The Makings of a Healthful Kitchen (Part 6)

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How much can you say about knives? Well, enough that I wanted to follow up on last week’s posting. (Thanks to our readers for all their knife recommendations!)

I decided to ask my cousin, Greg, who is a chef, what types of knives to have on hand. Here is his list of “must haves”:

  • A chef’s knife: a versatile, do-it-all knife
  • A boning knife: for breaking down meats
  • A slicing knife
  • A bread knife
  • A paring knife: for small, detailed work

So, I think I was on the right track last week in terms of knives to have in your kitchen. My cousin also recommended several brands of knives. Please remember this is not an endorsement for any particular brand; there are also other brands out there. These are just what my chef cousin has in his bag:

  • Wüsthof
  • Global
  • Henckels
  • Forschner

Remember that knives can be expensive, but good knives should last you a lifetime. I checked out Forschner’s Web site and their knives are really quite reasonably priced.

Specialty Knives
So maybe you have the basic knives on hand, but you’re curious about specialty knives. If so, read on:

  • Santoku knife. The Japanese word “santoku” means “three virtues,” which, when it comes to this knife, means that it’s great for chopping, dicing, and mincing. A santoku knife is usually about 5–9 inches long, with a beveled edge that helps with cutting. Most santoku knives have a scalloped blade that prevents food from sticking after slicing. These knives are great for chopping vegetables and slicing cheese, tomatoes, and meat. I have a santoku and absolutely love it.
  • Nakiri knife. A nakiri knife is usually a rectangular knife with a thin blade good for precisely and quickly cutting vegetables and boneless meats. This knife is meant to be used with a forward motion, rather than a rocking motion.
  • Chinese cleaver. This is a broad, sharp-edged, versatile knife that pounds and tenderizes meat, cuts meat, and smashes garlic and ginger. Its blade can be used to move food from the cutting board to the pan. A Chinese cleaver isn’t as heavy as a regular cleaver, so it’s not really meant for cutting bones. Also, it’s important to choose a cleaver that isn’t too heavy so that you don’t strain your arm.

Do you need these knives? Probably not. But they might make cooking a little easier (and more enjoyable).

Caring for Knives
Once you have your set of knives, start using them! But also learn how to best care for them. Obviously, clean your knives after each use, using hot, soapy water. Dry them well. Don’t put them in the dishwasher. Purchase a diamond steel for honing your knives to help keep the edge from rolling to either side. (For instructions on how to properly hone a knife, check out this video on Real Simple‘s Web site.)

If you use your knives frequently, you’ll probably need to sharpen them 1–2 times a year. Sharpening isn’t the same as honing. When a knife is sharpened, the blade gets ground down to form a “v.” Get your knives professionally sharpened — ask a chef, your local butcher, or a kitchen store where to go. Also, use a wooden or plastic cutting board to prevent wearing down of the blade (avoid glass, marble, and ceramic cutting boards).

Storing Knives
Protect your investment by properly storing your knives. Tossing them into a kitchen drawer can damage and dull the blade, and it also poses a safety hazard. There are several ways to safeguard your knives, including using a knife block (Messermeister sells a knife block that is magnetized), hanging your knives on a magnetic strip on your wall, or inserting a cutlery organizer into your kitchen drawer.

Bottom line, if you treat your knives well, they’ll reward you with many years of happy, healthful cooking!

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