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Buying a Chef's knife

There are endless choices when shopping for a kitchen knife. It seems that the list grows each day. Before deciding on a pretty color or endorsed by celebrity brand take a minute to evaluate what you really want the knife to do.

Are you looking for something to dress up your counter or dress up your dinner?

Most professionals tend to stay with just a few narrow choices when it comes to the tools of the trade. My current selection is mainly Mundial, although I have and do use the Dexter\Russell Connoisseur and Wusthof lines.

First is function, go for Forged High Carbon Stainless Steel. Forged is made from a single piece of metal and usually cost a little more. You can give up the worries of staining foods, rusting in the drawer and tetanus shots. You want a heavy weight stainless, not the flimsy type. This will be the workhorse of the kitchen.

Second choose a weight, length and thickness that suits you style of wielding. I prefer a heavy, full tang (thats the part that includes the handle area and the bolster between the handle and cutting edge) and an 8-10 inch blade that is firm\stiff for general working. For paring, peeling and such you can get a light weight flexible blade that will serve you well. Some Chefs prefer a high quality parer; where as some like the cheap disposable style, just find one thats comfortable.

Third, I would say just stay away from the faddish, comes with wooden block, all metal, and never needs sharpening kind of knife. If you choose a high quality comfortable knife and use it regularly you can expect to get many years of use. I sharpen mine maybe once a year, but use a steel (a steel trues the blade similar to how a barber strap does a razor) every time I use the knife. The steel will correct the blade and make the knife perform well for you each time it is used. We stress that a sharp knife will not cut you but a dull one will. This is based on the amount of effort used with a dull knife to perform verses the seamless production you get with a sharp knife.

And my last note to you would be to wash by hand every time and buy a plastic cover or sheath and protect it in that drawer when not in use.

Chef Ed Ellis, chef instructor for the Southern Indiana Career and Technical Center


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