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Living with a small kitchen: cutlery - The Fucking Bluebird of Goddamn Happiness [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Zoethe

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Living with a small kitchen: cutlery [Sep. 14th, 2011|11:47 am]
Zoethe
Most writings on this topic will tell you that all you really need is a good chef's knife, a 12" skillet, and a stock pot, and you can cook most anything.

That's reasonably true, but unless your kitchen consists of two burners and a minifridge, you're probably going to need a little more that. Let's open the cabinets in my kitchen and see what I've got, starting with the sharps:



Knives: These are one of people's favorite things to buy in sets - the more massive the set, the better. The other day I saw a set of 35 Wusthof knives, all tucked neatly into a knife block about the size of a stump. My gut reaction? OMG, we wants it, Precious!!! And why not? Knives are shiny, and useful, and look so damned impressive on the counter. If I had 3 large to drop on complete frivolities, those knives would be a real temptation.

But the reality is that of the 5 knives we have in our knife block (not counting the steak knives), I only make daily use of one, and regular use of 3. Unless you bake bread, you probably only need two. So make them two of the best knives you can find. Go for a high quality brand like Wusthof or Henckels. Yes, you're going to pay close to $100 for one knife, but the quality is completely worth the price. The first knife you need is a good chef's knife. In that 35-knife set, 4 of the knives were chef's knives in assorted sizes. You will probably want an 8" knife, the most common size (measures are of blade length). Much smaller than that and the knife is too short for the classic rocking motion for which chef's knives are designed. A 10" knife is scary and will make you feel uncomfortable like Jack Torrence. Go to a good cookware store and ask to handle the knives. If the blade compels you to break through a door and yell, "Honey, I'm home!" it's too long a blade for you.

(Santuko knives are gaining popularity as a companion to or even a substitute for a chef's knife. These knives originated in Japan and have a narrower blade. I haven't obtained one yet, so I have no opinion to share, but you might want to consider it as an alternative to the chef's knife.)

Second knife you need is a paring knife. A 3-4" knife designed for the in-hand work of peeling and small cuts, such as removing the eyes from potatoes. If you are using your paring knife for much chopping-type work, you are working too hard. I only use my occasionally, but when I need it, I'm glad to have one.

From there? You will want a good serrated bread knife if you bake bread. They are also really good for carving meats, though I'll deny ever using my bread knife for that. (Actually, I have a cheap bread knife I keep around strictly for carving, so I can legitimately deny using my good bread knife for carving.)

The rest of those knives in that big block? Would probably never see any use in my kitchen. I have a 6" utility knife, and I use it strictly for slashing breads right before baking. It's useful that because it's super sharp. Because I don't use it for anything else.

Sharpening steel: Get one. Learn to use it. It will increase the lifespan of your blade. A steel doesn't actually sharpen a knife. It realigns the edge so that the blade is smooth, but your blades will eventually need to be professionally resharpened. (I don't recommend a home sharpener because they can get misaligned and wreck havoc on your blades.)

Kitchen shears: OMG, these are the best invention in the world. I would give up my paring knife before I'd part with my kitchen shears. We're not talking about a pair of scissors; these are the take-apart shears with thick, black handles. They are the best tool for cutting up a whole chicken, for cutting a pizza, for snipping herbs into small bits. I have two pair - the crappy ones in the drawer that I use for cutting open packages, and my good Wusthofs that I use only for food.Use them and you will love them.

Knife block, magnetic knife holder: Now that you've spent all this money, for heavens sake don't just chuck those blades in a drawer. Protect your investment. Knife blocks take up precious counter space, but a magnetic strip can do on the side of your fridge and keep those blades out of harms way. Also, NO DISHWASHERS! Hand wash those knives immediately. Don't be tossing them into the sink, where they can get bent or chips and be a threat to your fingers.

