Knives for the Vegetarian Kitchen, Part 1

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If you love to cook, you are probably going to fall in love with knives. I’ve had many of them over the years, but I’ve pretty well settled on the set above. I’ll walk you through them and tell you what they are and what I like about them. I think a vegetarian kitchen has slightly different ideal knives than a meat-oriented kitchen. Clearly you don’t need a carving knife or a big meat cleaver. And also you might find that thinner, more precise knives are better suited to cutting vegetables neatly.

You certainly don’t need all of the knives above, so I’ve organized them from left to right in terms of priority. (Knives on a magnetic block should normally be pointing down so that if you reach for one and something falls it won’t be on your hand, but I can’t do that in my kitchen because it is the only place for my crock full of quick-reach utensils).

Global 8-Inch Chef’s Knife
An 8 or 10 inch chef knife is the foundation of any kitchen. It is the workhorse that you will use to chop, slice, mince, julienne or chiffonade just about any product. This Global is my very favorite knife. It was given to me by my old buddy John Krystynak. Anything you want to know about Internet advertising, you read his blog, GotAds. It holds a razor edge, feels great in my hand, and rocks back and forth beautifully. The blade feels thin, but still perfectly sturdy. When you are holding this knife, you just know that you aren’t being limited by it, only by your own skills. Lately it has been very fashionable to switch to a Santoku as a main knife. I tried one for awhile and didn’t really love it because the straight edge doesn’t allow you to rock back and forth.

Unnnamed paring knife
Henckels Pro-S paring knife

Obviously you’ll use a paring knife for those smaller jobs, like coring a tomato or hulling a strawberry. I’m not including a link to the first one of these because it isn’t labeled or to the second one because I really wouldn’t buy Henckels knives anymore. I had many of them for years and I just find that they don’t hold an edge for long enough. But for paring knives these are fine and I’m not in a hurry to replace them. You really only need one paring knife, but it is handy to have two in case a friend who isn’t comfortable with larger knives comes over and wants to help in the kitchen.

Henckels Twin Pro S 8-Inch High-Carbon Stainless-Steel Bread Knife
This is the last knife I’m going to say you need. I guess you don’t really, you can mash your bread with your chef’s knife if you want, or with a garlic press if it makes you happy. But really a serrated knife is the way to go. The purpose of a serrated knife is to create a sawing action with each stroke, instead of trying to neatly cleave apart cells the way a straight knife does. Didn’t I just say I wouldn’t recommend Henckels? Well, I take it back, I’ve had this knife for at least 15 years and it still works just great. If you don’t get the next knife, you can use your bread knife on tomatoes too.

Unnamed tomato knife 5"

From here out we are clearly in the territory of stuff that is handy to have, not required. I pretty much only use it for tomatoes, but it is also handy if your bread knife happens to be dirty and you need to make a quick sandwich to tide you over.

Unnamed 6 inch utility knife with flexible blade
I don’t know if the blade on this knife is flexible just because it is cheap, but I find it useful for a few things, like removing the rind from melons slices. It bends around the curve a bit so less goes to waste.

Global 7 in. Wide Chef’s Knife
I bought this thinking it would be my main chef’s knife. The wider blade gives a lot of clearance for your knuckles. But I just never quite bonded with this knife. It always felt awkward and overly heavy. Then I realized it is great for those heavy jobs  like halving an acorn squash, where a little more weight is welcome or you fear you might damage your main knife.

Henckels 6"
utility knife
Can’t really tell you why I like this knife, it just has this satisfying sort of in-betweenness, neither a paring knife nor a chefs knife nor a lender be. So I keep it around and use it to slice pies and cakes.

Japanese cleaver (Caddie brand)
I keep this around for purely sentimental reasons, because it belonged to my mom. It was my one-and-only for the first several years that I cooked. When I inherited it, it had a few nasty nicks in the edge that had to be ground out, so it is about 1/4" narrower than as designed. It is just a cheapie but notice it does have the rounded front tip. That means you can do a nice rocking action with it, but it doesn’t have a point you can use for piercing.

So those are my knives. Bottom line is I really like the Globals and more than likely I’d go with them for any new knife I’d buy.  We’ll come back to knives soon and talk about care, sharpening, and accesories.

Random bit of news for the day. I just learned that my friend and Adobe colleague in Delhi, Ayusman Sarangi, has a blog of his own, also with foodie in the URL:  http://ayusman-foodie.blogspot.com. Check it out, it is pretty fun to see what is going on in restaurants half-way around the world! Good luck decoding the local acronyms like PVRs and CP. (The latter is Connaught Place, a central landmark in the city).

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Posted by Michael Natkin on Monday, July 23rd, 2007 in Miscellany, Theory and Rants.

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