holiday gift.