Do you feel your knives are your friends? Or enemies?
As Harry Potter has his trusted tools in his tool box, a kitchen wizard has some must-have items in hers or his.
A good Chef’s knife is a must in an efficient kitchen. I’ve cooked in other people’s kitchens, and the No. 1 stress-inducer and time-killer in these unknown kitchens is a lack of good knives, specifically a decent Chef’s knife. In many American kitchens, I’ve seen too many small, dull or strange-shaped knives which tends to cut fingers instead of food. Not good.
Every kitchen needs a good chef’s knife. Period. I know they are not cheap, but it’s well worth the money if you plan to cook — even periodically. These knives actually make cooking easier and more fun. You’ll save time and most of all, your daily headache. Spend some time to find what feels good in your hand, and don’t skimp on cost. A good knife is literary your life-long friend in your kitchen, and makes you a better cook too.
So if you don’t have one, get a Wusthof or Henckel, Santoku or Chef’s knife. Plan to spend about $100. You may find a better price at a commercial kitchen supply store or on-line. I love my Wusthof Santoku (the kind Rachel Ray uses.). It’s a hybrid of Santoku (Japanese style chef’s knife) and serrated knife, so the scalloped side allow you to cut through soft veggies like tomatoes and releases better. A chef’s knife requires a rocking motion, and with Santoku, you can cut thinner and smaller, but it’s a personal preference. Pick one that feels good in your hand, and ask the store clerk if you can at least mimic the chopping and slicing motions of all of your options.
If you don’t have a honing steel, get one to keep the edge sharp. If you have one in your set, use it regularly, if possible, daily. That alone will make your chopping tasks so much faster and easier.
Jacques Pepin once said in his show that all you need is a Chef’s knife and a paring knife. I agree. I have other knives, but I barely use them, except for a serrated knife for bread, once in a while. Spend most of your knife budget on Chef’s knife or Santoku.
Now the knife cannot do it’s job properly without a cutting board or mat. One of my pet peeves cooking at other peoples homes in the US is that their cutting board is often WAY too small! You need at least a large (18X24) or larger chopping boards for cutting things like a bunch of Swiss chard. Think about the time you waste on clearing and cleaning your chopping boards, or rolling rounds of carrots falling into the sink or floor! Pure frustration!
Now you can buy these cheap, flexible cutting mats everywhere. One advantage of these mats are, you can use several and don’t have to wash any till you are done. And carrying it over and putting the ingredients in to the pan is much easier, because it’s flexible.
Once you have both, you’ll be surprised how much easier it is to cook and prepare food. And cooking IS fun.
A first huge step toward becoming a Kitchen Wizard in your own kitchen!