For decades now, many of us have relied on truly immense cutlery sets to overcome every culinary challenge we encounter as amateur chefs. Virtually every knife that’s ever been created exists within these collections—small ones, large ones, sharp ones, serrated ones. If you can dream up some variation of the classic kitchen knife, odds are, it’s already been invented—and you can find it in that $100, 15-piece cutlery set you spotted at your go-to retailer.
The shocker? We don’t need most of those knives. OK, you’ve probably already surmised that. It’s not that much of a surprise to learn that you don’t really need all 15 of the knives that came in your cutlery set. The actual shocker, though, is that you might only need one of them.
This fact was foreign to me until two years ago, when I began dating someone who’d spent his college years working in restaurant kitchens. He quickly taught me that most of the knives I owned were unnecessary. And the one genuinely helpful knife I did own was going under-used (and under-appreciated).
As it turns out, the chef’s knife—that sharp, tapered knife that, in size, probably dominates the rest of the cutlery you own—is a beautiful thing. It’s fit for everything from carving meat to mincing garlic. And it can even do the work of some of the more specialized knives in a standard cutlery set; it can slice fruit as masterfully as any tiny paring knife, and it can cut through bread as efficiently as any serrated blade.
It’s fit for everything from carving meat to mincing garlic. And it can even do the work of some of the more specialized knives in a standard cutlery set.
What’s nice, too, is that chef’s knives aren’t excessively expensive—at least, they don’t have to be. Whereas your average comprehensive cutlery set will run you about $100, a professional-grade chef’s knife will run you a mere $65. Sure, if you opt for one knife rather than a set of 15 knives, your price per knife is bound to be a lot higher ($65 vs. $6). But you’re still getting everything you need—and saving $35 in the process. Plus, you’re cutting down on clutter, which is invaluable when kitchen space is limited.
Once you’ve bought your restaurant-worthy chef’s knife, be sure to take proper care of your new essential. Put simply, you’ll want to keep your blade as sharp as possible, because—believe it or not—sharper knives are actually safer to use than dull ones (they give you, the chef, more control).
For starters, you’ll want to hand-wash and -dry your knife right after use whenever possible. Realistically, you’ll end up breaking this rule every now and then—but don’t skip out on it if you’ve just cut something acidic, like a lemon or tomato, because acid can dull your knife fast. You’ll also want to avoid using your knife on hard surfaces whenever you can. Trade your glass cutting board for one crafted from a softer material, like teak wood or silicone—both of which are less likely to dull your blade.
Finally, you’ll want to sharpen your knife any time it’s looking dull. (A good rule of thumb: If your knife can’t easily slice through a sheet of paper, it’s probably too dull.) Thankfully, Misen offers free lifetime sharpening to all its customers. So instead of having to learn how to sharpen a knife yourself, you can simply send your knife to Misen and let them take care of the hard stuff.
Oh, and if this whole huge, if the sharp blade thing scares you, don’t worry. Take 10 minutes to peruse YouTube for basic knife skills videos, and you’ll be wielding that thing like a pro in no time.