Knives – The Most Important Piece of Cooking Equipment in Your Kitchen

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When buying knives & other equipment, really consider what you need before you buy it. When you go into shops you often see comprehensive knife sets with different knives to do every job you can possibly think of. Having worked in the professional cooking trade for over 20yrs, I have come to notice that all the chefs generally only use 3 or perhaps 4 knives to do all the jobs.

Therefore you are far better off spending your money on a limited range of knives, but buy good quality. A good quality knife will hold its sharpness (edge) for much longer and will be easier to re-sharpen. When you buy knives the most important thing you should consider is “Is it comfortable to use?”

The most important item on the subject of knives is the best way to keep them sharp. This is to constantly sharpen them with a good steel, don’t let them get too blunt because once they have you will need to go to an ironmonger or your butcher to have them re-ground. After this all you need to do is maintain the edge on your knives by using a steel. You can get two types of steel these days, traditional round steel or the more modern flat diamond tip steel. Of the two we recommend the diamond tip steel, they are far more effective. Keeping your knife sharp is essential for both safety and ease of use. Blunt knives are dangerous due to the fact that you have to use extra pressure when cutting thus increasing the chance of the knife slipping, causing you to possibly cut yourself.

In restaurant kitchens you will always find a steel close to each chef, because they will be sharpening their knives 3 or 4 times a day. So to sharpen your knife the best method is to take a damp cloth, put it directly in front of you on the bench, place the tip of the steel on the cloth and hold the steel vertically in front of you. With your other hand take the knife and holding it at a 15° angle to the steel, starting with the heel of the knife (end closest to the handle) draw the knife blade towards you, finishing at the tip. Repeat this process on the other side and keep repeating this process until your knife feels sharp. Using this technique is far more accurate than doing it in the air, and also a lot safer. A good tip is always best for one person to sharpen the knives, so they always sharpen them at the same angle. You would never get one chef sharpening another chef’s knives.

Maynard Harvey is a professional gourmet chef with over 20 years experience in top English kitchens. He now runs a highly successful hands-on cookery school with business partner Benedict Haines. The Walnut Grove Cookery School is based in France but they also travel to give private group lessons in the US and elsewhere. The Walnut Grove produces a Monthly Newsletter with recipes and tips from the school and current information on both regular and advanced courses.

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