August 6, 2013
One kitchen tool can make or break a cooking experience: The right knife.
While you likely already have your cutlery essentials, such as a chef’s knife and a paring knife, there are many knives available that will take your culinary experience to the next level. Knives that will not only enhance your preparation skills, but will show that you have the right stuff.
All knives may have the same basic components; however, not all knives are created equal for all tasks. And there are some techniques that are simply better suited to a very specific type of blade. Here's a rundown of just a few of the specialty knives you can add to your well-outfitted kitchen.
Must-have specialty knives
Once you’ve gotten comfortable with your chef’s and paring knives, expand your cutlery options to include a few specialty knives to help you prepare and serve your finished meals with style.
- Steak knife. After all the work you put into selecting the perfect steaks, letting them marinate for optimum flavor and tenderness, then skillfully grilling them over an open fire, don’t lose your edge by serving your guests tantalizing steaks with dull knives. A good steak knife will enhance the enjoyment of your meal since no one will struggle to cut his or her steak with a dull knife—and possibly mistake the problem, thinking your meat is tough rather than your knife dull. Look for a serrated blade from a quality brand to spare your guests from having to tear apart your beautifully prepared food.
- Bread knife. Nothing’s more disappointing than baking a fluffy, mouthwatering loaf a bread, only to have a knife smash it as you try to cut slices from the loaf. The long, serrated blade of a bread knife easily cuts through your freshly baked bread so that it stays full-bodied and visually appealing.
- Carving knife. A good carving knife is essential for any chef hosting holiday gatherings with friends or relatives. Whether it’s a ham, turkey or beef roast, a carving knife will provide perfectly thin cuts of meat to serve at your feast. With the wrong knife, you could end up frustrated by your carving experience instead of enjoying the meal and the time with your family and friends.
For the skillful home chef with a varied menu
Learning to prepare new dishes is exciting. Often the more challenging foods or techniques are best suited to a specialized knife. Here are a few more that adventurous chefs will want.
- Oyster knife. Anyone who has enjoyed these flavorful mollusks will know that shucking an oyster is not easy. Poor technique and the wrong knife can leave you with sliced memories and hard feelings against what could otherwise be a delightful appetizer. A good oyster knife with a sturdy blade that resists bending will easily slice through the tendons that hold the shell closed and make the experience much more satisfying.
- Boning knife. These long, narrow blades are indispensable if you are going to remove the bones from any meat you are preparing. A boning knife comes in handy especially if you like to buy your protein fresh from the market or butcher, but don’t like the bones your locally sourced meat contains. Choose a boning knife with a stiff blade that doesn’t fall apart when using beef or pork. Use a lighter, more flexible, boning knife to de-bone fish or poultry.
- Filet knife. If you’re de-boning your own meat, chances are you may want to make your own filet cuts. Most commonly used for fresh fish, the filet knife can also be used for poultry. The blade is thin and flexible, making it ideal for delicate meats. Filet knives also come in handy if you are preparing your own lunchmeats as a fresher alternative to the ones purchased at the grocery store. The ultra-sharp blade makes very thin cuts—perfect for making sandwiches.
Miscellaneous knives for all occasions
There are a few other specialty knives for you to consider as you stock the kitchen of your dreams.
- Cheese knives. When it comes to cheese knives, there is more than one kind and it all depends on the type of cheese you’re serving. Look for sets that include a knife with a sharp, thicker blade for hard cheeses, a wire knife or a very thin bladed knife for making clean cuts into soft varieties, and a cheese spreader to neatly top crackers with super soft or runny cheeses.
- Nakiri and Santoku knives: These knives are similar to a chef’s knife in that they are champion vegetable processors. A Nakiri knife boasts a rectangular, super-sharp, straight edge for cutting anything from summer tomatoes to winter squash. Santoku knives are either beveled or hollow ground.
- Cimeter knife: This distinctive, traditional curved blade knife allows precise slicing of large meats, roasts and turkey and is a sought-after cutlery tool at barbecue events.
- Mezzaluna knife: A Mezzaluna knife is an Italian kitchen tool named after its shape: Mezza means “half” and luna means “moon.” It works with a handy rocking motion chopping and mincing small foods like herbs, onions, and shallots. (Pictured in this blog's banner image.)
- Deli knife: Slice cleanly and effortlessly through crisp, crusty bread, thick paninis, even tomatoes and meats with a deli knife. The wavy serrated edge of this knife, with the offset handle to allow for ample knuckle room, enables you to cut all the way down to the cutting board.
Other than the chef in the kitchen, knives may be the most important tools you own—so how do you choose them wisely? Check out our blogs on knives here at CHEFS Mix.
Your turn: What is the best knife you've ever owned? What specialty knives do you have?
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