Next: cookware (honestly, this time)

Crossposting from Dreamwidth now. Sigh. If LJ won't let you comment, you can comment here: http://zoethe.dreamwidth.org/783653.html?mode=reply:
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: seicat
2011-09-14 03:53 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I was just going through the kitchen trying to figure out what I do and don't need and what to put on the wish list. Second opinions are awesome!
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-09-14 04:13 pm (UTC)
Glad to be a help!
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[User Picture]From: kuangning
2011-09-14 04:56 pm (UTC)
Believe it or not (I would not have believed it myself before I used them) I have a cheap set of Ginsu knives that I love like bread and salt. I wanted Wusthof; I even own a single Wusthof paring knife ... and I do not use it, because I invariably reach for the Ginsu instead.

I expected utter crap; I got wonderful heft, amazing sharpness, and knives that have survived nine months of my family's abuse/neglect -- they ought to be completely ruined, as often as my parents use them and drop them in the sink, but they are not. (I do hand wash, so they don't sit in a dishwasher, but still... my parents are the horrifying people who own a drawer full of knives with shattered handles, missing bolts, chipped blades, flattened spots on the backs of the blades from using a rolling pin or an actual hammer to force the knives through bone and the like -- I'd never have trusted them with expensive knives.) If I thought I could get them on the plane, I'd be taking my knives with me to Australia. So if you can't afford $100 for a knife, you can go for these; they will absolutely get the job done and you'll probably never miss a thing.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-09-14 05:35 pm (UTC)
Wow, I'm amazed. Good to know!
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[User Picture]From: khiron1416
2011-09-14 04:57 pm (UTC)
the santuko knife has a straight, flat edge designed to cut raw fish first and everything else second. They rose in popularity with the rise of sushi in the US (they are what sushi cooks use) If you are not a master of the rolling cut you will probably do just as well with a chef's knife as a santuko.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-09-14 05:37 pm (UTC)
I am seeing them more and more on cooking shows, so have a certain amount of curiosity, but not enough to spend any actual money.
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[User Picture]From: kehrli
2011-09-14 06:33 pm (UTC)
I have the left-over old knives that my parents gave me. Some of them are long enough that I think they might be better classified as short swords.

I would try to get rid of them, but haven't just in case of zombies. Just. In. Case.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-09-14 07:13 pm (UTC)
I actually have a couple short swords.

Just in case....
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[User Picture]From: dacuteturtle
2011-09-14 07:38 pm (UTC)
That's pretty accurate for a small kitchen. (By my standards, you have a luxurious kitchen. Look at your sink, then to either side of your sink. That's what we have.)

This post begs sharpening thingies. You don't have to keep em in your kitchen, but you do need a thingie to sharpen your knives. Watch YouTube videos, learn how to sharpen, then buy sharpening thingie. (There are many sharpening thingies. Odds are, you already have a sharpening thingie. Good knives + bad sharpening thingies = make Jesus cry. Trust me, he was a carpenter.)

My wife has taken to using a santuko knife. She'll use it over everything. When she moved in, we went knife shopping and she chose that one. I must say, they are nice. I love slicing bread with them, as its really easy to get good, long vertical cuts.

My long knife only gets used for holidays. My fillet knife never comes out. The small serrated knife gets used for deboning. Both paring knives are always dirty, so I would suggest a second paring knife. You always misplace those pesky little things.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-09-14 10:27 pm (UTC)
I do need to get sharpening thingies and learn to do it right.

And I do know that it's a relatively luxurious kitchen. I appreciate it very much. But compared to the kitchens of some, it's little. And hey, I need an excuse to babble. ;-)

I may ask for a santuko knife for Christmas. I am pretty curious about them.

