The older and hopefully wiser I get, the more I realize there are some things into which a bigger investment of hard-earned cash pays huge dividends. For me, that list contains things like good spices, certain shoes, anejo tequila, lipstick and, most importantly, kitchen knives. While I do have certain predilections (ahem, hopeless addiction to pottery mixing bowls) I am not a kitchen snob — my tastes in culinary gadgetry often run more to the functional than to the elite, but I’m like Charlton Heston at an NRA rally when it comes to my Wüsthof knives: You can take them away when you pry them out of my cold, dead hands.
The best thing about good knives is you really don’t need that many. I have five, and could probably get away with three. Without a doubt, the one I reach for most is my Classic 7-inch Hollow Edge Santoku, based off a Japanese cook’s knife. It’s a bigger knife, but is amazingly all-purpose, excelling at precision cutting of paper-thin slices. I even use the wide blade face to pick up rows of veggies off my cutting board and push them off into a waiting bowl or frying pan. You do get less rocking action than you’d get with a European style chef’s knife, but I don’t find that slows me down too much — I can still decimate an onion in no time flat. In fact, I have a lovely Wüsthof European-style chef’s knife in my knife block that probably misses me. I just use the Santoku constantly.
And now here’s the public service announcement portion of this post: no matter what knives you use, keep ’em sharp, people. I’ve been in more kitchens where people have knives that are dangerously dull. Not only does a dull edge make using the knife really unpleasant and difficult, but it’s actually a lot easier to cut yourself when you’re working with a sub-par edge. You can invest in a sharpener, but I just keep my knives in tip-top shape by taking advantage of Orange Tree Imports’ bi-annual knife sharpening events. They bring in a Wüsthof representative with a really nice three-stage sharpener. You pay $4 per knife, and the money is donated to a local food bank. You leave with knives boasting deliciously sharp edges, ready to go home and start decimating onions. Win-win!