Cooking Knives

It is said that you need 3 knives in the kitchen:

"The knife is a chef's paintbrush"

A good knife should never go in the dishwasher, and should never be just thrown in a drawer. In a drawer, it belongs in some kind of edge guard. Better yet, store your knives in a block, or purchase a magnetic strip to "hang them on the wall".

Use only wood cutting boards, or plastic. Never glass, stone, or ceramic.

Get a steel and steel your knife regularly. Use a grooved steel with caution and a light touch. A smooth steel is better, and a fine ceramic is probably better yet. Steeling requires barely more pressure than the weight of the knife itself. 4 or 5 strokes per side is fine. Steel every time you use your knife. Steel before you use the knife, and steel before sharpening!

Here is a nice article about knife maintenance.

Amazingly, the $85 Chef's Choice model 110 electric sharpener gets good reviews from the knife experts. It has 3 stages. The first is very aggressive and should only be used to rescue a damaged knife or to put a 15 degree back bevel on a brand new knife. After that use the second (sharpening) and third (honing) stages only. A fancier model 120 is available with a polymer strop as a final stage.

Santoku Knives

These seem to be almost a fad. A Santoku knife is a modern japanese chefs knife. It has a straighter edge and usually a more acute edge angle and (in japanese versions at least) much harder steel than traditional chefs knives. Many people love them, escpecially for cutting vegetables. Many have "divots" ground into the blade (called "kullens") which are intended to reduce the sticking of food. The word "santoku" means 3 virtues (namely slicing, dicing, and mincing). The "Shun" brand of knives are well regarded Santoku knives.
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