Friday, November 18, 2011

A Few Cutting Remarks

Ever heard the expression "not the sharpest knife in the drawer" when describing someone who's a little dim? That's what I feel like when I'm in the kitchen cooking and can't figure out why I can't cut an even slice of bread. Or when my knife slips off the onion (and narrowly misses my finger) rather than dicing the veggie. Or when cutting an apple requires me to put all my weight on the knife while bearing down. "Oh, right! I haven't sharpened my knives in a while," I say to myself as the dawning light causes me to remember.

There is really nothing like a sharp knife to make work in the kitchen easier. They say you are more apt to cut yourself with a dull knife than a sharp one and I totally agree. Why make your work harder (or more dangerous) than it needs to be? Stop and take time to put a clean, sharp edge on those knives.

When hubby and I were first married, he insisted that the only way to have really sharp, well-maintained knives was to sharpen them with a whetstone. Because I could never get the knack of using said whetstone, he happily volunteered to become the Official Knife Sharpener of the family.

Well, drat and dang, it quickly became a big pain in the patoot to be knee-deep into meal preparation only to decide I needed a knife sharpened. I'd have to drop everything, go seek him out and ask if he had time to grab his trusty whetstone and sharpen a knife for me. Besides all that (and you don't need to tell him I shared this), he never really got the knives that sharp.

So taking the bull by the horns, about 30-some years ago I purchased an electric knife sharpener. I got a Presto Eversharp Electric Knife Sharpener and it's one of the best purchases I ever made and I still use it to this day to sharpen my knives.

I've had the same basic five knives in my kitchen for way too many years to count.

Although I have a serrated bread knife (which, sad to say, cannot be sharpened with my electric knife sharpener), it's my large chef's knife I always use to slice bread.

It seems I have more control of it and can consistently make uniform slices of bread with no trouble. However, if anyone else is in my kitchen and needs to slice bread, they inevitably grab the serrated "bread" knife.

Above are the other three knives I use constantly. The top one is a 6" small chef's knife I grab more than any other one. I've had people ask me why I have such a small chef's knife. It fits my hand and I can control it better than the traditional longer chef's knife. When we owned the restaurant, I bought an identical one for the kitchen there but don't think anyone ever used it but me.

The middle knife is kind of all-purpose with a 5" blade, and the small one is a good paring knife. I use these five knives over and over and don't feel a need or desire for anything more. As seldom as I use the serrated bread knife, I could probably get along without it although I'm sure I'd get grief from anyone else trying to slice bread in my kitchen and not finding a "real" bread knife.

I suspect a cook's knives are a very personal thing and we all probably have our favorites because of our own needs, habits and quirks. But bottom line, a sharp knife makes kitchen work easier and it's worth regularly taking the time to make sure yours stay that way regardless of what method you use to that end.


Sparkless said...

I have an electric knife sharpener too. I still like to use my serrated bread knife to cut bread. There is nothing worse than a dull knife.
Unfortunately for me my husband bent one of my favorite knives so I can't sharpen it anymore. It will end up in the tool box soon.

Susan said...

I use a ceramic sharpener that seems to work very well. My favorite knife, however, is my serrated bread knife. It is wonderful! That is followed closely by a small, Japanese style chef's knife - similar to yours. I love the smaller size. And how right you are about being more likely to cut yourself with a dull knife! I sharpen mine often.

judy said...

thats the way my dad did things too or with a thingy that i can't remember whatchamacallit [ talk about dim mind ] you slide the knife back and forth -up and down-chef's way well my dad had all the good restaurant tools too but never did know what happen to the big french knife so once in awhile lately Ive been pulling out the"dada"fillet knife.and to all my brothers and sisters whoever got dads knife,well I got his big pot [ huge ] so there-(~~[ THAT WAS ME STICKING OUT MY TONGUE-WHAT KEY IS TONGUE?]

Mama Pea said...

Sparkless - Uh-oh, a bent knife is never good! I won't even ask what he was doing with it to bend it. :o(

Susan - Aha! So you're one of those people who would be upset if I ever got rid of my serrated bread knife!

judy - You don't use a huge, big pot often but when you need one, they sure come in handy. Hang on to that one. It would cost a million to replace it these days!

Karen L. said...

This is something I could use as I am sure we all could. You are so right, a dull knife is very dangerous. I have an old knife that looks like it was made just like the knives in that last photo. It has a old looking wood handle with the three "rivets" on it. It was my Grandfather's and we used it in a little house in Avalon, NJ way back in time ..... even before I was born. Wonder how old yours are? And by the way, I cannot cut bread straight to save my life even with a sharp knife. I think I must hold it crooked to begin with and that throws me off. Must change that!!!

Erin said...

My hubby is with yours on the whetstone thing, he laughed when we met and he saw my knife sharpener... so now it's HIS job LOL. Only problem is when he's on deployment!

Leigh said...

I'm another who could never get the hang of a whetstone. Very frustrating. DH invested in some expensive kitchen knives for me a number of years ago, ones that hold a good edge. An excellent investment. I do like the small serrated knife for cutting almost everything though. And yes, a serrated bread knife is wonderful for cutting hot bread! Will have to look into your recommended knife sharpener. It's always a good idea to keep those knives prepared!

Jenyfer Matthews said...

Funny you should mention this because I have half a dozen knives that desperately need sharpening. There is a sharpening rod in the block but I have never really gotten the hang of using one efficiently. I really need to look into a sharpener...

(Dare I admit that we used serrated knives the entire time we lived abroad??)

Mama Pea said...

Karen L. - Gosh, my knives must be 30 to 40 years old. They are Chicago Cutlery brand and if I'm not mistaken look just about the same today.

Erin - Now you need an electric knife sharpener . . . just for those times when he's not around!

Leigh - Even if a loaf of bread is hot, I still have better luck with my straight edged knife in cutting it. Guess it all goes to prove we all have our own preferences when it comes to knives and what we can do with them!

Jen - Whatever works for you! But I do think there's room for a research study there . . . what kind of knives cooks use and why. ;o}