It's interesting the difference in knife usage. My mother had to have at least paring knives in the kitchen and I don't use mine that much.
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[User Picture]From: mariadkins
2011-09-14 08:23 pm (UTC)
i'd be lost without my kitchen scissors.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-09-14 10:27 pm (UTC)
They are the best thing ever.
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[User Picture]From: rain_herself
2011-09-14 09:13 pm (UTC)
I have no actual comments, just wanted to say I am loving this series. :)
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-09-14 10:28 pm (UTC)
I'm glad for the feedback! I don't want to bore people.
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[User Picture]From: losgunna
2011-09-14 09:49 pm (UTC)
The Cooking Gadget Nerd would like to add a few words about knives :)

Henckels and Wusthof are quite nice. If you want 'em even sharper, look at Shun. They are literally sharper, being sharpened to a 15 degree angle rather than a 20 degree that the German's are sharpened to. The Classic line runs about the same as the Wusthof Classic and the Henckels Pro, but you can get some that are freaking amazing for easily 3x that price. I would give my first born for a few of the Fuji line, should I thought I'd actually ever want to give birth. All of that said, the one thing that I totally preach whenever I'm selling knives is that if it is not comfortable, then don't buy it!!! It doesn't matter what it looks like in the block...go totally for comfort. If a knife is not comfortable, it's dangerous.

I do agree with the chef's knife, paring knife and bread knife. The ones that I cannot live without also are my 6" serrated slicer (great for fruits, rolls, tomatoes, etc.), and my birds beak paring knife. That's the funky little curved blade paring knife that makes cutting stuff in your hand SO easy!

(keep in mind...this is being written by the full-time Williams-Sonoma employee....so I'll admit to maybe having Opinions :)
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-09-14 10:30 pm (UTC)
I couldn't possibly work at Williams-Sonoma. I would be bankrupt with a fabulously equipped kitchen.

Shun is that line of Asian knives I haven't tried. I will have to add to my Christmas list.
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[User Picture]From: pixievixen
2011-09-15 12:12 am (UTC)
i got one of these for xmas last year, and hardly ever use anything else.

i also have low-end henckles in a block, and aside from the thebread knife & occasionally the paring knife... i barely touch them. i have 2 sizes of low-end henckle santuko knives as well, but they sadly hang out on the magnet strip feeling inferior to the miyabi.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-09-15 11:59 am (UTC)
The santuko knives are definitely gaining popularity. Thanks for the review.
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[User Picture]From: kagomeshuko
2011-09-15 12:55 am (UTC)
I know WAAAY too much about this stuff. I could sell you expensive CutCo stuff as long as I got my Rep # activated again. A week of training and buying a demo set for finding out that the office didn't do as it promised was not fun at all.

I can now just tell you all about good knives. I wrote an article, but that only got paid a little over $5 for the article and now I only get about 3 cents in views for this one article every month or two. - A Guide to Buying Cutlery
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-09-15 12:26 pm (UTC)
I'd heard that there were issues with the way Cutco does business. Thanks for the link!
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-09-15 12:30 pm (UTC)
Thanks. Good to know!
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[User Picture]From: kisekinotenshi
2011-09-17 12:05 am (UTC)
Thank you! I am hoping to convince my father to get me a good knife for my birthday or Christmas. I only have four knives and they're cheap pieces of shit that don't cut anything. It's amazing I haven't hurt myself on them, to be honest. I really want to be able to buy whole carrots and peel them without taking my life into my hands. I used to have a nice bread knife, but it got lent out and I never saw it again...
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-09-17 04:27 am (UTC)
Lending knives?! NEVER!!! Don't do that!!
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[User Picture]From: cosmicbandit
2011-09-17 02:24 am (UTC)
We have Chicago Cutlery that we got when we got married 22 years ago. They still work well. I've only ever hand washed them because of the wood handles. I'm also a cretin who uses steak knives for quite a bit. I rarely touch my paring knife.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-09-17 04:30 am (UTC)
Cared for, knives will last pretty much forever.

But, steak knives? I look askance upon thee!! ;-)
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[User Picture]From: daemonnoire
2011-09-21 07:03 pm (UTC)
Adam swears by his santukos. And then he swears at me for using the paring knives to chop, rather than the santukos. They're just so big and unwieldy! I really need a 6 or 7" knife with a nice ergonomic handle.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-09-21 07:09 pm (UTC)
Ergonomics are everything. And personal.
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