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The Chef's Knife

As a chef, the equipment you use is an extension of you; how you directly interact with the food. From the professional chef to the casual home cook, a working knowledge of the tools of the trade can only make the cooking experience easier and more enjoyable. With this Gastronomical Gear series of blogs, we'll delve into myriad topics related to culinary tools.

First and foremost in any cook's arsenal is the knife. While there are numerous types of knives for many different jobs, the keystone to any knife kit is the Chef's Knife or Gyutou
There are volumes of arguments and debate over German vs. Japanese, this brand vs. that brand, and there are no right answers. What matters most is that you find a knife that fits you, and serves your purpose.

When asked what I would recommend, I steer people towards Japanese knives. While German Wusthof's and Henckels' of the world sell quite a few knives based on reputation, Japanese knives are the most advanced in terms of steel, quite varied in terms of purpose, and ultimately perform at a higher level than their German counterparts. There is however, more upkeep involved in a Japanese knife. If you'd like a less labor-intensive but heavier, less agile and certainly less sharp knife, German is for you. Don't forget, there are a lot more accidents with dull knives than sharp, so don't be scared of something exceptionally sharp. The longer I own Japanese knives and I work on my sharpening technique and skill, the more personal these knives become to me, and the more I really appreciate the craftsmanship and history involved in Japanese cutlery.

While the variety and surely the language differences can be overwhelming and possibly discouraging, there is an unanimous 'gateway' knife into the world of Japanese cutlery. The Tojiro line of knives are very affordable (Gyutou from $50-$80, quite competitive with their German counterparts,) very reliable and take a minimal amount of effort to learn and maintain. If you're looking to get into Japanese knives, your first purchase should be a Tojiro DP Gyutou. If you're concerned or wary of a larger knife, start small and move forward from there. This line of knives is available at Korin Trading Co. who offer great customer service and quick shipping. Korin also offers sharpening stones, instructional DVD's and years of experience.

If you're going to buy a Japanese knife, you should absolutely budget for a Sharpening Stone. I'd recommend, for a first-timer, a King 1000/6000 grit stone. It provides you with a medium and a fine stone for a reduced price and in half the space. With Japanese knives, you'll absolutely want to take the time to learn the basics of sharpening, as the results you'll achieve are more than worth it.

There are quite a few resources regarding knives (buying, sharpening, maintenance, etc.) Chad Ward's book An Edge in the Kitchen is a great tool for anyone interested in expanding their knowledge. There is also a very handy Knife Maintenance and Sharpening post by Chad on eGullet. If you're looking for advice, Foodie Forums or the In The Kitchen section of Blade Forums can connect you with many experts and enthusiasts willing to share their experience and knowledge.

I have several links to retailers and resources in the world of kitchen cutlery, and will gladly answer any questions (to the best of my knowledge) or point you in a direction of someone who can answer.

Again, there are no right answers, and your knife should be your choice and make you feel comfortable using it.

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