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Confessions of a Chef’s Wife A Blog Series by Leslee McGowan Part IV: Big Knife for a Big Man...

“You’re going to spend how much on one knife?”

I couldn’t believe it! $150 on a knife? You’ve got to be kidding me. (As a side note, I thought nothing of dropping $50 on a moisturizer that lasts a month…but please, people, wrinkles last a lifetime...so that’s another story.) I think we had been dating a month when Rob bought his super fancy Chef’s knife. I had no idea how much they cost but being in the new girlfriend role, I decided to keep my mouth shut (sort of). But now I understand. You know why? You really only need one knife in the kitchen but it had better be a good one….and it’s going to cost you. Bring your checkbook.

So instead of buying all of the little gadgets that do all kinds of different individual functions, you can actually just buy one high-quality chef’s knife that will take care of all of your slicing and dicing needs. Rob bought his Chef’s knife in 2002 and has used it every day of his life both personally and professionally since then. He learned how to sharpen it properly and take care of it. It has only been in the last few months that he had to break down and buy a new one. He bought the exact same knife. If you look at the pic, you will see the wear and tear of the old knife vs. the new knife (they were both the same size) but it has served him well. 18 years or 6,570 days. Probably a good purchase at .023 (rounded up) cents per day.

This lesson could not have become more apparent as I was returning some of the holiday presents that I had received from my mom that year. My mom was the queen of “as seen on TV” presents. She loved to buy all of the gadgets. She was what marketing professionals call an “Early Adapter.” She had to HAVE the newest gadget and GIVE the newest gadget. This was totally counter-intuitive to Rob’s way of living. He is a minimalist. Also, keep in mind, we were about to move across the country to an 800 sq. foot apartment. There was certainly no room for the Magic Meatball Maker (which honestly, I kind of wish I had today!), the Pizza Pizzaz, or the ever-popular Nutri-Chopper.

Today’s Confession of a Chef’s Wife: don't be like me and have a million gadgets. Be like Rob and purchase a Chef’s knife, a knife sharpener (Rob uses a King Wet Stone 1000/6000 grit and a Ceramic Steel) and take a hot minute to learn and practice your basic knife skills…. they will serve you well. And it gets easier the more you practice. I’m sort of shocked at myself that I know how to chop an onion semi-well, but that really only happened after I got my first Chef’s knife. Your Chef’s Knife will make you feel like a pro! There’s a reason why professional chefs use them.

There are a few other knives that will come in handy that a Chef’s knife cannot replace:

Serrated Bread Knife

That’s it. Just a serrated bread knife.

If you want to do more intricate knife work, you may want to purchase a Paring Knife and if you do a lot of fish skinning, you will need a Fillet Knife. Otherwise, your Chef’s Knife will do the job for all things slicing, dicing, brunoising, chiffonading, julienning, and so on (as an aside I’m virtually certain I’m not supposed to add -ing to these fancy French knife skills but you get the point).

Ok, you get it…. you need a Chef’s Knife. Now, which one do you buy? Here are the two main styles of Chef’s Knives and their differences:

The Chef’s Knife

The Chef’s Knife typically has a broad blade tapering upward to a point, allowing the knife to rock back and forth for fast mincing. It can be anywhere between 6 and 12 inches long— the size is often chosen with consideration to how big the cook’s hands are.

A chef’s knife can be forged or stamped because it has to endure frequent use, it usually comes with a full tang— the bottom part of its blade extends to the whole length and width of the knife handle. This ensures better stability and durability than a partial tang.

The knife can be used for almost every cutting task in the kitchen, from cutting chicken to chopping carrots. That is why it is the must-have item in every kitchen knife set collection.

The Santoku Knife

The Santoku knife is a Japanese version of the Western-style chef’s knife. It’s slightly shorter and thinner, and used in place of the chef’s knife by some cooks, especially those who prefer a smaller, lighter blade.

Santoku means “three virtues”, which are slicing, dicing, and mincing. This knife is an all-rounder, and can do almost everything a typical chef’s knife can.

Due to a flat blade, it doesn’t rock on the cutting board. This makes it less well-suited for when you want to mince herbs, but a better choice for skinny slices of veggies.

The Santoku is sometimes made with a hollow edge. The dimples along the blade allow it to cut through meat, fish, and other soft and tough materials without the food sticking to it and reducing the speed and the precision of the cut.

You may have noticed that Rob’s knife is rather large even by professional chef standards. But it’s what feels right for him. As stated above, when looking for a Chef’s Knife, the size of your hands should be taken into consideration.

At Rob’s first Chef’s job in California, the Executive Chef (who shall remain nameless but is pretty fancy, French and famous) was watching him work one day and said “Big Knife for a Big Man” and then French-grunted with approval. The grunt approval was undoubtedly a result of seeing someone who chose the proper knife for their needs and know how to wield it comfortably.

You won’t know what you did before you had a Chef’s Knife!

If you need help figuring it out, bend Chef Rob’s ear for a minute! We have a professional Santoku Chef’s Knife and Paring Knife kit in the store for a great price of $56 (we got a deal so we passed the savings onto you!). It’s what the boys and I use at home and it’s what we use in the kitchen at the store.

As soon as it feels comfortable and safe, we will resume our cooking classes where one of the focuses will be “Knife Skills” so you can learn first-hand how to use your fancy new knife! Until then...Mince, Batonnet, and Allumette until your heart’s content!

Do you have any questions about food prep that you’d like me to cover in future blogs? Leave a comment! Also, if you liked these helpful tips, please like and share this blog. Each like, comment and share are very much appreciated! Check back in a few weeks for my next blog…. Seafood -- I’m Scared!! Let’s Dive In! #mcgowanandsons #foodnetwork